Avernum VI Demo: Aver Banana!

By Kieron Gillen on March 5th, 2010 at 10:30 am.

AVER BANANA!

That subject line makes no sense, but bear with me. It’s early and I’m tired. If you’re coming to Avernum now, of course, you’re not early. You’re late. In fact, as late as it’s possible to be. Except not too late. And… start again. Shorter sentences. Control. Avernum VI released. Demo available. Final part in Avernum series. Long-running, successful niche-targeting indie-RPGs. There’s also a deal to buy the whole second trilogy in one go. Hurrah! Well done Spiderweb for finishing their series. And user-created footage from the demo follows…

AVER BANANA!

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46 Comments »

  1. Avarotsis says:

    I wish this could get onto Steam so it would go on sale at a reasonable price. I would then buy it :) I’m not sure I’m willing to shell out 30$ on an indy.

    Andy yes, I’ve been ridiculously spoilt by Steam sales.

  2. Vinraith says:

    How have I never heard of these? It looks refreshingly old school, can anyone vouch for them being any good? If so, should one start with the first game in the series, the second trilogy, or what?

    • user@example.com says:

      Don’t play Exile unless you really want to, it’s Avernum only worse. IIRC you get six characters, but the remakes are better in almost every way.

      Personally I’d go play Geneforge until the Avernum 1 & 2 remakes with the latest Avernum engine come out, but that’s just me. The older versions of the engines are OK, but each game has improved on it. I like unstoppable armies of blasphemous perversions of nature, slaughtering your enemies with their carefully chosen claws and teeth and fire.

    • il dottore says:

      From the developer’s blog: “By the way, prior experience with the Avernum games is completely unnecessary to enjoy Avernum 6. I figured out early on that sequels should always provide easy entry for new players. Especially when they have a number as high as 6 after the name.”

      It’s http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/
      Writes pretty nice articles too, including some on DRM in the last few days. Always offers interesting view from the developer side of the fence

    • malkav11 says:

      No idea how you’ve managed to miss them, especially since I pimp them whenever remotely appropriate. Spiderweb games are solid gold. A bit old-school in graphics (and many of them are locked to annoyingly low resolutions), but pure creamy RPG goodness inside.

      I would also like to vehemently disagree with the idea that the Exile games are worse than the Avernum games that remade them (Avernum 4-6 are entirely new games, 1-3 are remakes of the Exile trilogy). Sure, Avernum moves to isometric perspective, has easier clicky dialogue, and a few bits and bobs of questery and storyline added on, but it chops off two characters and reduces a spell system of something like 90 different spells to about 15. This makes me a very sad panda. Especially galling is the fact that -all- the summoning spells go by the wayside. It’s this that’s made it hard for me to get into the Avernum series. Geneforge has been more my bag.

    • Wulf says:

      I’ve played them all, they were all pretty fun, but the only problem is that Vogel likes to repeat plots, so once you’ve played 1-3 you pretty much have a feeling for the entire series, if not the exact details. I would, however, recommend playing 1-3 and Blades at least. Blades was actually my favourite, as it broke out of the recycled plots more than the other games, and there are player-created campaigns, some of which are very, very good.

      If you find you’re still hungry for more, by all means, continue. Avernum IV though was a new game, and not based on Exile, so it’s a little linear, and then there’s Avernum V, which was incredibly linear and less of an entertaining Avernum game for it. I’ve heard that Avernum VI is different, and more true to the older Exile-remake Avernum games, so I’ll be giving this a look.

      The GeneForge games are good, too, but again, they start repeating themselves after a while, so I think it’s just a case of playing them until you’ve had enough, then stop. I played a few GeneForge games though, and a few Avernums, and I enjoyed what I played immensely.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Lots of helpful posters

      Thanks for the advice and information. What’s this about a remake of the earlier Avernum games?

      It sounds like maybe I should try Geneforge first if the older Avernum games are going to be remade in the newer engine, and then pick up Avernum’s remakes and newer titles in sequential order from there.

    • malkav11 says:

      I’d appreciate someone pointing at anything where Vogel says something like that is underway, myself. He’s talked a few times about how he plans to keep all his games semi-current by periodically sprucing them up with new engine and a few extras the way he did Exile to Avernum, but a) that could be quite some time from now and b) there is no guarantee that they’ll play the same. Avernum certainly doesn’t play the same as Exile.

