Musing on Avernum

AuthorTopic: Musing on Avernum
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #0
Reading these topics, including peoples' opinions of Avernum IV and requests for the future direction of the series has put me in a philosophical mood.

I, like several other board members, have been playing Jeff's games since Exile 1. Unlike others on these boards, I hated Exile 1 so much when I first played it that I didn't touch a thing Jeff made until I tried Nethergate and got hooked. I've now learned to appreciate the Exile series for what it is, and while I doubt I'll ever play it, I can see its charm.

The Avernum series was a different story, for me. Avernum 1 was much more polished and accessible than Exile 1 - and I was no doubt more favorably predisposed toward it due to the interface features it shares with Nethergate. So in a sense, Avernum 1 gave me the best of all worlds - the interesting Exile setting with the engine improvements from Nethergate.

Avernum 2 was also very enjoyable. It felt well constructed. The story elements fit together nicely and the improvements to the engine enhanced the overall experience.

But things started, in my opinion, to go wrong with Avernum 3. I never really "got" it. I purchased it, but every time I've tried to play it, I found I was bored before long.

Blades of Avernum had the same effect on me. I only finished VotDT, which was okay. I tried a couple of user-created scenarios (a couple of which were better than VotDT), but I still found the overall experience unsatisfying and boring.

Avernum 4, alas, is the least enjoyable of the Avernum series. There isn't anything in particular that I didn’t like about it. The engine is better, I think, than the previous Avernums. But the engine improvements couldn't make up for an overall dull game experience. I felt very little motivation to advance from one area to the next, since nothing much seemed to happen. It was just another dungeon full of things to kill. Take a game like Baldur’s Gate 2 – each new area revealed new and often surprising plot twists, and the characters felt very much alive. This emotional connection with my own character, her party, and the world made it difficult to stop playing. These emotional aspects are largely missing in A4. Someone mentioned that A4 feels like a MMORPG and I couldn't agree more.

I've bought all of Jeff's games (E1-3, BoE, A1-4, BoA, G1-3, NG, & GC), and I certainly would like to support his further efforts. Spiderweb games have always been hit-or-miss with me, but lately it feels they're much more miss than hit. I have hopes that G4 will reverse this trend of mediocre products, or at least, provide a game interesting enough I feel like finishing it.


Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Member # 7420
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This makes me sad. How far did you get in Avernum 3, exactly? Did you battle the montrous Alien Slime? Did you marvel at the endless trash pits of the Filth Factory? The surface is, in my opinion, more difficult to navigate than the caves, but once you get your bearings I think that Avernum 3 probably has the best plot of any other Spiderweb game. There are so many things to do! The only thing about Avernum 3 that disapointed me was the lack of shifting floors in the Tower of Shifting Floors, which was actually renamed the Golem Tower or something.

As for Avernum 4, I really don't see what made the plot so much worse than the other games. If your saying that the plot was reused and you were disapointed by that fact, then you would have more of a case.

You lose.
Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
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For what it's worth, I do think GF4 is an improvement. I can't really compare it to other Geneforges, but it does well on the plot, on the tactics, and on the nifty things to see and do.

—Alorael, who likes A3 but concedes that it has a large amount of aimless wandering compared to other Avernums. A4 seems to get a lot of hate, as discussed elsewhere, for its plot. Jeff has at least acknowledged this and he's said that A5 will be different. GF4 certainly is.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Member # 2820
Profile #3
E3 and A3 were not meant to be rich in unique plot. They were to convey mythical grandeur befitting of a fantasy game in which you can be the hero. The feeling of grandness partly comes from the huge world and relative freedom you can have from its many side quests and little subplots. The main plot had a couple twists and some shallow turns, but I think it was as good as any to propel you through many different dungeons and tough challenges.

The BoA scenarios unfortunately have a little too much hack and slash. The encounters and dungeons set themselves up to be good, but fail upon actual play. This I think is another unfortunate consequence, one of Jeff using his previous game plot making skills to make a microcosm of what he is used to.

Thuryl: I mean, most of us don't go around consuming our own bodily fluids, no matter how delicious they are.
Alorael: War and violence would end if we all had each other's babies!
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Posts: 1415 | Registered: Thursday, March 27 2003 08:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #4
Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:

This makes me sad. How far did you get in Avernum 3, exactly?


As for Avernum 4, I really don't see what made the plot so much worse than the other games. If your saying that the plot was reused and you were disapointed by that fact, then you would have more of a case.

In A3, I defeated the slime-producing monster, and shortly thereafter lost interest.

Also, my problem with A4 wasn't that it has a similar plot to A3 (as you correctly note, I hadn't played A3 for any meaningful length of time). The reason I lost interest was because the world didn't feel engaging. Things were mostly static. New areas were just basically rooms full of things to kill. Characters were not memorable. Also, I didn't like how un-human your player characters are - by this I mean that, unlike say BG2 or the Geneforge games, your characters never develop independent personalities. They're just basically a collection of stats (Warrior "A", Warrior "B", Cleric, Mage).

Geneforge appeals to me more on two levels -

(1) Your character has a tremendous impact on the world based on your (the player's) decisions. In Avernum, the only decision is whether or not to continue playing. The plot does not change based on your actions, it is only advanced.

(2) The game responds and rewards your play style - some people like to play Shapers that use creations to kill everything, others like to become skilled infiltrators avoiding combat. These styles are not only viable, but they are rewarded differently. So your character becomes better at using the skills and strategies that you, as a player, like. Avernum is better than some RPGs on this element, but much more limited because of reason 1 – your goal is to kill things. You can choose how to kill things, but not whether or not to kill things, or even what to kill.

In A2, you can't decide to join the Empire and assassinate King Micah. In Geneforge 3, you can decide to join the rebellion and kill Lord Rahul.

I guess, for me, an RPG holds my attention if I'm able to make an emotional connection to the game. That connection is what drives me to care about the story, even if the plot is somewhat hackneyed. This can be done my giving me a compelling character to play, compelling characters with which to interact, and/or a dynamic world in which my decisions mean something. BG2, for instance, is strong on compelling characters, and somewhat weak on dynamic world (since the end goal is pretty much the same, no matter how you choose to play). The Geneforge games have less well-developed characters (compared to BG2), and a very dynamic world were it seems like nearly any decision (major and minor) have some impact on the world's evolution. If the characters are strong, then the emotional connection is with them – I care what happens to them and I want to find out. If the game has a dynamic world, then I want to find out what the results of my actions were on the world.

A4 lacked (for me) compelling characters or a dynamic world. This resulted in me losing interest. The engine was great compared to A1-3 (in my opinion), but it wasn't enough, on its own, to do more than propel in to finish the first 1/4 of the game.


[ Tuesday, September 12, 2006 13:41: Message edited by: Zorro ]

Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
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I agree with you about Avernum 3, Zorro, but Exile III for me was completely different. I replayed Exile III the most of any spidweb game. It was absolutely amazing and so easy to play, the gameplay was great, and surface gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted and a huge world to explore.

So far, Geneforge 4 is looking good.

For me, the biggest part of whether or not I like a game is how much fun it is. How do I measure fun? How long I can play straight without getting bored. How many times I can play the game without getting bored. Whether I want to know what happens next in the story. Exile III gave me the first two long after the third expired. BoE gives me all three.

*moves to General*

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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00