Avernum 6 HD is something of a throwback. As we game in the current age of touch screen fancy, so focused on flinging birds or cutting ropes, it’s rare that we’re treated to a true old school role playing experience on modern technology. This ipad port of the original 2010 release (well, 2009 on Mac, but let’s not split hairs) comes from indie developer Spiderweb Software and if you long for a hardcore role playing romp, this might just be your bag.
The astute among you will have noticed that this is the 6th game in the series. Despite having missed the previous five instalments, I didn’t feel that too much of the plot was going over my head. The narrative sets you up as the underachieving protagonist on the cusp of breaking into a bona fide role in the army.
The titular Avernum is an underground kingdom of sorts, with the writers briefly explaining that, once a prison colony, Avernum has become a wild frontier that relies on mushrooms to feed the populace. Before your adventure kicks off you’re given further information on the blight – a disease that spread among the flora and all but destroyed Avernum’s source of food, and the Slithzerikai – lizard people that sensed weakness and attacked from the low tunnels, forcing many to flee for the magic portal to take them above land. These two pieces of story exposition has left Avernum struggling, with much of the populace seeking refuge above land. The remainder queue for rations and struggle to survive.
The game begins with you creating a party of four, with a variety of races and specialities to choose from. The default party presents a solid team, however you have a number of options to tinker with in terms of the look of your characters, names, and even individual statistics such as strength and dexterity.
Handily the game also offers you the ability to ‘cheat’, in that you can edit your characters. There are several prompts informing you that this can defeat the purpose of the game, however it is a handy feature if you’re finding particular parts a tad difficult. Simply switch on the editor, load your saved game and “Increase all of your skills without having to worry about a nagging lack of skill points”. Thanks Spiderweb Software!
Graphically the game doesn’t stand up next to the cutting edge that the ipad has to offer. Having said that, when was the last time you played two ipad games next to each other? Once you allow yourself to be drawn into the narrative, you’ll soon realise that graphical fidelity isn’t the be all and end all.
The story is told through a number of quests by various characters throughout the game. Whilst there is some gating: not allowing you to explore certain parts of the world until specific quests are completed, generally the game does a good job of ushering you through the story with relative comfort. I didn’t feel like I was being hand held too much, nor did I find that I couldn’t figure out what I had to do next.
A major downfall for this type of game is the sheer amount of writing contained in it. You can stop thinking I’m some kind of illiterate whelp right now. My point is that Avernum 6 launches in a time where reams of written dialogue is a thing of the past. I’m not saying the amount of writing is a bad thing per se; however this could turn off the new generation of players who have even shorter attention spans and want everything delivered to them now. Frequently I found myself skipping pages of dialogue to get to the crux of the story.
Ultimately if you’re looking for old school role playing goodness set in an interesting world, Avernum 6 is for you.
Graphics:- 2/5 Whilst graphics don’t really matter in a game like this, the 32 bit style isn’t as nostalgic as other retro games of late. If playing something pretty overly concerns you, the visuals may put you off.
Sound:- 3/5 Functional and occasionally atmospheric. Reuse of sounds is humourous at times without intending to be; rats and wolves for example make the same sounds.
Narrative:- 4/5 The story is standard RPG fodder; blighted world, a saviour riseth, however the sheer amount of beautifully realised characters and hours of twists and turns will keep you playing.
Gameplay:- 3/5 The RPG elements all work well and the touch controls are responsive and forgiving for someone with big meat claws (yours truly). The depth of character customisation is breath-taking, however it’s because of this that I can only really recommend it to the hardcore.
Overall:- 3 Blighted mushrooms out of 5
A solid entry into the RPG arena. If the latest RPGs on the market have been a little too ‘actioney’ for your liking and you yearn for more depth to character development, look no further than Avernum 6. Beware, this is not for the faint of heart and should be considered a hardcore role playing experience.