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Publisher: Spiderweb Software    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: 601    RAM: 12 MB    Hard Disk: 20 MB    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit

Avernum 3
July 31, 2002 | Christopher Morin

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Listen Up!
Avernum 3 is filled with colorful elements. As in Avernum 2, many of these elements become repetitive as you move from town to town. Once you see one chariot or wagon, youíve seen them all. The graphics are nothing that will be hung in the Guggenheim, but they convey the story adequately. In Avernum 3 the eye candy is not an end unto itself. The same goes for the sound in Avernum 3. The game is shareware and meant to be downloaded. It is a 12MB download. Those of you with broadband can expect to have the game downloaded in a minute or less. It will take about that long to get the game installed; then you are good to go.

Gameplay is very balanced. Combat is turn-based and each character has a certain number of action points. These points are used up through movement, casting spells, or attacking with melee or range weapons. Creatures in Avernum 3 move with speed relative to their type. Spiders move quickly and goblins lumber. Wizardsí spells and poison pits can render characters helpless, as can cursed items. Of course, offensively, spells and potions can haste characters, give them more energy or cure diseases.

Leveling up is always paramount in any RPG game. It is only in leveling up that a player can become powerful enough to meet the increasingly difficult challenges of a well-designed game. Well-designed is a great way to describe Avernum 3. When a character obtains enough experience, that character must find a training location within a town in order to train them in their new skills. Granted, itís not as automatic as other games in the genre, but it is novel.

Resource management is also an important element within Avernum 3. Players must ensure their characters have enough rest and food. Food items consist of staples like mushrooms, bread, and meat; but there are other things one can find out in the wild that are of dubious origin. These can be carried as food at your own risk. Because the characters have to utilize inventory spaces to carry food, that leaves less room for carrying potions, weapons and the jetsam accumulated after days of wandering in the wilds. Also, characters are limited on the weight each can carry.

Relating resource management back to combat, when in combat mode, a character that picks something up cannot deposit that inventory item on to another character. In combat mode, only the character that picks it up can add it to his/her inventory. This is annoying when one instigates combat when outside towns or fortresses. In this mode, gameplay zooms in closer to the action rather than the birdís eye view the game displays when wandering outside said towns. In this instance, exiting combat mode so any character with free inventory slots can pick up discarded items takes the game back out to the broader view where items cannot be picked up on the battlefield. The only recourse is to have each character use their remaining action points for that round of combat until it is a characterís turn who has free inventory slots.

The turn-based combat system also has its limitations when fighting in close quarters. Because each character must use all available action points in each round, fighting in a narrow corridor can be an exercise in frustration. A character near the rear of the party has nowhere to roam. They cannot switch places because of the lack of space, so unless they have spells or range weapons their movements can evoke a scene from an Austin Powers movie. Of course, the game makes some allowance for this by including a delay action button.

Combat in open areas is much more user-friendly. Characters are free to roam the battlefield, move out of the range of the enemy, or otherwise act at will. Spells can have a deleterious effect on the enemy in Avernum. The turn-based combat engine means a character can fully release the spell without interference from opposing units. This also means your characters are basically sitting ducks while the enemy wizards rain spells down on your unfortunate heads.


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