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Publisher: Spiderweb Software    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Any Version    RAM: 30 MB    Hard Disk: 50 MB    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit

Avernum 4
January 5, 2006 | Ian Beck

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The way in which you interact with the world of Avernum is an interesting amalgamation of the Geneforge point-and-click interface combined with the earlier Avernum turn-based gameplay. This has both advantages and disadvantages: although new players to the series may appreciate the way in which a turn-based system feels much more like a real time one, veteran Avernites will notice some disadvantages. For instance, in previous Avernum games combat did not start until you explicitly decided to begin it, and you could have your first character in the party attack enemies simply by bumping into them. This allowed you to bypass what would otherwise be tedious battles with oversized rats or wimpy goblins if your characters were high enough level to just kill them in one hit, and you could zip around the map with the keyboard or by clicking and holding the mouse and pointing in the appropriate direction. Because Avernum 4 gives the game almost total control over pathfinding (there was no pathfinding in previous Avernum games), combat now initiates automatically whenever an enemy is sighted. No more bump and run. This can be particularly tedious when battling the aforementioned rats and goblins, although fortunately a bit of nature lore can "calm" wild animals and prevent a lot of the most annoying combat.

Granted, this isn't a huge deal (and will only be noticed by Avernum vets), but it's fairly indicative of the advantages and disadvantages of Avernum's turn-based cum point-and-click interface. This and the loss of the rampant secret areas that peppered earlier Avernum games are the primary downsides to a system that is overall a lot easier to use.

Inventory and character skill screens are easily accessible via buttons in the character list or hotkeys, and the inventory screen is reminiscent of that of Blizzard's Diablo. The top is predominated by a picture of your character with slots for equipment, the bottom has a general inventory area, and the upper right has a section containing stuff on the ground nearby or in whatever chest or item you have just clicked on.

Combat is turn based, and each character is alloted eight action points (give or take a few depending on skills, traits, and temporary magical effects). The standard options of using ranged or melee weapons and magic are available, and there are plenty of opportunities for butt-whupping (or for getting your butt whupped). Given the long history of turn-based combat Spiderweb has, it is not at all surprising that combat is well executed, if sometimes formulaic (wait for enemy to get close while hitting it with ranged weapons and spells, and then wail on it; rinse, repeat). On the normal difficulty level, combat is also pretty challenging thanks to the prevalence of nasty enemies scattered around the map, and a conservative approach to fighting is often safest, as is saving often.


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