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Avernum 2 Review

Michael C. , 2001-04-14

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Avernum 2 is a CRPG made with focus on gameplay. The visuals are more or less detailed 2D graphics. The story unfolds by reading a lot of text screens, and not by full screen movies or pictures. The RPG elements are a nice blend of many concepts, seen in other similar games.
Avernum is a underground world, supposed to be a huge cave-area with towns, forts, sub-caves, and similar sites. The underground environment is mostly visible by the lack of Forrest and green areas. Avernum seems to have most of its roots in the medieval fantasy world, with orcs, lizards shining armour knights, mages, priests etc., but also add to the world with more uncommon exotic creatures like the "Niphilim". a cat-like people and the sci-fi people "Vanathai".

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Although there are many sub quests/stories, the main plot (in the beginning) is to eliminate the magical barriers which separates avernum into smaller areas. The story is divided into chapters. By solving main quests, the story will progress. This is only a review of a demo-version of Avernum 2, so it would not be fair to fully judge the story by comment on the 2-3 chapters the Demo-version includes, but mainly there is nothing new under the sun: Find the supposed bad guys and save the world. This doesn't mean that the story isn't interesting, there can always be made some new twists to classic stories. As previous mentioned the story mostly evolves by reading some in game screen texts.

Interface and Graphics

The main screen has an isometric viewpoint into a flat 2D world, where all characters are moved together except in combat. Outside town areas all characters are shown as a group in a very small image filling up one square. In towns and caves each character is using one square, like they do in combat mode. The right side of the screen is the character interface, where you find the character inventory, and also current health conditions and stuff like that. You can swap the inventory list with a mini-map of the world. At the bottom of the screen is the info panel, updating you with information about what is happening in the game world. At the very bottom of the screen are all the command buttons like: use, look, get, get into combat mode, use magic, talk etc. All commands and actions can be executed from the keyboard. Ex: If you look around in a room using the "L" command, all interesting places in the room will be highlighted with a letter. By pushing the according keyboard letter you will examine the corresponding place. Although you have to stand right next to a drawer to find an item in the drawer. You can use the mouse both to move characters and point out the places you want to examine, but as you get used to the keyboard shortcuts, they will work much faster. All items and spells are also associated with a letter for fast keyboard access, like the "Nethack" and "ZangBand" games.

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You talk to NPC's by choosing among pre-made dialogs like in "Baldurs gate". The resolution for the demo was 800X600, but the isometric view 2D graphic got a lot in common with the old "Magic Candle" and "Realms of Arkania" series, although especially the character skill screens are more polished.

A party can have up to 4 members, but you can go adventuring with less, although you will get a very hard time in most combats without any companions. Each character has a lot of choices between Skills, abilities, magic, weapon proficiencies, traits, and special items.

  • 4 Main skills: Strength, Dexterity, intelligence, and endurance.
  • 7 Weapon skills: Melee, Pole weapons, Bows, Missiles, Hardiness, Defence, and Assassination.
  • 4 Magic skills: Mage spells, Priest spells ,Arcane lore, Potion making.
  • 4 Useful skills: Tool use, Cave lore, First aid, Luck
  • Many additional special skills, that can be learned on your journey.
  • 15 Traits (Max 2 per character). Traits are very special skills like "Elite warrior" giving additional bonuses in melee combat, or "Natural mage" Allowing character to cast magic while using more protective armour. But there are also traits like "Brittle bones", making character very weak against melee attacks. The trick is that all benefiting traits give a percentage deduction of gained experience points, and all bad traits give a increased percentage of gained experience points.
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Each character has many derived abilities, which are determined by the main skills. An example is the number of actions a character has in the turn based combat mode. This derived ability is determined from the characters Dexterity.
Each character has a maximum encumbrance, determined by there strength, but no character can carry more than 20 different items.
The level up system of the characters remind me of the "Might & Magic" system. Every time you get enough experience points by completing quests or tasks, or killing enemies, your character will get a handful of skill points to distribute. But you need to find a training location first. You can level up you skills by putting skill points (and money) into them, and you have to put more skill points into a skill the higher the level of the skill. Every character can be developed individual with no restriction regarding the races chosen (humans, lizards, cat-people).

Combat is a turn based process, where each character and foe moves and fights individual regarding to there action points. The trick is to use sword slashing, strategic placement, and magic in a winning combination. You gain experience and hopefully a lot of useful items from a winning battle. There is a lot of combat in the game, but in a balanced way so that you don't feel that you don't get anywhere before the next encounter begins.

The demo didn't have any music, and the sounds were very limited to sword swings, footsteps, and magic spells. No character or NPC voices, no story telling voices, and don't expect environmental sounds like singing birds, wild rivers or rain and lightning.

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Before we come to the conclusion I want to point out that Avernum comes with some special features, such as:
Avernum 2 has some special features which come with the game
1. Build in character editor.
2. Build in help for many features like the skill description
3. Alpha numeric system on everything (Like Nethack and Zangband)
4. Huge game world with a lot of quests/stories.
5. Different endings for higher replay value.

Fun: 7/10
For this type of games the story is very important, and it's not this games strongest aspect, but it has a good balanced and complex CRPG world.
For really old time CRPG players you may even add a point. The quests have mostly good quality. For high-tech graphic interested players you may subtract 1 or 2 points.

Graphics: 6/10
Nice and very functional 2D character screens, But the character is not very eye catching even for 2D, and a common character inventory screen could have been helpful.

Sounds: 5/10
Very few sounds. No music in the Demo.

Playability: 7/10
The game comes with 4 difficulty settings: Easy, normal, tough and torment. There is a lot of helpful screens and build in information on every detail of the game, so there should be no problem to get started.

Overall: On average it gets a score of 64%, but when you are somebody with an appreciation for old-time CRPGs then you could give it a 70% score.

Average Reader Ratings: 7.2 (15 votes)
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