Review: Avernum: Escape from the Pit HD (iPad)
Written By Matt Sainsbury on Saturday, April 7, 2012 | 11:44
Like Avadon before it, Avernum is a fairly cheap download and offers a full-featured, epic quest with an intriguing plot and some first-class writing. The game’s premise is more than a little interesting, and quite substantially different to what many RPG fans would have seen before. Players take control of a party of four heroes who have been banished to a vast underground world for committing a crime against the surface Empire. There’s an entire nation has been built down there as the criminals (rightly or wrongly) struggle to eke out an existence in a very hostile world.
This premise does a couple of interesting things to how the game plays out beyond providing what amounts to one giant, hostile dungeon to explore. The big difference is that Avernum is a very low power RPG as the inhabitants of the world lack the resources to make what other games take for granted. Magic items are rare and precious. In fact, with a lack of crafting materials, steel armour and weapons is scarce enough. This means that finding good loot is in itself an achievement and players need to make better use of latent character skills rather than simply rely on having the best stuff. It’s a very different tone of RPG compared to the modern trends of mega-power equipment and loot drops and it’s a refreshing direction to take.
From Software’s Souls games in that regard; when the odds are stacked right against you, changing things for the better is a heroic reward.
Jeff Vogel has always been known for writing his RPGs well, and Avernum is no different. Characters have believable motivations, and the text descriptions that pop up on entering a new city, cavern or dungeon does a brilliant job of setting the scene. There’s no voice acting, and the graphics are incredibly basic; Vogel makes his RPGs on a shoestring budget so they rely heavily on the quality of the words the player reads to be compelling. Indeed, that in itself is a nice change from the cinematic experience bigger-budget RPGs shoot for; all the text makes playing the games more like a pen-and-paper RPG experience than a “computer game”. As a Dungeons & Dragons player of old there’s a nice bit of nostalgia wrapped up in playing these games because of that. The offshoot is that players need to be a bit more patient and switched on to fully appreciate the Avernum. You make your own story here and it’s up to you to keep track of what’s going on.
Kingdoms of Amalur, but over time there’s an elegance to the basic visuals that most should appreciate. The loading screens and maps also have some gorgeously detailed art work which helps to set the scene and remind people that this is indeed a “new” game.
The gameplay itself is very much a traditional western-style RPG. It’s largely non-linear with a lot of side quests to distract players away from the main storyline. The party of four heroes can be taken from a range of classes, and players have complete control over their statistics as they level up. There’s a skill tree to mess around with and while it’s not as complex as, say, Skyrim, it does enough to give players full control over the strengths and weaknesses of their heroes and no two groups of heroes will be the same as one another.
The one slight flaw with the system is a result of how small the characters are. Tapping on them, and then selecting the exact place to move them to is difficult at times, especially when the screen gets busy with lots of enemies around. On the lower difficulty settings this is no big deal, but on the hard settings a misstep can mean death for the entire party.
Other than that, this is a superb iPad port of one of Spiderweb’s very finest moments. It might not be as well known as other classic RPGsiPad presence helps build the fan base. After all, there are five more Avernum RPGs that are just dying for a remake.
Our Scoring Policy