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17 December 2014

Underrated Developers: Spiderweb Software - Avadon and Avernum

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I have a lot of love for this game developing company Spiderweb Software, pretty much because they orchestrated my foray into the world of the RPG.

If my mum hadn't found an Avernum 3 demo in an old Mac magazine about ten years ago, I probably wouldn't be the gaming fiend I am today. The best bit? They're still developing games, and these games still deliver. The worst? Nobody has heard of them. So let's take a look at their body of work and see if we can figure out whether they're worth knowing...

Avernum

This series is definitely in my top five favourite games. The graphics are lacking, yes, but after the first ten minutes or so of gameplay you realise the reason for this; they're just not necessary. This was originally intended to be a trilogy, but it was just so awesome that they ended up making about five more. My personal favourite, as stated above, is probably the third one. Not gonna lie, this may just be for nostalgia reasons, but I still maintain that it has one of the best gameplay systems out of all (undeniably similar) Spiderweb game mechanics.

All hail the pixelated gecko! -from Spiderweb Software official site

Anyway, the Avernum series is set in your pretty basic fantasy world. You've got ogres, giant rats and a cruel oppressive Empire. The interesting thing, though, is the enormous underground world where you're sent by this aforementioned Empire if you misbehave. Steal from nobility, start trouble or just generally piss off important people, and you're chucked into the pit, forced to start to live a new life in the dark, dank underground tunnels and caves called Avernum.

The plots of these games differs from game to game - as you would expect, I hope - but they centre generally around the societal repercussions of this banishment pit. In Avernum 3 you play an exploration team sent out to the 'surface world' to check out how dangerous it is before any of the Avernites are permitted to leave. It turns out it is very dangerous, so you fight off slimes and giant cockroaches and troglodytes while simultaneously trying to figure out just who is behind all of this.

Avernum: Escape from the Pit is their latest instalment, and has a slightly different flavour to it. You spend the game down in Avernum itself trying to figure out how to get out. You can buy A:EftP for Mac, PC and now even for iPad, which I was totally excited about, and it's now my current distraction during lectures.

Just RPG also reviewed the Avernum gameswith much the same gusto that I have done, stating:

Bottom line? Graphics don't make the game. Despite lack of animation and 32-bit graphics, this is a top-notch RPG.

Avadon

This is a brand new series in Spiderweb's repertoire; the first game, Avadon: The Black Fortress was released in 2011 and was later was re-released for the iPad alongside Escape from the Pit, which of course I have snapped up too. Avadon has another pretty interesting concept, as I have come to expect from them. They also go along the oppressive government route, but this time you play as a 'Hand of Avadon', or a footsoldier to the corrupt regime. You have the option, as you traverse through worlds and come into contact with the rich and with the poor, to uphold the oppressive rules by reprimanding villagers for not giving you everything you want because you are important, and just generally acting like a spoilt child, or to sympathise with their plights and get your hands dirty for them. The whole thing smacks just a little of Fable 3, but in a good way, I suppose, because it is an interesting concept to pursue.

Your chosen team members all have different backstories and personal struggles to overcome, which adds something very interesting to the entire story. If you choose the battle-scarred fighter to come with you, for example, one of the uninteresting bandit leaders you come across will be an important character from his past and he will undoubtedly struggle between his loyalties to Avadon and his need for revenge. Will you, as his leader, allow him to pursue revenge or reign him in to the task at hand?

It all inevitably leads to the final question: will you be a betrayer of Avadon? And will the tyrants in charge flick you away, when that time comes, like the bug you are? Or will you be the saviour of Avadon instead?

I have a cape AND I breathe fire towards lizards. -from Spiderweb Software official site

I, for one, am looking forward to every hour of play I can get.

Avadon suffers from the same graphical affliction as Avernum , but, again, it doesn't really matter. There is a lot of writing to make up for it, as when you enter new areas a text box will generally pop up to explain the atmosphere of the land to you, but I like that. It's like a real roleplaying game, where your imagination does most of the work, and the graphics themselves really just serve as an attractive grid to show you where your characters are in relation to the enemies. Dungeons and Dragons players will understand why this is appealing instead of off-putting!

Rock, Paper, Shotgun agrees, stating that, "As simple as it looks, it’s one of those games that’s very easy to fire up for a few minutes, only to be magically transported without supper to 5AM the next day."

So, what do you think? Do graphics make the game? Are sound effects as important as story? Let us know!

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 18:01

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