    • Vinraith says:

      @malkav11

      Also good to know. Take them as they are, don’t assume anything about the future. That’s fair, thanks.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    Jeez, I don’t see what’s so great about the dang Strand. Typical Londocentrism endemic to our cultural conscious and etc.

  4. clessness says:

    Anyone else remember the Exile series for Macs back in the mid-90s? I hadn’t realized the publisher was still aorund. They were great games, but I gotta say, they haven’t done much with the graphics in 15 years.

    • Ragnar says:

      They have done a lot with the graphics. Try playing the Exile games again and you’ll see how much difference there is. The Exile games came to Windows too, btw.

  5. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    There’s not much that can strike more terror into a soul than the phrase ‘second trilogy’.

    • user@example.com says:

      “Second Epic Fantasy Trilogy”

      Even just “Epic Fantasy Trilogy” is bad enough.

  6. DMcCool says:

    It took until the end for me to get the pun in the title. Should I be ashamed, or proud?

    AVER BANANA! *cycles out the comment thread*

  7. Scilantius says:

    Definately go for it and at least try the demo. It’s one of the best turn-based RPG series out there. Plus each and every game is HUGE, and meticulously hand-crafted, with a good story to boot. I have nothing but praise for it,… some people dislike lots of text, or turn-based stuff in general, or “bad” graphics/no animations.

    Also, I would recommend starting at the beginning. Sure, you can start anywhere you like, since all the games start you with a new party, have a self-contained story and tell you what happened in the previous ones (sketchily), but I still love the continuity of exploring a world, and seeing it change. Granted, there are a few quirks and gripes in the first 2 games, but it’s nothing you won’t get used to. Moreover, if you start at the end, and work your way back, the little quirks and gripes will annoy you a lot more, since you’ll have conveniances taken away from you.

    Anyway, I should probably stop ranting,.. in summary – try it.

    Good luck and have fun!

  8. Ragnar says:

    Splendid game! I have bought it, but still have not finished the demo-area. The game is huge.

  9. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I’ve always had more liking for the Geneforge series.

  10. Demiath says:

    I still don’t get that title; I must be very slow, indeed. More importantly, though, it’s nice to see RPS being so characteristically quick to call attention to the release of a new indie RPG. If you haven’t picked up an Avernum title before this is a great time to do so since A6 looks better and has the best interface/feedback system in a Spiderweb Software game to this date.

    Also, as with physical exercise and crack addiction, it’s never too late to start…

  11. Srekel says:

    The Avernum games are fantastic and I recommend them to any RPG fans I come across. That said, the latest game is much improved in terms of UI and visuals over the first games, so unless you’re really hardcore I would probably recommend trying A6 first and then go back and play them from the beginning once Jeff has redone them in the A6 engine.

  12. RuySan says:

    i’m not a graphics whore, but i demand at least a bit of artistic flair from games. Spiderweb soft games look awful, and “awful” does not mean “old”. I would recommend Eschalon instead. Both games have crap combat anyway (altough Eschalon combat is a bit worse i must say).

    • Jesse says:

      They do not look awful. Come now. Thanks for the demands, though.

  13. Risingson says:

    Using isometric perspective for games nowadays is like using the amen break for drum n bass.

    /elitism

  14. Risingson says:

    Always works for an irony free zone, at least.

  15. Langman says:

    Wow. They only had time to do the combat animations but not the walking animations?

    • Jesse says:

      It’s a one-man studio, bub. Anything Vogel does is gold with me and if the lack of walking animations does it in for you, by all means, don’t play it. But save your negativity. You might drive someone away from a great game.

      Fun fact: Vogel’s site, http://www.spidweb.com, is the first website I visited outside of AOL. Previous to that I had believed AOL was the entire internet (I was very small at the time). This was my first step into a larger world and as such I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for it. Besides the great games, of course. Huge, huge games! So much stuff. So many fiddly bits. This is one of those games where every loose object can be picked up and moved. As much as I love the streamlined Mass Effect 2 style of roleplaying, I will always love fiddly bits. Great tactical combat, too. And so much to do! I had to quite Avernum 3 because every time I turned it on I would play for two and a half hours would want to go on still just a bit further, deliver that last quest item, or sell this last bit of stuff, or buy that one spell I’d had my eye on for five hours… Playing the game couldn’t satisfy my desire for more game. A wonderful, rare situation.

    • Jesse says:

      “I had to quit Avernum 3 because every time I turned it on I would play for two and a half hours and would want to go on still just a bit further,” it should be, excuse me.

