So after getting stymied in Rimelands by bugs or flaws in the program, I ended up learning about an indy RPG series and impulsively downloaded the latest game from Spiderweb Software: Avernum 6 if you haven’t guessed. Short story I stayed up way too late three nights in a row wondering around the world of Avernum.
Avernum is a fantasy world with most of your usual fantasy races, except the world is underground. This is the sixth and final game in the series. You and your party start out as Privates in the Avernum army and if you complete missions/quests you get promoted and get harder missions/quests. The game has many, many side quests but the main storyline is supposedly linear. It doesn’t necessarily feel like that, as you can just spend hours walking around looking for secret stuff.
Secret stuff is a little harder to spot in Avernum and your party’s stats and abilities affect this, so does your rank, the spells you know, and which missions you’ve done. Certain areas are off limits, generally for your own safety until your party is more powerful and you’ve achieve a higher rank. Now I’ve explored the bottom two thirds of the map, some parts pretty thoroughly. The game has multiple difficulties, an isometric view, turn based combat, ie not a jRPG or Action RPG, more old school, like Undercroft, a game for a more mature audience perhaps, but there isn’t any nudity and something like Diablo II had way more exploding guts animations and such, but this isn’t Paper Mario.
Undercroft had the trickier puzzles, Avernum 6 is more like Ultima in that the world is big and what you do has some consequences. You can choose to help certain NPCs or you can refuse, literally taking sides in a conflict or two. I don’t know how far off the official track you can go, although I played for many, many hours in the last week or so, I have only made it to Lieutenant and am not sure how far I’m through the game. Like I said I seem to be allowed to go most places now, though some are dangerous and NPCs generally warn you not to go certain places or mess with certain monsters or groups. Avoiding combat is often a valid tactic and the only way to complete some missions and as you improve your “Nature Lore” so you have to fight less wild animals. Goblins and such still attack generally as soon as they see you. Assassins and enemies of the state exist to ambush you.
This is an indy game so no big cut scenes or intros, no famous stars doing voice overs, no need to buy a new processor to run the latest greatest engine. Avernum 6 is available for Mac and Windows PC for I think 29.95 but if you bought it in October which I did, you got a further 10% off. You can download a lengthy demo which is basically the full game, you just can’t get past a certain quest or rank. I never hit up against that and I bought before I tried anyway…
So if you want an RPG with a bigger world, with that old school Ultima or Bard’s Tale feel, try Avernum. I never played any of the others, though they are all available even in sets of three, if you want. You can just play, there is a brief tutorial mission to get you going and conventions from Ultima or Diablo remain in Avernum.
Apparently the big criticism of Avernum and it’s creator Jeff Vogel is he reuses the engine and some of the graphics from the previous Avernum and other Spiderweb Software games. This is a complete non-issue to me as code reuse is one of the goals of good software development and if you’ve never played an Avernum game or a Spiderweb Software game it’ll all look new anyway. Again don’t expect Blizzard quality cut scenes or for Spiderweb Software to move an entire team to Hawaii to make the computer animate movie version, but if you want to have fun completing quests, exploring a fantasy world, and killing goblins and ogres in the evening, Avernum 6 is probably a game you should check out.
Here are other reviews by Inside Mac Games, Game Banshee, and the Netbook Gamer. Jeff and team are working on a new game for 2011 with a new fantasy world, new spells, skill tree, etc. etc. and Jeff has a blog about indy gaming. And apparently he released the fourth developer diary post today!