Old School RPG Cool
Avadon 2 Offers A Huge Game World, Quests, Fights And Fun
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Those of you who have played pen and paper role-playing games, the kind where you sit around with friends munching chips, downing sodas and fighting orks into the wee hours of the morning know that there is not much that comes close to that type of experience on the computer. Games like Skyrm or Dragon Age are beautiful and fun, but the lure of truly deep role playing is missing from most of them.
No computer game will ever be able to replicate seeing the joy on your friends faces as they roll d20s and slay a dragon. But, that truly deep world experience, where you feel like you're playing inside the pages of a great fantasy novel, does exist for some rare computer RPGs. All of the games from Spiderweb Software are about letting a player explore a huge world, but the Avadon games are especially like that. The last game we looked at was Avadon: The Black Fortress back in 2011. It was a good game, and earned 4 GiN Gems. Avadon 2: The Corruption trumps it in almost every way. And while knowledge of the first game is helpful in terms of knowing a bit about the world's history, The Corruption presents its own unique standalone story and characters with no prior experience required.
First off, Avadon 2: The Corruption is an enormous game world. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore that you will likely be playing for a very long time. For players who enjoy going off the beaten path, peeking into every abandoned barn or farmhouse you find along the way, wading into every cellar or dungeon, you won't be disappointed. You will find treasures, traps, monsters and more often than not, side quests along those less trodden paths. There are literally hundreds of different types of magical items to find, as well as many junk items. But you will have to look around if you want to collect it all.
Of course you can just go straight to your destinations along the path of the main story, but even then it will take you quite a while. If you do all the side quests and explore everything you can, plus read all the histories you uncover, you can expect to be playing for well over 25 hours, perhaps more. That's an incredible value in a nine dollar game. In fact, in terms of money spent versus fun received, you won't get better than Avadon 2: The Corruption.
The game is played with a top down, 2D interface where you can see over walls, but a fog of war obscures anywhere that you have not explored. As you uncover the map of the region or building you are adventuring in, an ascii-like map will draw itself in one corner. You run around the world in real-time, which keeps the pace moving. But when you encounter an enemy, things switch to a tactical turn-based interface, so nobody is going to feel like they are edged out of a combat because they weren't quick enough with the keys. Not that the fights are easy. You really need to study the battlefield and use your abilities to their fullest.
There is thankfully a very good tutorial that will take you through most of the intricacies of combat as well as exploration. With the tutorial in place, the game is pretty easy to pick up, though you will of course still be challenged by the fights, just not by the interface.
As an example of one fight, my party of three came up against a mercenary who liked to train and use wolves to battle for him. Upon entering the final room of his underground fortress where he was encountered, I noticed that in addition to the normal cannon fodder thug-like troops and some archers, that there were people stationed near giant wheels which are used to open portcullises, two of which were closed to one side of the room.
I quickly built a snare turret with my tinkermage, who is a new character class that combines magic and mechanical inventions to good effect. The snare turrets don't do a lot of damage, but can root bad guys in place. Thus, most of the fodder guys couldn't reach us quickly, as they could only move one square per round when snared and were at least 10 squares away. The boss wasn't affected; he made his saving throws, and charged forward anyway. But instead of concentrating on him, I had my warrior and my mage fire at the guy standing near the machinery. Sure enough, a few rounds into the fight, the boss called out to that guy, asking him to open the gates and release the wolves. Only that guard was dead by then, so that didn't happen. Because I lost track of the number of enemies, another door-opener was spared and later on let out a different batch of wolves. Thankfully we had the fight in hand at that point so it was not too big a deal, but it could have been worse if the first group came into play earlier. So you have to use everything you have to get a tactical advantage.
Even so, some of the fights are really difficult. But I never felt like they were impossible. So long as you remember to use healing potions and bonus items from your inventory when needed, you should be able to pull it out, just like in pen and paper role-playing.
The story for Avadon 2: The Corruption is quite good. While I enjoyed the plot of the first game, the whole prospect of working for the most powerful organization in the world at the height of their power was a little off-putting. It kind of felt like no matter what, the hypothetical good guys would triumph even if you failed in your questing. But with Avadon 2, things have changed. The Black Fortress was badly damaged in an attack and even the nations of The Pact have fallen into petty squabbling. That leaves a huge opening for all of your enemies outside the protected lands, and entire armies march against you. Now it feels like whatever you do really can change the world, and that's much more epic than before. On top of that, all that "my way or death" posturing from Avadon is seen to really be working against them out in the real world. Even your character can turn against them if you want. What is more important to you, safety or freedom? It's an ancient question that is just as relevant today in some respects. And one your character will need to answer as you play.
Depending on what you do and how you do it, there are multiple endings possible, another sign that your actions can actually change the world this time out. It's pretty crazy out there, but a smart player can make the most of it, and make the world a better or worse place depending on their point of view.
There are five character classes. They have fancy names but basically boil down to a warrior, thief, cleric, magic-user and the aforementioned tinkermage, which I found to be the most interesting. You can be a male or female now, but there is no visual customization of your character beyond that.
Leveling up is fairly advanced. You can stack skill points into well-used skills to make yourself a terror with a sword or a bow at the expense of most everything else, or spread your points out so that you are a little bit capable with everything. Each class has their own unique abilities, and buying lower skills unlocks higher ones, though in some cases, stacking points into some lower skills seems more helpful than investing in higher ones. But the choice of what to concentrate on is yours, which is nice.
Graphically, you probably won't accuse Avadon 2 of being eye candy. These are old school graphics to be sure. Even updating your paper doll with new gear does not update your character's look on the main map. On the plus side, the world has its own flavor, with each region looking really good and unique. Plus, because you can set the resolution to almost anything, the game should run fine even on lower-end hardware. The minimum specs for a PC is just an 800MHz processor and a graphics card with OpenGL support, so it should run well almost anywhere.
The sound also is a bit of a mix. I know some people hate to read when playing games, and they will be out of luck here. There are no spoken voices. You have to read a lot. Personally, I don't mind. I think this gives the story much more depth because the writers can craft a tale that is not unlike a novel and not have to worry about having someone read all that dialog or a wildly inappropriate voice ruining the mood. There are sounds in the game however. The biggest one you will likely notice is the background effects, which I thought were good for the different environments.
As a whole, Avadon 2: The Corruption offers a great value for those who enjoy an old-school style RPG. To tell you the truth, I ended up playing this game for eight hours straight on my first play. For someone like me who enjoys a deep story, lots of exploration possibilities, tough but fair fights and more than a dab of humor, this is a great game. If you have similar tastes, then why not give it a try? At the price it's being offered, there is not much to lose, and quite a lot to gain. If you are still not convinced, you can download a free demo from Spiderweb's main pages and give the world a try for yourself. I warn you though, once you get a taste, you will want more.
Avadon 2: The Corruption earns 4 and 1/2 GiN Gems, beating its predecessor and offering a great world to explore and conquer.
Dominic reviews odd games for GiN that don't exactly fit into main categories. He loves the odds and ends of the industry, and sometimes finds a real gem.