Aug 232011

Avadon: The Black Fortress Review

Although I’ve only played Avadon: The Black Fortress for about 15 hours which by estimate puts me at about the halfway point (maybe even less), I’m going to review it anyway.  This is not because I’m tired of the game (I look forward to finishing it) but because I’d like to post my review for the game while it’s still relatively new on Steam in the hopes of drumming up a few extra sales for a game that deserves them. If my opinion of the game changes after I’ve finished it, I’ll be sure to post an update.

Avadon takes an hour to get going but once it does, it’s an engaging game. The setting is generic D&D fantasy (albeit with you working for the morally ambiguous fantasy equivalent of the UN) but the world is well crafted, the characters have personality, the individual scenarios are interesting, and the writing is solid. I especially enjoyed how the game gives out different dialogue depending on who is in your party. It strikes a happy medium between linear (the main plot) and non-linear (plenty of optional quests and dungeons to explore). The LV-Up system isn’t too complex (each level you get 1 stat point and 2 skill points and occasionally you get a specialization point) but it’s fun and lets the player customize their character’s stats & abilities nicely. Combat is turn-based on a grid and has depth without sacrificing pacing. Oh and there’s ton of loot along with tons of equipment slots to equip said loot on.

I did have a few issues with the game here and there though. I would have preferred more party slots (you can only have 3 characters in your party at a time), more class options (only 4 classes which basically correspond to Warrior, Ninja, Mage, and Druid), and some sort of innate difference between the main character and the characters you can recruit (whatever class you pick for your main character is exactly the same as the character of that class you can recruit as far as I can tell). Difficulty can feel a bit unbalanced at times – playing on Normal mode, I found the boss fights to be well designed and offer a good challenge but I was able to breeze through most non-boss fights just by spamming basic attacks. The interface can be a little clunky at times – for example, “I” opens up the inventory page but pressing “I” again won’t close it. And though I eventually got used to it, the presentation was more old-school than I would have liked (90s graphics and no music, just ambient noises).

Still, these are relatively minor complaints. If you’re tired of all the FPS/RPG hybrids that we’ve been getting lately and want a good old-fashioned RPG with a well-crafted story, a host of quests, plenty of stats, and fun turn-based grid combat, Avadon is a great choice. Even though I’m not finished with my first playthrough, I’m already anticipating replaying the game on a higher difficulty level to try out different story choices and new combat strategies.

Avadon: The Black Fortress can be purchased on Steam for $10.

 Posted by at 4:20 pm

  7 Responses to “Avadon: The Black Fortress Review”

  1. It’s a really nice game.

    Regarding the lack of music, I had read about that before I fired up the game, and expected that to possibly derail my enjoyment. However once I started playing I didn’t feel any need for it at all.

    I do not think we should necessarily expect every single RPG to include music. In Avadon’s case the ambience sound effects received a more central role due to this, and I thought that was sufficient.

  2. I’ve been in love with Jeff Vogel’s games since I initially purchased “Nethergate.” I bought all of the Geneforge games, although admittedly, I was a bit bored w/the story by the last one.

    But “Avadon” is very, very promising. I do look forward to a continued story, with several games following this first one.

    Thanks again, Jeff!

  3. I just got the game from Steam, really enjoyable. The lack of ambient music I fill with Spotify in the background, choosing my own ambient themed music as backdrop. The gameplay reminds me of Baldurs Gate and Albion, the latter being my favorite RPG of all times. Happy to have found a rich storyline where I found so many new games lacking.

  4. Bought the game a few days ago and been playing it. I’m only 1 hour in so far but I agree with everything you said. Gameplay is fun, the scope of the world seems really wide, and I love how your party members actually have personality and affect the way you have to deal with things. Unfortunately, like you said, battles are a bit too easy outside bosses, the game really lacks music, and I wish the character customization had more to it.

  5. The game really is fantastic, as are all of their other games. If you enjoy this you might try Eschalon: Book 1 and 2 (if you haven’t already) by Basilisk Games, plus any of the older Spiderweb Software games.

  6. There isn’t really any music as such – just ambient noise for whatever area you’re in. As such, Avadon’s the first RPG in a long time where I don’t bother to turn on my speakers or put in headphones.

    Still a fun game though.

  7. Is the game really so devoid of music? It seems good at any rate, I love Spiderweb Software, been playing the Avernum series since I was ten years old, some of my favorite old school CRPGs. Might pick this up now, or revisit avernum. Either way, thanks a lot for the review!

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