  16. Mario Figueiredo says:

    There’s really not much like the Avernum series out there. It’s one of the most successful and long run indie projects out there. The games are amazingly well crafted. I know Jeff Vogel games since Exile and have been a loyal fan.

    Plot
    Each game is self contained with its own story, although there’s a general plot outside the player influence that gives each game in the series the necessary connections to carry one game from another. So players aren’t required at all to play the previous games, but those that do can still enjoy a feeling of continuity.

    Storytelling
    The Avernum series is mostly praised by the quality of its story-driven RPG. The games offer depth to an amount hard to come by these days. It is no exaggeration to say that players wanting to experience what the game has to offer in terms of story, will find the same quality and depth experienced in full commercial titles the likes of BioWare’s RPGs since Baldur’s Gate. Some games have even been compared to Planescape Torment in their ability to hook the player to the story contents and make them move on simply for the sheer pleasure of unraveling the story.

    Graphics
    Some have criticized the graphics quality of the Avernum series (as well as the Geneforge series). Yet, all players who enjoyed the games unanimously agree that the graphics didn’t ever get in the way of their enjoyment. On the contrary, the old school graphics helped setting the mental scenery for enjoying the game for what it really is; an old-school RPG that will be especially dear to older players who come from the late 80s and early 90s SSI’s RPGs as well as the early games of the Ultima series. But that will also appeal to younger players who can draw pleasure from rich storytelling and coarse (by today standards, but very advanced by the 80s and early 90s standards) 2D graphics.

    Incidentally, Jeff Vogel games were always pretty much like this. He’s been doing minor adjustment to the graphics engine over these long years. But always kept this look and feel. It’s want he wants his games to be, and the fans have constantly been thanking him for that.

    Other
    Gameplay aspects of the games can better be read about on wikipedia and other sources. No need for me to repeat what’s written there on a comment box. However I must say, Avernum (even more than Geneforge in my opinion) is truly successful in capturing the essence of RPG games, particularly old school medieval-like high-fantasy story-driven RPG games. It is also a fun experience and this is what we ask of our games.

    The games are immense, taking many days to complete. They include all the ingredients expected on modern RPGs, like side quests, secret quests, hidden treasures and a complex but manageable character development system.

    Continuity
    For the lack of a better title to this section…

    For those wishing to experience Avernum games in succession but fearing they may be thrown away by the older games, I suggest perhaps you start with Avernum 4. This game introduced a refined engine that is what is being used on the subsequent games, up to this date. 5 and 6 polished this engine, but the game essentially plays and feels the same. However, finding you are a fan of the games will mean you will have no problems whatsoever in playing the first three titles (which are the best in my opinion)… and even the 2D top-down exile series.

    • Nick says:

      “It is no exaggeration to say that players wanting to experience what the game has to offer in terms of story, will find the same quality and depth experienced in full commercial titles the likes of BioWare’s RPGs since Baldur’s Gate. Some games have even been compared to Planescape Torment in their ability to hook the player to the story contents and make them move on simply for the sheer pleasure of unraveling the story.”

      Sorry but that is utter rubbish. The games are great but seriously, no.

  17. Alphabet says:

    I downloaded the demo (15 minutes on my terrible internet connection) and am enjoying it greatly. You can create a custom party straight away! Your first assignment is to kill rats, and the trope isn’t even a little subverted! And that’s followed by a quest to kill goblins! I wish I could zoom in, and I wish there was a highlight-stuff-on-the-ground button (maybe there is?) and I wish I could make the text bigger, and there is no way I’m going to play through 1-5 but this is a lot of fun so far and I can really see myself upgrading to the full product. If only mega-corporations made games that were this easy to access and to evaluate.

    Also, his blog post on DRM was among the smartest I’ve read. Overall, I’m not suprised he has loyal fans.

  18. Kits says:

    I have absolutely no idea which Avernum I played, but the one I did, I really enjoyed.

  19. Dean says:

    Vogel’s games always strike me as odd. Because with a bit more graphical polish, some work to make them more accessible and a cheaper price point they could be huge indie hits.

    But that’s looking at the modern definition of indie that’s come about in the past few years. Vogel’s been making Avernum for ten years now, and by all accounts has made a pretty decent living out of it. He’s no reason at all to risk spoiling a good thing. The games just aren’t really made for us, and never will be.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I just don’t understand what you mean by “the games weren’t made for us”.

