The RPG of yesteryear
Spiderweb Software has been around for quite a few years now, dishing out deep, immersive RPGs that really push the envelope when it comes to good storytelling. Often touted as ‘old school RPGs’ Jeff Vogel creates worlds and stories with such depth that to fully tell the story often takes several 20+ hour games. Compared to current RPG standards, the story woven feels like the difference between a short story and full fledged book series.
But to call Avadon: The Black Fortress an old school RPG isn’t doing it justice. While there are certainly parts of the game that pay homage to those who have trodden before it, the world as a whole is hostile, strange, and absolutely unique. At no part during the entire story did I feel like I was playing something that had been rehashed in a different game, everything inside was new and interesting. Each part of the world had a different culture, and its denizens showed it.
Beginning the game you are gifted the choice of four different classes of character, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. There is little messing about here before the game greets you with a fairly lengthy backstory to the world – basically you could consider this your characters assumed knowledge. You learn that Avadon holds sway over five kingdoms, dishing out its own form of justice wherever it is required.
I am the law!
You play as one of the Hands of Avadon, the person who gets sent out to places to get things done. There are also Ears and Eyes, which as you can imagine, have more passive roles to play in keeping the kingdoms out of trouble and away from each others throats. As a Hand you are sent on various missions throughout the game in order to bring stability to various regions. There are many characters to meet, and stories to learn... and all of it is mightily intriguing.
Your first missions take place within Avadon itself, quelling a small uprising that has occurred in the dungeons. You learn a lot about Avadon’s current methods, and are introduced to many of the games recurring characters. These characters are often amazing to behold, with each having a deep and rich background you would imagine that it would be difficult to keep them all in character, but that is simply not the case here. I found myself falling in love with the characters of the game, just as much as the amazingly detailed world around me.
While its turn based combat might seem like something out of the original Fallout, it matches perfectly with the games difficulty and style. Simply put, the sheer difficulty of some of the combats (even on easier difficulty) would make them almost nightmarish if the games combat was done in real time. There is often a very deep tactical presence in the game, where everything from the characters position to what buffs they have to what route they will take to reach an enemy are important.
The combat however is innovative in the amount of different approaches that could be used to deal with any situation. You are generally allowed to take two others with you during your fights, so you can mix and match according to your own personal taste or knowledge of what you are about to face. Much like Bioware’s offerings, your characters level up even if they aren’t in your party, although in my experience they gained more levels adventuring with me than staying behind.
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.