"An Adventure Down Below"
Avernum, a land far, far underground. It is the inescapable dumping ground for any and everyone that the empire that rules the surface wants to get rid of, be it rebels, criminals, or people who just disagree with its policies. It's a pretty dank place, not really somewhere that would make for a good postcard. On the plus side, it's possible to eek out a respectable living underground. The downside though, is all the killer monsters bearing varying degrees of animosity towards humans.
Such is the world that you find yourself in at the beginning of Spiderweb Software's RPG for iPad, Avernum: Escape from the Pit. Before you begin exploring this world, however, you'll start by assembling a band of four warriors, picking out their names, appearance, and character classes. As the newest additions to the population, it'll be up to you to find your footing in your new home.
One of the first things you'll notice playing Avernum is that there is no narrative guiding you along. From the get-go, you are free to take your band anywhere and do whatever. As you traverse the land, you come across towns, dungeons, and hidden special areas. It is completely up to you to explore them. If you want, you can just wander the caves of Avernum and find your way through all its nooks and crannies.
To simply explore in Avernum: Escape from the Pit would be to miss out on the meat of the experience, however. Throughout the towns spread about Avernum, you can converse with people, learn about each town's current situation, and buy all sorts of items, such as armor, weapons, potions, and even boats for traveling across lakes and rivers. Aside from those, you can accept jobs from people in need of some assistance. These jobs can range from rescuing prisoners, to delivering / retrieving objects or ridding certain areas of monsters. Like exploration, you can go about these mini-quests at your own leisure, finishing whichever ones suit your mood.
I mentioned monsters in the last paragraph. Monsters are a big part of Avernum, as can be guessed from all the cat-people, lizard-people, goblins, zombies, ogres, giants, slime-monsters, and giant magic spiders (that is, giant spiders that can cast spells) that try to kill you as soon as they look at you. Which brings me to one of Escape from the Pit's most crucial gameplay elements: combat. Battles are turn-based affairs that take place on battlefields divided into grid segments. In execution, the combat in this game is relatively simple. You can guide each of your warriors about the battlefield with a simple tap on the screen. Another tap allows them to each perform one attack or magic spell (such as a fire or healing spell) upon the selected enemy. It's pretty typical RPG stuff, and it should be easy for those familiar with the genre to jump in.
Also in typical RPG fashion, each character in your band will level up every now and then. Unlike the typical RPG, however, the character boosts that come with each level-up can be diversified considerably. Say, for example, that one of your characters just leveled up. You are then given the option to boost one of their main stats (strength, speed, that kind of thing). Most RPGs leave it at that, but here you can upgrade your character even further by bestowing them with certain skills and traits.
These skills cover all the bases of combat in Avernum. If you want to boost your character's effectiveness in close combat, you can. If you want to make them more resistant to magic spells, you can make it so. You can even make it so that they can gain more experience in battle or boost your chances of landing a blow with a long-range weapon. This variety helps add meat to an otherwise simple experience.
So that's pretty much Avernum: Escape from the Pit in a review-sized nutshell. Now, here comes the part where I talk about my complaints. First off, the size of the squares that form the grid where battles take place. They are slightly small, which can throw off a command given to one of your characters. If you're not careful where you tap, you can mess up an attempt to attack an enemy, because you touched the square next to theirs. Imagine a scenario where your character is dying and needs to attack fast, and you can figure out why this would be a problem. Aside from combat, there were occasions when, in the menu, I would have to tap something multiple times before it would register. While that may have been forgivable once or twice, it happened enough that it is worth mentioning here.
Avernum's controls are my only serious complaint. The rest are mostly gripes, such as the fact that most of the items that you can find placed about dungeons and towns are useless pieces of junk, as well as the fact that the multi-branched conversations you can have with people are occasionally riddled with dialogue options that are really pointless. Let me reiterate that these are more personal gripes than actual complaints, and that they aren't really among the factors that affect the game's score.
To sum up, Avernum: Escape from the Pit is a decent RPG. There are things that work against it, like the control complaint I mentioned. Apart from that, I had fun playing the game, exploring the land of Avernum, and slaying monstrous goons left and right. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, then you'll be in for many hours well spent. Unless you keep tapping the wrong grid-squares in combat, that is.
GameDynamo's Score for Avernum: Escape From the Pit HD (Mobile)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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