Review: Avadon 3: The Warborn07 Dec 2016 0
Review: Avadon 3: The Warborn
Released 17 Nov 2016
The Avadon trilogy is an epic-fantasy role-playing series by Spiderweb Software, also known for the Avernum series of games. Avadon 3: The Warborn is the latest and final chapter of the Avadon lineup. It was released to PC earlier this year and now iPad users get their turn, thanks to the game's recent arrival at the App Store.
In Avadon 3 you play as the powerful Hand of Avadon. Hands are the defenders of "The Pact"—an alliance of nations that banded together for mutual protection.
Their enemies, the barbarians and raiders of the Farlands, beset them on all sides. The Pact has taken an aggressive stance of survival and have preferred the use of overwhelming strength. It has sought to keep the Farlands weak and divided, and have been quick to move in to crush particularly tenacious foes as required. The Pact is held together by its protector: Avadon, the Black Fortress. Avadon's warriors have watched over the five allied nations for three centuries, acting decisively to eliminate any internal or external threats. Its wizards and warriors were the best trained best equipped in all the lands. Avadon's power was unlimited and its word was law.
The Age of Chaos changed all of that. The Farlands stopped their squabbling and banded together against the Pact alliance. Their warriors struck in unison and overwhelmed the border-defense forces meant to stop them. Untold devastation was brought to the Pact nations. A surprise attack nearly destroyed Avadon as well. Its warriors were scattered and hunted and its leader, Redbeard, was driven out.
You are a young Hand, one of the few remaining, and have been fighting to hold back the barbarian hordes for three years. It hasn't been a good run. The armies of the Pact have fallen and their lands have burned. As you start the game you are based in Khemeria, a violent land and one of the Farlands. Your assignment is to hunt hostile Khemarians to the extent you can without direct guidance from Avadon. Soon, however, guidance comes and a special mission for you. One that will challenge you thoroughly and change your life.
The first thing you do in Avadon 3 is pick a character. There are five class options, most are your standard fantasy fare—Blademaster is a tank, Sorcerer is a spell slinger, Shaman is a druid/cleric type, and Shadowwalkers are rogues. An exception to the usual is the Tinkermage, which is more of a steampunk-y character. They are mechanical masters that can craft new/interesting weapons and build all sorts of useful items, like auto-turrets.
Each character has four attributes—Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Endurance—which provide the benefits and bonuses you'd expect from any role-playing game. Each character also has a skill tree. There are basic skills, battle skills, utility skills, and efficiency skills. These provide additional options and abilities both inside and outside of combat. Skill trees are very streamlined in Avadon 3 and there isn't a huge array of options, though enough to force some character-development choices. When a character levels up you get to place points in attributes and skills.
Avadon 3 does not feature cutting-edge graphics, far from it. The visuals can best be described as old-school and a throwback to the 90s—possibly because Spiderweb developer Jeff Vogel has been making games since then. This provides a sense of nostalgia to older gamers. If you are one such gamer I'm right there with you and, please note, calling the 90s "old school" pained me deeply.
This game is not about the graphics, however, it is definitely a story-drive role-playing game. The primary strength of Avadon 3 is this open-world feel and flexible story. Within limits, you can go more or less anywhere you want to explore and complete quests. It's much more like a virtual game of Dungeons & Dragons. It is anchored by a main storyline that has you acting as a warrior and spy for your nation while surrounded by foes. That's how it starts, anyway. Where it goes from there is entirely up to you. You can certainly stay on the straight-and-narrow path, the black-and-white path, and seek to bring victory to the Pact. But maybe you discover things about the Pact and about Avadon that don't sit well with you. Maybe you decide to turn your back on those that trained you and help the barbarian invaders succeed. You could always go mercenary as well and make the choices that enrich you the most. Heck, you could even punch out of the main story and do a bunch of side quests, of which there are many. There are a lot of options, and the choice is yours to make.
Exploring the world of Avadon 3 is pretty easy. Just click where you want your party to go and they will go there. This is kind of handy in that you can scroll around the map and decide where you want to go, assuming you've been there before, and then just click and they'll trot on over. While navigation is easy, knowing where to go is not always so clear. Avadon 3 is more realistic than many other modern role-playing games and MMOs, there's no arrow pointing you in the right direction for a quest or NPC no matter where you stand. You have to rely on directions given by NPCs, although there are small markings on the map that indicate places you might want to check out related to your quests once you get closer. While the realism is good if you want to get immersed in the story and world, it can lead to a lot of wandering at times.
I've written about "roll" versus "role" playing games on this site in the past, and Avadon 3 is definitely one of the latter. Combat is de-emphasized to some degree and is something that happens as part of the story, or the occasional random encounter, as opposed to being a featured part of the game. That's not to say you won't get to mix it up with monsters and enemies, because you absolutely will, but If you're drawn more to "roll" part of RPGs—the use of cool powers in epic fights—you won't find as much of it here.
When you do find a fight, combat is pretty simple. You choose a power and tap on your target. If it is a melee power the character moves over to the target before attacking. Moving in general just requires tapping on the square you want to move to. The fact that combat is uncomplicated should not be mistaken for it also being easy. The bad guys put up a good challenge and characters can certainly fall to their attacks if you aren't careful, especially the more fragile of the party. Good party composition helps, but you don't absolutely need a Blademaster to be successful, although it definitely doesn't hurt.
True story-based role-playing games—whether tabletop or digital—should be a series of decisions, and preferably challenging ones, and this is where Avadon 3 excels. There really are many different ways you can go in the story, it isn't black and white but a nice solid grey. Avadon 3 is about as close as you can get to a tabletop role-playing game experience on your iPad. The visuals are there to assist your imagination and this game stands on its story and open-gaming world more than its looks. Luckily, it stands straight and tall, because the story is rich and the world is an interesting one to explore.
The downsides of Avadon 3 are largely about what you are used to and have come to expect in modern role-playing games. If you're turned off by dated visuals and want nice, modern eye candy on your iPad Avadon 3 is probably not for you. If you're used to and like it when games show you exactly where you need to go to find an NPC or location, you will probably get a bit frustrated with Avadon 3. I wish it was just a little easier to find your quest objectives sometimes myself, but definitely appreciate the easy touch-there-move-there user interface. Fans of old-school role-playing games will find a lot to love, however, and should certainly pick up Avadon 3 for their gaming collection.