TITLE: Avadon 2: The Corruption
DEVELOPER: Spiderweb Software
GENRE: Old-School Single-Player RPG
PLATFORMS: PC, MAC, iOS, and Android
RELEASE DATE: October 30, 2013
Back on October 10, I did a preview of this game here on Nerdy but Flirty. At the time, both the Avadon series, as well as all of the other games produced by Spiderweb Software, were new to me. In fact, I had never heard of Spiderweb Software prior to receiving a preview build of their newest RPG. So, going into the game, I really had no major expectations, and this was probably a good thing since it allowed me to be as objective as possible when it came to previewing and reviewing it.
To be honest, my opinion on this game hasn’t really changed much since I first played the preview build in October.
Avadon 2: The Corruption is set sometime after the events of the first game, Avadon: The Black Fortress. 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.
Compared to modern PC titles, this game looks pretty minimal at first glance. The graphics seem very reminiscent of games from the late 1980s or early 1990s, particularly some of the Ultima games. Yet, the game’s main focus is in its narrative, and this game is very narrative-driven. In fact, it’s more narrative-driven than most games I’ve played recently, with the graphics only serving to create a very basic representation of the world surrounding the player. The story content is so detailed that, in many ways, I think this game would be all right if it were presented as a text-based adventure. When you enter a new area of the map, the game gives you a text-based description of everything around you, including sights, sounds, smells, and anything else that’s relevant. It’s almost as though a Dungeon Master is reading the description of a scenario to you, and, in many ways, I think this is the style that the developers were hoping to achieve.
As I stated in my preview article, this game combines several different genres together 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 weapons, 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 shouldn’t bother with). Undoubtedly, your choice to deviate from the main path can also affect where the story leads (or doesn’t lead), so you should take that into account too.
Combat in the game is similar to what you might find in a tactical RPG, like one of the Shining Force titles. When you encounter an enemy, a grid system appears underfoot, and the enemies and player characters are each afforded a turn. With this method of movement, different combat and healing skills are very important to victory. Understanding which characters can move how many spaces, and what the effective ranges of the different attacks, spells, and healing skills are, can really make these fights easier (and often, this level of understanding is extremely important to victory on the battlefield). Successfully leveling your character gives you access to skill trees that you can use to specialize with and make your characters more powerful. Thus, two characters of the same profession will not be equivalent if you spend time customizing your builds for different effects.
Here is where I need to get a bit more critical, though. Having looked over all the other titles produced by Spiderweb Software in recent years, it seems apparent to me that they’re simply sticking with what they know works and what seems easy for them to produce. The engine used to create Avadon 2 makes the game look very, very similar to all six Avernum games, all of the Geneforge games, and most all of their other releases. Obviously, this style of game does appeal to quite a few people, so the developers are catering to them. Using the same engine and very similar graphics in a game that really doesn’t need detailed graphics (due to its reliance on story content) is perhaps understandable, yet I would like to see them deviate a fair bit from their other titles. Perhaps they could have added a bunch of new features to the game. Maybe they could create a game with more action-driven combat, or make a larger open world to explore. A lot more is possible, even if they keep their minimalist graphical style, and I think they are capable of producing a bit more than they are here if they put their minds to it.
Don’t get me wrong though – Avadon 2 (and the other games developed by Spiderweb Software) is a very solid experience, catered to the hardcore, story-driven RPG fan. However, I hope they’ll decide to mix it up a bit moving forward!
Final Score: B