Nothing is ever perfect
Avadon suffers from only a few, niggling flaws that prevent it from being an incredible delight to play. Key bindings suffer from some basic programming issues - G will open a window letting you scavenge from the ground, but G will not close that window afterwards. You have an unlimited ‘junk’ pack, but not unlimited core inventory space (which leads to a lot of micromanagement). I was really hoping to see what interactions I could have with my party members during the downtime between each mission change, but that almost never occurred.
Sound bytes are often reused, over and over again: This is particularly noticeable with headphones, as the repeated sound of someone eating when no one is around will make you almost dread staying amongst civilisation for any great length of time. The game lacks in the music department (as is common with all of Spiderweb’s releases), and although this might come across as a flaw to many, the lack of it made my mind often more alert to what was occurring around me, and led me to appreciate aspects of the game with greater depth.
The games biggest flaw however, is at the same time its greatest strength: The story. For all its depth and multiple approach angles, I felt like I was always forced into the violent solution – I could negotiate with an intelligent Ogre to return with me to Avadon, but then later I would have to face him in combat because the game needed a boss fight. I could convince a magically created shadow beast that I wasn’t going to harm it, only to have a mage come in and try to kill it. Instead of me being able to attack the mage (who was harming an innocent beast) I was forced to kill the very thing I wanted to protect.
Everything you want it to be
While its linearity might seem to detract in today’s games, the fact that almost every choice you make has real and present changes on the world around you is extremely important. Unlike the Mass Effects and Dragon Ages, decisions made today will affect the world today as well as tomorrow. Each action will carry ripples of its effects throughout the world, and that adds so much flavour and freshness that it is easy to overlook said linearity.
The story around the world is also engrossing and masterfully balanced. Unlike in many RPGs, the information you can discover is often only pertinent to the world and your actions around it, so you never quite feel you are being inundated with useless information, and can be very easily engaged on the whole. There is no hearing about past conflicts, no hearing about specific tech that you never interact with, but enough to flesh out an entire world.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Avadon: The Black Fortress was the fact that it is completely enjoyable from start to finish. At no time during the game did I feel a section drudged on for too long, as is often the case with games these days... each area was varied enough to hold my interest, and the intrigue present in the final stages of the game had me genuinely shaking with anticipation.
I miss games like Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate. Games like that were my bread and butter growing up, a place where I could immerse myself for hours upon hours in seemingly familiar but altogether alien cultures and places. I would be teleported into these vast worlds, with my brain expanding on what was already in front of me with stories of valiant heroes and vicious villains. It is that feeling, almost nostalgic, that Jeff Vogel’s latest experience has once again inspired in me.... and I love it.
A truly compelling narrative that will keep players engaged from start to finish. Makes Baldur’s Gate look basic.
Repetitive soundbytes and slight Interface issues can be frustrating at times. Lack of true diplomatic options is also irritating.