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Avadon: The Black Fortress Review Bonanza
Review - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Fri 13 May 2011, 16:58:31Tags: Avadon: The Black Fortress; Spiderweb Software
A few reviews of Jeff Vogel's latest RPG, Avadon: The Black Fortress, surfaced on the web.
RPGFan totally like the old school, handing out a massive (Dragon Age-like) rating of 90%.
Let me be blunt as early as possible. If you fall into any of the following categories, you need to play Avadon: The Black Fortress yesterday:
1) The streamlining of RPGs irks you.
2) You like gigantic narratives with choices that are distinctly in the "gray" area of morality.
3) You remember Baldur's Gate 2 as one of the best games ever.
4) You remember Planescape: Torment as one of the best games ever.
I'm telling you this right now so you can go over to the website and start downloading the absolutely huge demo (I'm talking hours) immediately. In fact, you should probably do this even if you don't fall into any of the above categories because maybe you'll learn something about the way the old school rolls.
Whatever road you decide to walk towards the conclusion of your story in Avadon, you get the feeling that this game only scratches the surface of the narrative possibilities in Lynaeus. I enjoyed every second I played of this game, so much so that I played it again. Although I've made a number of comparisons to Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment in this review, it is difficult for me to say if it is as good as those games. I suspect not, but anything seen through the lens of nostalgia will always have an advantage.
But nobody else seems to be making games like this anymore. I've read many poor reviews of games like Dragon Age 2 and heard a lot of complaints (on this website and others) about the state of gaming and how it either won't evolve or has evolved in ways that perhaps we don't want. Anybody who pines for the days of the older, massive classics and decries the state of the new streamlined, big-budget RPGs needs to put their money where their mouth is and buy this game or at the very least spend a couple of hours with the massive demo.
As old-school as Avadon most assuredly is, Vogel has copped a lot of flack from some quarters for it not being old-school enough, which is a complaint I find hard to swallow. The introduction of turn-based cooldown timers, an entirely optional “casual” difficulty level and a class-based skill tree makes for an exciting change from “I hit it with my sword” or “I cast the spell which does the most damage”, and if that is somehow "dumbing down the game", then I cannot help but despair. There have also been complaints that party members simply go unconscious and are revived after the battle ends, rather than the apparently old-school approach of lugging-the-corpse-to-a-priest. Dang, really?
That said, it’s not all candy canes and gravy. Abilities use stamina, which does not regenerate on its own unless you return to the point at which you began a particular mission to rest, or if you head back to the central “hub” of Avadon. This can be frustrating at times, as you essentially have to consider your stamina a limited resource. Additionally since the only way to discover if a room has lootable items is to open your inventory (where, bizarrely, the room’s contents are displayed), you’ll spend a lot of your time walking around and hitting ‘i’ just to see if you’ve missed anything. I’m not advocating a “twinkling-loot” system that so many games seem to have included, but it would be nicer if I didn’t feel like I actually had to roll to search each room. The map overlay is also confusing, often overlapping with other elements of text on the screen making it hard to figure out exactly where markers have been placed.
Yes, party members actually dying (instead of auto-healing+ auto-resurrecting) is an outdated concept.
And finally, PlatformNation rate the game 1/10.
I’m not going to lie to you here, I only played the game for about six hours because I could not bring myself to play anymore. How about I talk about the gameplay first, it tries to be just like Diablo or the more recent Torchlight. I don’t know how to tell you it’s not like Diablo, when you get into combat you use a character to attack, move, or whatever. That part is as bland as ever, I mean there are abilities and spells you can use, but you will mostly end up just attacking because the game is pretty easy (on the normal setting).
While that may not be the most exciting combat system, it at least is organized and works, I can’t say the same for the rest of the game. The inventory system is a mess in that you can’t (or at least I couldn’t find out how to) organize my items, so everything is just jumbled up in each character’s inventory. Here’s something I don’t understand, when one of my character’s inventories is full and you try to pick up an item it doesn’t go into another character’s inventory it just says inventory full. We are in 2011 are we not? Yes, Spiderweb is an indie developer, but I don’t believe that having an item going into an unfilled inventory on it’s own without having to control that character should be that hard to program.
Sounds like Jeff Vogel has a lot of things to improve until his games are welcoming enough for his new target audience.
Spotted at: Gamebanshee