Avernum: The Complete Saga

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Avernum: The Complete Saga on GoG.com  (demos available here)

MSRP: $11.99

Platforms: Win, Mac

Release: 1/2/00*

While I really believe that there are as many types of game players as there are types of games, allow me to paint with a broad brush for a moment. Some people primarily look for elements of play that they find fun.  Some people get caught up in the aesthetics; if a game doesn’t look or sound fantastic, they pass it by.  Yet other people are far more interested in being part of a compelling story, or a fascinating world full of lore.  Sometimes, we can find a game that excels at all of those things, but sometimes a game (or in this case, a series) does one thing so well, overlooking its other flaws becomes easy.

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Avernum wasn’t a pretty game back in 2000, but in least my world, two out of three isn’t too shabby.  These are challenging, top-down, party-based RPGs with large, open worlds that feature both excellent story and writing (I assure you, they don’t always come in a pair like that). The collection that GoG.com put together not only runs like a dream even on modern systems, it comes with neat extras like an out of game map – y’know, the kind of things that used to come with boxed games.


(Someone please tell me that I’m not the only one who remembers buying computer games in boxes!)

Still, the series isn’t without its flaws.  The open world style means that early encounters can be cripplingly difficult.  The interface is clunky, and although there are keyboard shortcuts for many things, you won’t get away without using a mouse at all, and the keys don’t seem to be remappable. The pathing varies from decent to appallingly bad.  It’s easy to lose track of things – mostly enemies – behind walls, and this can have a pretty awful effect on the success of player strategies.

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I’m actually angry about all those flaws, because they’re all the kinds of things that make people give up to soon, and – at least for me – there are so many reasons to play these games. If you like old school RPGs, download the demo.  Give it at least an hour. Don’t hesitate to turn the difficulty down while you get used to how it all works.

If you fall in love with the games, you’re in for a world of content.  The six full games will give you at least 30 hours of play time – each. And that’s if you rush through and stick to the main story line. If you’re a wanderer, you could be in for twice that, easy.  Which I don’t need to tell you is a steal for $12. Unless of course, you buy Avernum: The Complete Saga in the next few days.  Because right now, the whole thing is on sale for less than some Starbucks coffee drinks.

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The first two games of the first trilogy have gotten a reboot – the graphics don’t look that much better to my eyes, but rumor has it that a lot of the rough edges of mechanics and UI have been smoothed out.  However, I think the real treasure here is that the reboots are also available on iOS and Android tablets.  There’s really no reason for die hard RPG fans to not dive into this series, but for my money, the bundle of the originals are the way to go.

*The release date is for the original game in the saga, Avernum.  The other six games were released over a nine year period, with Avernum 6 releasing in 2009.

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