|Genre: Adventure & RPG|
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz RAM: 512 MB Graphics: 32 MB VRAM|
The Avernum series has come a long way. After revisiting the original Exile trilogy, it's gone the way of vengeful spirits, rebellion organizers, and now rampaging slith hordes. With each release in the series, the game mechanics and plot have remained consistently entertaining. The only real question when a series produces this many sequels is: Does this one stay at the same level of quality as the games that came before it?
Avernum 6 (A6) is a step above. In the previous games in the series, the plots have continued, but they haven't really resolved much of the Empire vs. Avernum tension that the first three games set up nicely. As a result, it's been more of a straightforward "we know the enemy, kill them!" than the original trilogy. Thankfully, this entry focuses entirely on the conclusion of the series, and ends a lot of the plot threads that hadn't yet been resolved. For example, X, one of the overpowered wizards of the series, had been developing the ultimate magic spell for ages. In Avernum 6, you can aid him in completing it. This leads into a scene where you watch as he unloads its devastating power on one of the strongest demons in all of existence. There are many other items along the way, but the most major is what happens at the closing scene of the game. This final scene marks the end of the Avernum series in more ways than one.
On the gameplay side, there have been quite a few tweaks over the years. However, the core setup is still there. Divinely Touched is as overpowered as ever, there are unlockable special abilities, and spear users can easily out-damage sword users. There are a couple major additions to Avernum 6, however. The first is the addition of dual-wielding. On the surface this may seem like a bad idea, with decreased damage and chance to hit for both weapons and no ability to use a shield. It's not. With the trainable dual-wielding skill, the penalties can be greatly reduced. As a result, you can easily do loads of damage with two of the later swords and overpowered spears. There's still a place for the handy halberd, though, as there aren't enough great swords to go around.
On the magic side, nothing's really changed. You have your standard array of priest rituals and magic spells, you can get around the encumberence limit by taking the natural mage trait, and early levels in magic skill make most early fights a cakewalk. You can't get some of the better spells (like Icy Rain) by pumping levels early, though. For those, you've got to slaughter goblins, sell three-hundred leather armors, and buy training from overpriced magic vendors. Nothing unusual there.
The graphics are similarly unchanged, for the most part. The world is made up of 2D sprites in an isometric perspective, particle effects spray everywhere as you do battle, weapons show up on your character models, and all conversations are handled in stylized speech bubbles. It's always been a good-looking style, and it's relatively unchanged from the previous episode. Sure, it can't match up to first-person 3D games using multi-million-dollar engines, but it looks darn good when compared to other 2D games of its type.
Sound could perhaps use a bit of an update, though. The sword clangs, wooshing fireballs, death screams, and walking footsteps haven't changed for years. It would be nice to hear a few more varieties of the same sounds to break the monotony of hearing the same sword hit the same armor over and over again. Still, they sound quite good and provide an effective backdrop to the action on-screen.
Overall, Avernum 6 definitely stands as one of the better games in the series. When you make the decision to buy it, just ask yourself this. "Do I like turn-based RPGs with a great plot, excellent character progression, multiple difficulty settings, and a gigantic world?" If the answer is yes, then it's a no-brainer. Add Avernum 6 to your collection. You won't regret it.