Adventure & RPG
|Avadon: The Black Fortress|
December 23, 2010 | Jon Carr
Avadon may be old school, but it has modern sensibilities in design and features. There are handy points on the map and edge of the screen pointing you in the direction you need to go, and you can view the whole map with an easy overlay. Points of interest are clearly marked on your map once you've discovered them, presumably for later exploration or backtracking. When talking to a character, or being told to go see another NPC, you see their portrait and character design on the side, so you don't wander around wondering who you are supposed to find. And the previously mentioned skill tree and party selection features make leveling up and team-selection a lot of fun.
After your initial dungeon escapades you get to settle in your room, put extra loot in a chest, and meander around and chat with your companions. You can check out side quests like breaking into an envoy's office and searching it, or carry on with your main quest. I noticed that equipment and loot gathering was much quicker than in previous Spiderweb titles (GeneForge anyway) By the time I finished in the dungeon I had quite a nice set of armor, several new weapons, a number of gems and a sweet new staff for my Sorceress. The Fortress itself was vast and there's a lot to find for the curious player. The main story promises to be huge, with multiple choice interactions and areas leading to different results and story lines depending on where you go, what you find, and how you interact with the NPCs.
Once I finished investigating the office of the possible spy I went outside on my first assignment. You can't accuse Avadon of starting out slow: I had to go find and help a dragon who was an ally of the pact. This time I took the quiet Shaman Jenell and the mysterious Shadowwalker Shima as my companions, leaving Nathalie behind to stew in the fortress about how great she is. A quick trip through a portal brought me to the outside lands, which were welcome breathing room after the confines of the Fortress. The road to the dragon lair was fraught with wolves, ramshackle huts and a young woman with a cow who insisted I help her father with his flock. Cows later, dragon first. I pushed on to the dragon's cavern ignoring the nearby town, only to find it overrun by wretches (weak, but numerous green creatures armed with rudimentary weapons), and the occasional shaman. I got to put my new team to good use as Shima backstabbed and cut down the wretches with razor-discs while Jenell summoned wolves and storms down upon our foes. Eventually we made our way to the fiery lair of the dragon, who apparently didn't care to just eat all the intruders. As an ally of the pact he was due assistance, even if he didn't need it. He made a very convincing point (by waving around a dead wretch on his claw at me) that we do his bidding or else (Don't talk back to giant dragons). Of course I agreed and went on my way to remove the rest of the pesky wretches who kept bothering the arrogant dragon.
I ended my preview here. The game is only in beta, but it feels very polished. Granted I didn't go too far into the game, but I wanted to. I played for about 1-2 hours and I needed more. I wanted to explore, to talk to characters, to pick locks, steal loot, be cheeky to my overlords and blast my enemies with fire and lightning. I had barely touched the game and I was hooked. It's pleasing to see that even after 16 years of making old-style RPGs, Jeff Vogel knows how to keep things fresh and interesting. We'll be seeing Avadon: The Black Fortress in early 2011. Get excited.