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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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Avernum 4, the recently released RPG from Spiderweb Software revisits the underground caverns of the Exile and Avernum series, but unlike previous Avernum games has an entirely new plot and significantly updated gameplay. Although like past Spiderweb titles Avernum 4 may not be for everyone, its strong writing and plot, expansive world, and classic RPG design are definitely worth trying.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Avernum is set predominantly in a system of underground caverns beneath a realm known only as the Empire. The caves of Avernum were used by the Empire as a dumping ground for criminals, nonconformists, or anyone else the Empire deemed unworthy of living in the sunlit world and contributing to society (sort of like the British colonization of Australia, really, but with more magic, fewer marsupials, and more arbitrary dictatorship). The first few Avernum titles involved the Avernite's interactions and struggles with the Empire, the other residents of Avernum (such as goblins, nephilim—cat people—and slithzerikai—lizard people), and the mysterious vahnatai, a race which lives in caverns even further underground. When Avernum 4 begins, Avernum and the Empire are at peace, yet despite this Avernum is under attack from some unknown and magical force. Killer shades roam several cities, the lakes and rivers are made unnavigable by sea monsters, and it is up to you and your party of adventurers to find your way to the bottom of the problems.

Thankfully for the uninitiated, although Avernum 4 has plenty of references to past games to bring a smile to the face of the people who played them, no previous experience is necessary with Avernum to play it.

Basic gameplay
Avernum 4 comes out of a long tradition of turn-based games in the classic role playing tradition, and as such anyone who has played a role playing game should be able to get a grasp on Avernum 4 pretty quickly. You control a party of four characters, and as you journey around killing things and completing quests your characters will gain experience. Every thousand experience, the character advances a level and you are given five skill points to spend. The available skills range from four base skills (strength, dexterity, intelligence, and endurance) to combat skills (melee weapons, bows, quick attack, etc.) to magic (mage ability, priest ability, arcane lore) to the more mundane (tool use, nature lore, first aid, etc.). Additionally, as you develop your characters you gain access to specialized skills such as magery and sharpshooter, which help to improve them in their areas of expertise.

Besides just humans, you can also choose to have nephilim and slithzerikai in your party, which both have unique advantages and penalties. And lastly, at the very beginning of the game you can choose to give your characters special traits which help or hinder at the cost of experience (for instance, if your character is an elite warrior, then they will receive a 15% experience penalty on all experience they gain).

Although once you begin to play the choices on where to spend your skill points are entirely up to you, you can initially choose classes for your characters to allow you to start playing straight away without having to learn what all of the skills do.


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