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Monthly Archives: April 2012

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~70 minutes
Platform: PC (Steam)

I’m not meaning this in a negative manner, but Jeff Vogel REALLY likes Exile.

Maybe I should back up a moment. Avernum: Escape From the Pit is a remake of Spiderweb’s Avernum, which came out in 1999. Avernum was itself a remake of Exile, which was released in 1995. All of these titles are large world, story-driven RPGs, all made by a man who might as well be the grandfather of indie games. Jeff Vogel was making independent games before indie was even a thing, selling shareware (remember that?). The original Exile and Avernum are getting to be at the point where they just won’t work on modern computers anymore, which prompted a desire to remake the original trilogy once more.

The story of Exile/Avernum has always been one of it’s stronger points. The world of Avernum is one where an oppressive Empire has a magic portal to a hellish underworld where they throw prisoners of all shapes, be they violent, petty, or political. Down in the darkness, these people have banded together to make a life for themselves against all the odds, dreaming of the chance to retake the surface.

In Avernum 1, the story is mainly one of survival, as your band was just thrown through the portal and you need to make a life for yourself. You start off by making a group of 4 characters. While there’s “classes” available to choose from, all they actually do is award prepackaged stats. As you progress through the game, all characters can do all things if you want to, but you don’t have unlimited points in which to do so. Unless you want to use the included save editor, that is (another Exile/Avernum staple). With regards to dialog, you have choices available to you as to how you want your characters to act, but it’s not as in-depth as say Skyrim or Mass Effect. But it doesn’t need to be.

System-wise, Avernum: Escape From the Pit uses a modified version of the one from Avadon, Spiderweb’s previous title. The biggest changes are your party and the magic system. In Avadon, spells and special abilities all work on a cooldown system, whereas Avernum returns to a MP system. This can make fights easier since you can have healers casting each turn, but by the same token it also makes battles feel better, and feel better balanced.

Avernum also features touched up versions of the original skill and stat art from Phil Foglio, which adds a huge amount of charm to the game. Skills are also better constructed then they were in Exile and the original Avernum, having been built around the same system as Avadon. The only change is that Escape From the Pit also includes an additional set of “feats” you can pick at each level to give more generic bonuses and customization.

Another major improvement over the original Exile and Avernum is the inclusion of an actual quest log to help you at least track WHAT quests you have, even if it doesn’t track progress to a detailed degree. It’s still incredibly helpful.

Overall, if you are a fan of RPGs, it serves you well to go and get a copy of Avernum. Jeff Vogel and Spiderweb Software have honed their art to a fine point, and still manage to put out quality product to support themselves independently for all these years. And for that, I salute them.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~60 minutes
Platform: PC (Good Old Games)

As legends come and go, the tale of the Legend of Grimrock (I seriously have to keep checking myself to make sure I wrote that right), sounds like a familiar one. In some fantasy kingdom, the king is a jerk and decides to sentence criminals to exploring a strange dungeon within the mountain of Grimrock. If they can make it out alive, they get their freedom. And no one has made it out alive yet…

Legend of Grimrock is a throwback to olden dungeon crawlers like Swords and Serpents and others I never played a whole lot of because damn Swords and Serpents was hard. You create a party of 4 from among 4 races (Humans, Minotaur, Lizardman, Insectoid) and 3 classes (Fighter, Rogue, Mage). Your party travels through the dungeon as a 2×2 square, which you can re-position on the fly during combat. Regular weapons can only be used by guys in the front two positions, while the rear two positions need either long-range weapons like spears and bows, or magic.

With your “heroes” made, you’re off to delve into the depths of Mount Grimrock. Exploring the dungeon is pretty simple, though the fact that it has both rotate and strafe buttons right next to each other has tripped me up a few times, causing me to accidentally fall into pits or just ramming into a wall.

Combat is also fairly simple. You right-click on the weapon you want a character to use and he’ll swing, hopefully hitting the enemy. As mentioned, weapons have ranges, so only melee weapons in the front row can hit an enemy, though the Rogue class can use the skill points it earns from levelling up to obtain an ability to use melee weapons from the rear row as well. When a weapon is used, it activates a “cooldown” until that party member can attack again. Since you can swap party positions on the fly, you can make use of this to move melee characters into and out of the front rank if you don’t have long-range weapons and have them attack as you wait on cooldowns.

And there’s more then just the monsters out to get you, as well. The dungeon itself is full of traps and puzzles, with hidden rooms and secret passages all over the place. Watching the area and looking for the hidden buttons, or recognizing the signs of a hidden switch like an oddly empty torch holder will get you far and find you loot you wouldn’t get normally until later.

Of course, you can take advantage of these same traps yourself, tricking monsters into falling down pits or locking them behind a door while you catch your breath. The game has 3 difficulty levels to let you choose just how challenging you want encounters to be, and even on Normal some of the fights can be pretty rough while you’re lacking for gear.

If you really enjoy an involved dungeon crawl with puzzle elements, then Legend of Grimrock is definitely something you should look at. It’s available on Steam and Good Old Games, but GoG does offer a number of bonuses such as printable graph paper if you want to go really old-school and turn off the game’s automap.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~45 minutes
Platform: PC (Steam)

Do you like Roguelikes and only have about 10 minutes to play a game? Then Hack, Slash, Loot is certainly the title for you. Made by apparently a team of apparently 5 dudes, Hack, Slash, Loot is a very simplistic Roguelike that’s meant to be played through very quickly, be it to victory or death. And commonly death.

When you turn the game on, you get presented with a simple, yet effective menu which lets you pick a specific character and quest, or just leave it random. Characters give you a set of pre-made stats and equipment, while the Quests define the dungeons and objectives. Most of both are locked when you start the game; you just begin with a simple Warrior, Archer, and Wizard, as well as 4 generic missions. More are unlocked by playing quests (and dying); including classes such as the Knight (starts with more defenses) and the Amazon (starts with a special weapon that gives random bonuses to stats when you kill an enemy, but has very few defenses otherwise).

Hack, Slash, Loot’s gameplay is just as simplistic as it’s interface and visuals, but that’s not a bad thing. There’s not much in the way of stat management, there’s no XP, and barely much of an inventory. This makes for much faster play, overall, and even with no XP, there’s plenty of ways to get permanent bonuses (or penalties!) through various scrolls found around the world. That said, health recovery seems very rare and/or limited, which may be intentional.

Death comes easy and often in the game, but starting a new quest is fast, with as soon as you acknowledging the death message, you start a new one right away.

All that said, though, I found a few problems with the game’s interfaces. The first issue is that game tiles are not uniformly square, and are in fact actually rectangular. That, combined with the viewing angle, sometimes made manoeuvring around the dungeon difficult. I have a feeling that the interface for this game would probably work better on a tablet.

In addition, while the game can allow for you to obtain allies that help you in battle, this is actually a terrible idea as they will not only prove to be generally bad against enemies, but also block your path! And the engine won’t let you try to move to an area if it’s blocked RIGHT NOW, even if it’s likely that the path will be clear within the few turns it’ll take to get there. Thankfully, the game does allow you to backstab your allies, since it doesn’t really treat them as anything more then a monster that won’t attack you first.

That said, the interface issues were more annoyances then real problems.

With dungeons quick and easy to run, and an interface designed to make playing it easy, Hack, Slash, Loot is a good game to use as a short time waster, if you enjoy a dungeon crawler. And that it has a good sense of humour certainly helps as well.