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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.4

Avernum: Escape From The Pit
January 31, 2012 | Franklin Pride

Click to enlarge

This Seems Familiar


Mac OS X: 10.4 | CPU: 1.6 GHz | RAM: 512 MB | HD Space: 200 MB | Graphics: Video card or processor with OpenGL support and 32 MB video RAM (64 MB recommended), 1024x600 screen resolution with 32 bit color

You have been banished to the underworld, never to see the light of day again.

The surface is ruled by the cruel Emperor Hawthorne, master of the Empire. All of the known lands are subject to his brutal command. Everyone who speaks out, who misbehaves, who doesn’t fit in is cast into the dark, volcanic pits of Avernum, far below the surface. There, you are expected to die, a victim of starvation, horrible monsters, or simple despair.

But not all of the Avernites have surrendered. With magic and steel, they are forging a new nation deep underground. You can join them and fight for safety. Or freedom. Or even, if you dare, revenge on the surface-worlders who tried to destroy you.


From Exile, to Avernum, to Avernum again, the Exile series has seen many remakes over the years (check out IMG's review of the original Avernum here). Each of Spiderweb Software's remakes has brought a streamlined version of the interface and a general graphics upgrade. To fans, they've generally been very welcome, even though the core story and list of villains has always remained the same. With this latest re-re-release of the first episode in the series, it was hard to imagine just what has been added to the formula. However, the changes in Avernum: Escape From the Pit ended up being relatively straightforward.

The only areas significantly changed are the world map and the character development. Most people wouldn't expect it to take longer to walk from one side of a dungeon to the other than walking from one side of the world to the other, but that's essentially how small the new world map is. Everything is shrunken down in distance significantly, likely to make up for the fact that the pylon (teleport) system isn't very built up at this point in the plot. It really does help cut down on travel time, although the random encounters that appear to generate as you walk around do slow things a bit.

On the character creation side, the new system appears to be designed to make it as hard to make a useless character as possible, although it can still be accomplished if you work hard at it. You can only apply a single point to any single skill at a time and you get two points per level. As a result, even if you wanted to dump everything into tool use, you have to wait at least ten levels to max it. At the same time, you have ten other points to put in any of the base skills you wish. They're almost all useful in combat, so you have no choice but to eventually build a damaging character. You also get a perk point at regular level intervals that aids in that respect. These perks range from increased health to a long-term increase in experience gained, and all are useful.

With the above in mind, it's hard to imagine how a good player would find the game difficult on normal settings. Well, before the difficulty was patched to be easier, things were very difficult. So difficult in fact, that many dungeons easily accessed from the beginning can destroy your party in a single round. That even applied to my well-developed party. However, I didn't really have any trouble going through and wiping them out after a little leveling up, and at this point my party hasn't found a single zone in the world of even slight difficulty. Now that the patch has been applied, those zones are likely much easier, but there's no way to tell.

You'll likely find much the same success, if you tend to follow the standard party of two warriors, a priest, and a wizard. With the spearman tanking and the swordsman dual-wielding, you can almost leave things to them and hang your magicians back to buff and heal. On the rare occasions you face a monster that is resistant to physical damage, a hasted wizard and priest can do tremendous damage while your warriors block. For more challenge, the hardest party appears to be a non-magic party. With the limited options available for buffing and healing, that party will tend to become decimated by anything significantly magical. The first time your main dual-wielder is charmed, for example, you will forever curse your lack of a priest.


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