TITLE: Avadon 2: The Corruption
DEVELOPER: Spiderweb Software
GENRE: Old-School single-player RPG
PLATFORM: PC, MAC, iOS, and Android
PROJECTED RELEASE: October 30, 2013
I have never played Avadon, or any of the other games produced by Spiderweb Software. So when I was offered a preview copy of this game, I went into it knowing absolutely nothing beyond what I gleaned from their website and reading up on some basic info on the first game in this series. As it turns out, the company behind this upcoming title has been making similar games for many years. And, as it happens, a lot of their games have been very well-received.
Avadon 2: The Corruption presumably takes place sometime after the events of Avadon: The Black Fortress. Since I haven’t played the first game, I can’t say whether these games share any major elements, such as characters or plot-elements, that carry over into this sequel; however, this game’s opening story seems to allude to at least some amount of time having passed between the two games.
When you begin a new game, you are presented with the ability to create your own character. As of this build, you have five total classes, and you can play as either a male or female, meaning there are a possibility of ten character experiences. So far, it looks like you are stuck with the basic avatars and you can’t change them, and although the game’s graphics are minimal, the ability to change your avatar’s appearance (as you can in games like Baldur’s Gate) would certainly be nice. Still, you have some basic choices to make, and you’ll note that each of the five classes will play quite differently. As you’ll learn later, you also have the ability to further specialize your skills and have different classifications of your professions.
The main game opens with a narrative that explains that Avadon, the Black Fortress and home of the Pact, was recently crushed in a powerful assault. The Pact, an alliance of nations, exists to defend its member states from outside threats from the Farlands, but now this alliance seems to be slowly falling apart. The fall of Avadon itself only makes the efforts of this greater governmental organization seem even more futile to some of its members, therefore causing dissension to take seed. The player takes the role of a new recruit stationed at Rockridge Keep and is sent out to patrol the Contested Lands, training under a scout whose identity changes depending on the character chosen at the beginning.
At first glance, the game seems very minimal. The graphics system employed seems to hail from the late 80s or early 90s, and reminds me of some of the 2D Ultima games. However, the graphics seem to exist essentially as a basic representation of what is around you. The game is highly narrative, and it’s this narration that actually, for me, creates the world in which the game takes place. For example, when you enter a new room or new area (or a new section of a land you are exploring), the game often presents you with a narrative dialogue that describes the scene around you. This narration is actually very vivid, describing sights, sounds, and even the smells your character is encountering. And, even though this narration is not spoken, it feels like you’re a part of the world. The characters who you encounter, even the minor ones, have a breath of life about them and feel like they are part of a living and breathing world.
In many ways, this game feels like a hybrid of several genres that I happen to really enjoy. While the combat is in no way action-based or hack-and-slash, the style of the game feels a lot like an outtake from something like Diablo or, perhaps, it might be more accurate to say that it feels like a campaign from something like Dungeons & Dragons. Each region of the game is a self-enclosed area (or a “zone,” for you MMOers out there), and each of these areas contains a primary reason for being there (or revisiting it later), as well as many sub-quests and areas for you to visit and explore. On your way to Rockridge Keep from your barracks in the wilderness, you have the option of simply following the scout who is guiding you, or looking around the area between story events. There were several times when I explored the area that I came across better weapon, armor, or even scrolls by doing things that were completely optional, like actually tracking down the rat nest that was the source of the infestation he mentioned, or by going into the old winery and cleaning out all the pests from inside (which, in fact, he recommends that in the interest of time, you not bother with). Undoubtedly, your choices to deviate from the main path can also have consequences on where the story leads (or doesn’t lead), and that should be taken into account too.
Combat in this game is similar to what you might expect from a Tactical RPG, perhaps like Shining Force. When you encounter enemies while exploring the field, you will enter combat mode, which generates a transparent grid system for you and the enemies to move on. Different attacks or spell effects will require you to be within a certain distance of an ally or enemy, and you will only be able to move so many spaces or complete so many actions per character per turn. Defeating all enemies will allow you to loot their remains, as is typical in an RPG, and you will gain money and other things that can help you.
Raising your levels, of course, gives you access to a menu where you can allocate how many skill or stat points you want to put into different areas, thus allowing you to master different things. Two characters from the same profession will not necessarily be equivalent.
This game may certainly not be for those out there who really want flashy graphics and very complex playing systems from their RPGs. It also probably won’t be for those who want to skip through very lengthy dialogue and get to where the fun stuff happens to be. With this title, these types of things are the fun stuff, and this game really celebrates the fact that there is much more to game design than pretty graphics; a well-told narrative is still perhaps one of the greatest parts of any successful game.
I will say that I wished this game had more music than it did (the opening music was very good, but there was a sore lack of any ambient music or even sound-effects while playing the main game), but maybe this is something that can change with the retail version or with some kind of future update. It’s a minor complaint, after all, though I do think it could enhance the experience.
So, if you are looking for a game that tells a very solid and detailed story, while containing elements of many old-school RPGs (including the fact that you can search the ground underfoot to find useful items, as you could in the NES classic Dragon Warrior), this one will be worth checking out at the end of October.
Final Thoughts: Despite its sometimes-minimalist nature, Avadon 2 is deeper than most recent big-ticket RPGs.
Pre-Release Outlook: Intriguing