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Publisher: Spiderweb Software    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 601    RAM: 12 MB    Hard Disk: 16 MB    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit

Avernum 2
May 6, 2002 | Christopher Morin

Click to enlarge
This is my second foray into the mind of Jeff Vogel and Spiderweb Software. I must say, the first trip into Geneforge was, and remains, quite enjoyable. When I was asked if I wanted to review another Spiderweb game hot on the heels of the Geneforge review, I jumped at the chance. Well, I did not exactly jump, as that would have knocked my keyboard off the desk, causing my cup of ever-present coffee to spill over into my ever-present PowerBook G4, which would have caused me to emit a primal scream of despair the likes of which have not been heard since Bill Gates saw the first GUI out of Apple. Of course, a scream of that magnitude would have a perceptible effect on the moonís gravitational pull, which, of course, would submerge the entire western seaboard. Well, perhaps I exaggerate a trifle, but suffice it to say I accepted the offer with a great deal of excitement.

Lock Up
Avernum is not a pleasant place. It is now your home, despite the fact that you were exiled to this subterranean world. Now your home is under attack from elite soldiers seeking to avenge the assassination of the cruel emperor Hawthorne. The empire thinks it can easily subdue the Avernites by teleporting a small number of soldiers down to the underworld of Avernum. Of course, in true adventuring style, it is up to you and your party to rescue your world, such as it is, from certain doom. Along the way, the player meets strange alien creatures, travels through underground warrens, and attempts to stay alive. Avernum 2 is another fantastic dungeon-crawling RPG from the gurus at Spiderweb Software.

The game begins much like any RPG title. The player is required to create or modify a party of characters to control throughout the game. In the case of Avernum 2, the player has a party of four at the outset. The character types can be any of the races: human, Nephilim (a feline race), or Slithzerikai (lizard people). Characters can also select from different classes such as soldier, berserker, rogue, archer, rebel, shaman, hedge wizard, cleric, sorcerer, or create your own custom character from an allotment of skill points. Of course, then each avatar has a set of values for his or her skill points. Avernum 2 only allows the player to enhance a certain number of skills at the outset with the standard allotment of six skill points. This gives you a dilemma right away. Do you spend your points on potion creation abilities, pump up your strength or intelligence, or do you use them in other areas? Once all your characters are modified to taste, the game begins.

Avernum 2 opens in Fort Ganrick. As you wander the fort, you realize you are hopelessly ill equipped to face the untamed wilds of Avernum. Unfortunately, the war against the surface has depleted the resources of Fort Ganrick. You will find some better weapons and armor in the fort, but not much. Your best bet for finding great equipment is to leave the relative safety and comfort of the fort and venture out into the wild. You receive your first quest in the fort from Commander Vidican. Avernum 2 is a succession of quests running the gamut from repelling invaders to helping cute, cuddly spiders fight their nasty, ugly spider foes.

Itís My Party
It took a while to get used to movement in Avernum 2. One reason for this might be the inordinate number of hours I have spent with the various Mac ports of Bioware titles, or it could just be a man-thing. Whatever the cause, I finally adopted a hybrid of mouse and keyboard arrow key use. Your party moves as a group and in a set formation until battle starts. The character at the lead of the group always goes first through halls, tunnels and doors. The rest play follow the leader. This method has its pluses and minuses; hence my schizophrenic use of both the arrow keys and the mouse. When in large, open spaces where there were few obstacles, I used the arrow keys for their speed and ease of use. When movement was more restricted, for example in the tight confines of a cave, I used the mouse because the strict linear movement provided by the arrow keys had me constantly running into and getting stuck behind barriers and walls. Eventually, this system became comfortable. Spiderweb Software did provide, as in other titles, keyboard shortcuts for chatting, entering battle mode, and for getting items. Of course, for those who prefer clicking icons, not that there is anything wrong with that, the icons are on the screen for you to click until your heart's content.


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