I’ve just about had my fill of grand RPGs now. I’ve been playing Avernum for 3 days, I don’t think I’ve done that with any other similar game ever since I played Neverwinter Nights.
Yet, even if Steam says I’ve logged 86 hours in the game (I’ve only played roughly 12 or so hours of all that, forgot it open the rest of the time), I’m still not even close to halfway through the game. It’s a very long adventure, and I think I’ll eventually go back to it, to finally see if I’ll escape from that damned pit.
See, your party of 4 starts off by being sentenced to exile in Avernum, basically a huge cave system with huge caverns and stalactites and stalagmites and mushrooms and no sun. Unlike most RPGs, the keeps and castles you may encounter or plunder are all underground forts and fortresses, sustaining themselves on mutant cows, declawed and defanged giant lizards and various tasteless crops that the mages in the great tower managed to genetically modify in order to actually survive in a land where the only overhead light comes from bio-luminescent organisms.
Of course, that’s a grand image painted by these words, but the game doesn’t really convey the sense of wonder as well as it probably wants to – it uses an isometric perspective, so you never really get to see the stone sky to begin with, but the community it portrays does seem to have adapted to the hardships of living underground, constantly battling hungry bandits, magic-casting spiders and quite a few cat-men, content on making you their furball they cough out later on.
Gameplay wise it’s standard fare from SpiderWeb – it’s turn based party based tactical battles, with a real-time aspect to exploration – and there’s a ton of exploration there for you to do. Unlike the newer Avadon, you actually have an over-world map that allows you to run into random or set encounters on your journeys, giving you quite a few literal nooks and crannies to explore and find various items and side-quests into.
The luxury of text is standard fare, but it’s well written and, while generally verbose, it doesn’t feel like it’s simply reading walls of text. Catching references to Avernum’s history goes a long way towards immersing you in the vast lore of the universe, considering that Escape From the Pit is actually a remake of the first Avernum title from back in 2000, in the new engine.
If you ever want to get into Jeff Vogel’s (did I mention Spiderweb Software games are developed by a single guy) games, Avernum: Escape From the Pit is a good candidate (Avadon is the other one). It’s packed with content, it is polished and fun to play, and while it may still lack the fidelity of other modern games, you can be sure anything you can put your hands on can run it, as well as tablets.
Avernum: Escape From The Pit is out on Steam for 10 Euros. Have fun finding a way out, I recommend it.