500 Word Game Reviews: Avernum 3

Another cross-post from TSR forums~

Avernum 3 (2002) – RPG, PC.

Note: this is a remake of the 1997 game Exile III (available free here), and has itself gotten a remake just last month in Avernum 3: Ruined World (available on Steam at a reasonable price).

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Story: The surface of the planet is ruled over by a single Empire. Said Empire discovers a vast network of underground caverns, and banishes anyone the Emperor doesn’t like (criminals, overly-powerful mages, non-human races, even gay people) into these caverns, the land that eventually becomes known as Avernum.

These outcasts band together, build their own civilization, kill the Emperor (in Avernum 1), befriend some aliens (in Avernum 2) – and now, they want to return to the surface. You play as a party of (up to) 4 characters whose job is to exit the caves, gather information and report back to your commander. But all is not well on the surface, to the point where civilians are even willing to turn to a bunch of Avernite escapees for help…

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Gameplay: First, create your own party! Choose from several pre-made classes (Fighter, Rogue, Mage, Cleric, Archer etc), or create your own. There are three races to pick from: Humans, Nephilim (cat people) and Slithzerikai (lizard people). The non-human races come with bonus traits, but at a cost: many people on the surface don’t like them, and will be less friendly towards your party at best, or attack on sight at worst. Which is why I always play with at least one Nephil or Slith, because it makes the game more interesting.

As with most RPGs, you are assigned quests by various characters – on top of the main quest, there are many optional side quests. Talk to characters, because there’s tons of dialogue in the game, and it’s very well written. Explore, as you never know what treasures you’ll find. But, don’t get TOO distracted, because the surface is under threat, and if you don’t win within a certain amount of in-game days, who knows what kinds of disasters may occur…

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Combat is turn-based, with each character/mob given a certain amount of action points that they use to move, fight or defend. Walk next to an enemy and click them for basic melee attacks, or shoot spells or arrows from afar with the buttons at the bottom of the screen. Simple.

Controls: You can use the keyboard to navigate, but I find the mouse to be quicker and easier – just click in the direction you want to go, and your characters will move over there. For anything else (checking inventory, looking at current quests, checking what different spells do or what abilities your characters have etc), the buttons could be better labelled or laid out TBH, but you get used to them.

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Graphics and sound: This game was largely made by a single guy. Which given the size of it, the deep story and the world-building, is an impressive feat. But from an audio and visual point of view, it does show. There is no game music outside of the intro screen, and few, basic sound effects. Graphics look VERY basic for 2002. No animation, characters just shuffle from one point on the map to the next. I do like the sketches on the character screen, though!

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Overall: Can’t fault this game plot-wise, and the gameplay isn’t bad. If the visuals put you off, maybe try the newer Avernum remakes. 8/10

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