Avernum 4 - A Short Review
Wow… where to start. Okay, I'm going to try to keep this completely spoiler free.
First off let me say that according to most of the hardcore Spiderweb fans, A4 was one of Jeff's weakest games. But I have to say that after spending almost 102 days and at least 100 hours (probably over 200), I have found this to be one of the best CRPGs I've played… ever.
Let's get the obvious over with first. You won't find super-cool graphics here. No normal mapping, no bump mapping, no anisotropic filtering needed, blah blah blah. The graphics are firmly entrenched in the early 90's, and so is the sound. But if you've got imagination that won't matter.
From the very beginning you will find that you have entered a world that has been lovingly crafted… from the locations to the people. This is where Spiderweb Software shines. This world is not like your typical fantasy land filled with elves and dwarves. As a matter of fact you won't even find an elf or a dwarf anywhere, and that's a nice change of pace.
The story builds as you play… with your characters learning more and more as you progress. And you will begin to identify with your characters… to actually care about them. What choices should they make? What paths should they follow? What skills should they learn? All these things will shape your experience within the game. You aren't tied down to "character A is a fighter and character B is a cleric". Build them the way you want to… but weigh the possible consequences as you make your choices. As an example I had a character that was basically an arcane spell caster. But I chose to spend points training her in the art of archery. By the end of the game not only was she a devastating spell slinger, but she could shoot the wings off a fly at 100 yards with her bow.
There are tons of side quests to follow and most of them actually are related to the overall main story line. So there aren't very many fedex quests, but even those types of quests feel as if they matter within the context of the story.
Leveled encounters? Um… no! You wont' find a forgiving "it's okay son, you can go anywhere you want and everything will be just fine" kind of game here. If you choose to go to a place that you've been warned is dangerous before you're ready, or a place off in the "wilderness" that you know nothing about… you will DIE. And if your entire party doesn't die I can guarantee that you will be running back toward the nearest town, crying for your mama. This is a CRPG with teeth. Play smart, or you won't get very far.
The game is played in turn a based mode. You move about the world at will until a battle begins, then all actions are turn based. Each character has a certain number of action points based on their stats and other enhancements (magic buffs, magic items, etc). The battles offer you the chance to be very strategic. Discover what works best against every foe. Not every battle can be won by simply plowing in with your swords and favorite spell. This makes it very challenging, and very fun. If you don't develop battle strategies you will have a very hard time completing the game.
In this time of instant gratification… games that make it easy on you… or make you feel like the powerful super dude right in the beginning, it's nice to play a game that requires patience. You're not going to know everything from the beginning, and you're not going to be able to do everything either. You are kept in the dark as to what's going on for quite a while… simply because nobody knows what's going on. That's partly your job to discover.
Discovery. Strategy. Great character building. Great story. Suspense. All these things are tied together to make a great game.
And the world you will traverse is huge. There are so many things to see and do that you probably won't see or do them all in one playing. With that said, however, it isn't likely that I will play this game more than once (at least not for a long time). It's just too big of a time investment for me to consider playing it more than once. But let me tell you… that one time through the world of Avernum 4 was a magical time for me. I loved every minute of it, all the way to the end.
And of course the end leaves the possibility for a sequel (which we know is in the works right now).
This is the first Avernum game that wasn't a rewrite of a previous Spiderweb game (A1 though A3 were rewrites of Exile 1 through 3), and I think it shines in its own right.
No score will be applied here, but I will say that if you love traditional CRPGs with great story, great combat, great creatures, great loot, and great character building… you will love this game. Leave your "shiny graphics" goggles in the desk drawer… dust off your imagination… and you will have a great time in the world of Avernum.
Good review !
load the demo here http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/products.html
I agree - I loved A4. It was a little linear and a bit combat-heavy in some areas but it was a grand epic that I thorougly enjoyed.
Yes, thank you very much for the review. You made me curious… I'm thinking about purchasing the game despite its dated graphics.
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