      I do agree however, he pushes the price tag on individual games. However the series are offered at sizable discounts. Of one however, your idea they haven’t been huge indie hits. Well, they have. There’s few people making more money than Jeff Vogel on this business. Each new game sells better than the previous. And he probably doesn’t make more because his games are unfortunately widely pirated. One of the reasons I seem to remember him mentioning before behind the high price tag.

    • malkav11 says:

      Firstly: not made for us? Speak for yourself, dude. They were certainly made for me – the only Spiderweb games I don’t own are the second Avernum Trilogy, for the simple reason that I could reasonably expect another trilogy release when it was done (and indeed, it’s materialized and I will probably buy it in the next couple months), and have been following and enjoying Spiderweb games since the original Exile for Mac (back when it had 100% amateur graphics, apparently done by Vogel’s wife. Count yourself lucky he’s commissioning art these days.).

      Secondly, @Mario
      Vogel on pricing: http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/search/label/pricing
      You will note that while he mentions that his games have been pirated considerably, and asks people not to pirate indie games pretty please, he does not cite it as influencing his prices, and seems, from what I can tell, to take the entirely sensible approach of accepting that it happens and focusing on the people who actually pay money for his work.

    • Dean says:

      Sorry, was in a rush writing that, but by “us” I meant your average RPS reader. The PC gaming (ugh) alternative mainstream – that will play indies but are very selective about what they play…

      When I said the games weren’t huge hits, I meant compared to the big indie success stories: your Braids, World of Goos, etc. I really do think Vogel is good enough at this that he could make the first real breakthrough indie RPG, but that’d mean sacrificing a lot of that old school retro appeal that sells so well (and at a relatively high price) to his core audience.

  20. Waltorious says:

    Yet another person recommending the Avernum games! One thing I liked about them is that the stat and skill system is fairly simple yet perfectly functional. I didn’t feel like I had to make some characters, have them suck, start over, have my new ones also suck, start over again, and then finally “get” the system and how to make decent characters for it; rather, the system was quite easy to understand the first time through. But it’s not TOO simple, there’s still a good amount of strategy and thinking to be employed.

    The other main thing I like about them is the worldbuilding. It’s not exactly story, it’s SETTING. The setting is really quite brilliant. Really well thought out, and all sorts of details that just make sense and make you think “why don’t other games do this?” For this reason, the very first Avernum game still holds a soft spot in my heart. I’ve played 1-4, and haven’t gotten to 5 or 6 yet (but I will) but I can say that I didn’t like 4 as much. It makes some changes to the formula that had me missing some features of the original trilogy, but word is that 5 and 6 have greatly improved the new system and are much better than 4. 4 also had a bigger world that was a little less compelling to me, and started to get a bit tedious.

    So, I am recommending new players start with the first game. It is true that interface improvements have occurred along the way, especially going from 3 to 4, but if you don’t mind some old-school interfaces (you have to TYPE some LETTERS!) the original is really quite good (but it is a bit shorter). Also, the demos are excellent, and huge. You really get a sense of what the game is like by the end.

    The Geneforge series is also good… I’ve played the first three of those. It’s a very different affair, full of tough moral choices and consequences, and bizarre creatures formed to do your bidding. I have a soft spot for old-school band-of-heroes RPGs so I learn towards the Avernum series more, but Geneforge definitely has some interesting things going for it that you won’t find in many other games.

  21. Helm says:

    Avernum games are made of glittering diamonds. I’ve had more fun with them than most RPGs released since say SSI were making gems like the first Dark Sun game. Along with Knights of the Chalice and Eschalon, strongly recommended. But they will kill productivity, be warned.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Helm

      I really do wish that GOG would get the complete SSI catalog. That would be very, very time killing.

  22. Igor Hardy says:

    I’ve been playing the old Exile games from Spiderweb (the first Avernum games are their remakes) like crazy in the shareware days. Too bad I don’t have that much free time these days. They really require a lot of it.

  23. Pemptus says:

    Ah, Avernum. The second one was probably my favorite and I would recommend it to anyone starting out. The third bugged me for some reason, I think it were the minor time limits (and I hate time limits of any kind in a game mostly about exploration). I somehow couldn’t stomach the new engine in Avernum 4, maybe I should try again.
    Oh, and I also recommend Nethergate Resurrection, a remake of the original Nethergate. Also an excellent game, a treat to all the explorers out there.

    My early teens were defined by Spiderweb games and accompanying Blind Guardian soundtracks.