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July 16th, 2012, 15:33
Avernum: Escape from the pit
Avernum: Escape from the Pit is a remake of the first Avernum, which in turn is a remake of the first Exile game (Exile: Escape from the pit). As I have no experience with the first Avernum game, and very limited experience with the first Exile game (played a demo for it way back), I can't comment on how different it is.

The graphics in Avernum: Escape from the Pit is functional, but not exactly good. There are some still images shown during loading screens and certain events in the game that looks beautiful, but apart from that, the graphics in Avernum is nothing to write home about. Had it not been for its high resolution, one might have mistaken it for a late 90's game.
That being said, it is often quite easy to see what things are supposed to be, and it does not suffer form any real clutter, so spotting important things on the ground & walls is easy enough. The spell effects are distinct and it is easy to tell exactly what is happening during combat.

The sound design is probably Avernum's weakest part. There are relatively few sound effects in the game, and while none of them are actually bad, they are repeated far too often. Hearing the same sound repeated over and over while in a major city does get a bit annoying , in particular as it is not generic enough, so it stands out each time it is used.

The gameplay department is where Avernum really shines. The game is seen from an isometric perspective and combat is turn & grid-based. There is a fare amount of tactics involved in how you position your characters, in order to block enemies from rushing your weaker characters, preventing them from hitting too many characters with AoE abilities and making sure that your own AoE abilities hit as many enemies as possible.
The game keeps on introducing new abilities & spells as the game goes along, which keeps combat feeling fresh. It never actually invalidates any of the old abilities either, apart from early summoning spells, and near the endgame, I was using almost all my spells.
Leveling up characters is a joy. While each individual level has a relatively small impact on your character's overall strength, you are given a lot of freedom in exactly how you want to develop your characters. As there are no classes, you can make a frontline fighter mage if you want to. The game still rewards you for specializing, to a degree, but if you feel that you need a backup healer, you can turn one of your other characters into that.

Story & Writing
While the overall story was not amazing, it worked quite well. You are a bunch of prisoners, who are thrown down into a huge underground cavern, where they throw down prisoners & people they want to get rid of. This is a dangerous region, filled with monsters and other nasties, and you want to find your way out, and get vengeance on the people who did this to you.
The writing on the other hand is well done. There is a lot of text to read in this game, and you want to read it, to find out what is going on, what people think, and so on.

This is a lengthy game, steam says that I spent 44h on this game, and while this involves a bit of idling time (I left the game on while doing other things), expect to spend at least 35h in order to see the actual end of this game. And the game remained fun & interesting all the way through. Consider this game highly recommended.
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