We live in an age where generally, the best games are those which have
stunning graphics, realistic explosions, and the beautifully rendered
characters. Avernum 3 is a new game which challenges that concept. Made by
Spiderweb Software, a small company in the USA, this RPG is low on graphics,
but staggeringly high in gameplay.
The game continues from the previous two games in the Avernum series.
Avernum was an underground tunnel system which was reachable by way of a
magical portal. When this portal was discovered, the Empire, which ruled the
surface world, decided to use Avernum as a prison to all that opposed the
tyrannical grip of the Emperor. Needless to say, the people sent to Avernum
weren't all to happy about this, and soon, rebellious spirits began to brew.
Eventually, the prisoners of Avernum were able to portal back to the
Emperor, surprising him, and kill him. This began a lengthy war in which it
seemed the Avernites were going to be destroyed, until they were assisted by
two races, a race of cat people called the Nephil, and a lizard race called
the Slith. With the help of these two allies, the Avernites were able to
drive the Empire's invasion away. It's been five years since that war, and
not a word has been heard from the Empire. It is time to check what is going
When the game starts, you learn that you are the group which is being sent
to the surface to investigate. It's been
many years, and no one knows what will be up there. You start with a party
of four characters. Each can either be a Human, a Nephil, or a Slith. Humans
are average, Nephils are good with ranged weapons, and Slith are good with
polearms. However, the Nephil and Slith suffer a 10 and 20 percent
experience reduction, respectively. After you choose the races, you can
choose the classes. These ten classes range from your basic warrior to the
rebel, who is proficient in many things, to the shaman, a magic user who
commands magic while being able to fight. Adding to this, you may create
your own custom class, changing stats and adding feats and skills.
The whole game takes place from an isometric angle, the player looking down.
While you are in the wilderness, the view is from far off, and when you are
in towns and dungeons, the view is much closer as you move your characters,
who follow the leader in a line. The graphics, like I said before, are not
spectacular. But they're sufficient. The landscapes and characters are still
vibrantly coloured, as are the items and effects from such things as spells.
As you progress through the game, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer
enormity of it. The first area, the underground hill in which the base of
operations takes place, is merely a fraction of the game, and yet it
presented me with hours and hours of gaming. Even then, I left without
actually completing everything in it! After you leave that area, you reach
the surface, which is just massive. There are dozens of towns and dungeons
scattered throughout the world to find and explore. Something I have
discovered is that there aren't any 'clone' towns or dungeons, those that
are the same as the next. The people in each town are suffering their own
problems, and need help. Help them if you wish, but remember that if you
don't, the town may not be there the next time around.
Which brings me to the next point. Often, an 'ever-changing world' may be
advertised, but the only thing that changes is the people's respect for you,
or the difficulty, or something that happens after a key event, like beating
a boss. Not in this game. The world is changing, the towns are constantly
under attack, the creatures are growing in number. Here's an example: I grab
a job from the dispatcher in a town, a simple task to deliver some mail. Off
I go, to find this little backwater town. I realize that I have no idea
where it is, and I decide to return to the dispatcher to get directions. As
I return and enter the town, I hear the sounds of the guard battling
acid-filled slimes. I rush to help, but as I get there, the battle is
already over, and where the dispatcher's office was, there is only shriveled
slime residue and dissolved walls. The slimes had attacked while I was away.
This is truly something hard to come by in games today. Open-endedness is
also a big thing in this game. Think 'Morrowind' open-endedness. Yes, it's
For a primitive-looking game like this, the sound is quite impressive. As
you walk through the town at night, there is the sound of crickets chirping.
In the day, it is the sound of hustle and bustle and people talking. When
going through caves, you can hear the far-off echo of a drip in a puddle. As
you strike down on an enemy, you hear the soft sound of steel biting in to
flesh. As you...well, you get the idea.
The controls in the game are very confusing to begin with. Commands, such as
cast spell or use special ability, can be clicked on or used by pressing
their appropriate shortcut key. This is okay, to move, you can use the
keypad or number pad. The number pad and the automap don't match directions
(up on the number pad is left-up on the map). This is not good, but still
okay. The fact that you have to coordinate a hand to press commands, a hand
on the mouse to click-drag items and whatnot, and a hand on the keypad to
move (you can use the mouse too, but it's often quite jerky and slow) is
not okay. Math isn't my strong point, but even I know I
don't have enough hands to efficiently control everything.
This demo can be downloaded as shareware at this site:
If you like it, for a small fee, you can get the registration key and get
the FULL version. That's FULL with capital letters, folks.
Bottom line? Graphics don't make the game. Despite lack of animation and
32-bit graphics, this is a top-notch RPG that I would love to see more of in
- PC Running Windows 95 or later or Macintosh with System 8.1 or later
- 30 MB free RAM
- 40 MB hard drive space
- 800x600 screen resolution with 16 bit color.