Avadon: The Black Fortress Review
Avadon: The Black Fortress
is a welcome shift in genre compared to what has been flooding the market of late, and no doubt a wonderful trip down memory lane for all those old-school RPG gamers out there. It is one of few titles which prioritises story ahead of everything else, however a solid engine and several exciting gameplay elements make it a balanced all-round experience.
Players start by selecting one of four classes and hopping straight into the adventure; instead of getting bogged down by trying to achieve too much with character customisation, Avadon simply does what it needs to set the scene for an interesting and likable story.
However one of the game’s major flaws is the way the gameplay is driven entirely by the story. This is not a bad thing in general, however Avadon features no voice acting whatsoever for any of the characters you meet. If you want to know what is going on, you often have to sift through pages and pages of text from NPC characters. If you don’t, then you’ll have mighty struggles as you travel through this retro-RPG epic.
The plot itself revolves around the player, a Hand of Avadon, joining forces with other warriors to ensure peace and balance in the kingdom is maintained. These warriors have the authority to destroy anyone who intends to break the harmony within the Pact, a group of five nations who are held together by friendship and a desire to live safe, enjoyable lives. Just for something new, this is exactly what villains are doing in this game, so it’s your job to visit the wrongdoings of enemies and once again make Avadon a peaceful kingdom.
While the variety in the quests and missions is clear, the game is very linear. There are a few side quests around the place but in honesty, most are too easy, too hard, or simply not worth doing. This is detrimental to the point of side quests, whose purpose is generally to extend the plot beyond the scope of the main quest. Luckily, there is plenty of depth in the storyline, so this does not become much of a hindrance.
Thankfully, the focus on story has not ruined other elements of the game. Gameplay is very smooth and solid -- character movement is responsive and accurate, the turn-based combat is tight and the difficulty curve is steep, yet forgiving. The large number of character skills and abilities work together so that the player can advance how he wants to; not how he is told to.
Items are found all over the place which can be useful in your quests, in battle, or simply for learning more about the environments in which you wander. I found that this in particular made the game’s environments seem a lot larger than they really were.
This is only enhanced by the visuals. They don’t try to do too much and so there is just the perfect amount of detail seen within each individual texture. Each texture seems to just blend nicely with the next, and this is what helps the game set the atmosphere in all areas, from green, glowing gardens to dark, damp dungeons.
The sound seemingly plays a minor role in proceedings - beyond the main menu, there is no music whatsoever. However, each new area presents a new set of environmental sounds which help immerse the player and help him think he is truly within the world of Avadon. This is more desirable than a million-dollar soundtrack, and helps to contribute to one of the more unique and consistent styles in a video game.
The style is what helps this game -- from a developer with an ever-growing fanbase -- from falling into the same trap that most mainstream RPGs are falling into. Perhaps one of the most important elements in a modern RPG is consistency, and this is something which the developer has nailed; creating a game which is beautiful in all areas, despite its flaws.
The Final Verdict
While this is one title which might just trigger memory lane for many old-school gamers, it is accessible to and enjoyable by any of today’s gamers. While the rich story can be annoying to progress through thanks to the lack of voice acting, it drives compelling and addictive gameplay to create one of the most consistent RPG experiences we’ll see this year.
By Harry Hughes
We say: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED