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Will We Ever Play These Old Games Part 3

This is the third and final installment of the PC department’s feature on our backlog of games and whether or not we think we’ll really get around to playing them someday.  You can read about Charles and Ari’s experiences with Baldur’s Gate II, and X-Com UFO Defense in the second part of this series. 

Jonathan Gann- Avernum

Avernum is a little-known isometric turn-based role playing
series by indie developer Jeff Vogel and his company, Spiderweb Software. The
series as a whole, and its story-based predecessor, Exile, was developed
initially for the Macintosh, then later ported to Windows. The game revolves
around a large set of underground tunnels known as Avernum (or Exile, in the
previous series), where a tyrannical Empire has been teleporting unwanted
members of society as a sort of underground penitentiary. The game is
turn-based, with separate travel and combat modes, as well as an overworld map
that is separately traversed over long distances. I have fond memories of
playing Exile in high school, when goofing off in my Graphic Design class.

You are placed in the game
world after creating a party of 4 characters, with a variety of skills and
abilities to choose from and adjust. You are given vague direction, with the
game mostly letting you explore at your leisure. Eventually, as you move
towards the goals of the main quest lines, you begin your travels to save the
underworld of Avernum from demons, and to eventually liberate it from the
Empire that constrains it.
 

As an RPG, Avernum and Exile are definitely classics. Even for the time, the graphics were somewhat
crude, but the gameplay is what makes this series great. It was almost
completely open ended, usually giving you several paths to an objective, and
rewarding (and sometimes punishing) you for exploring an area extensively.
Oftentimes I would find a secret passage, save, and go on to find a valuable
item, only to find myself ambushed by powerful demons on my way out. The game
makes sure to pace equipment with your level gains, while not exclusively
leveling found items and gear to your party. It also has incredible
storytelling and a rather intuitive interface by the era’s standards. There is
little replayability, however, as very little changes from play through to play
through. The games are relatively long, though, and very well priced. Again,
the graphics and sound are somewhat crude, but they do a sufficient job as a
medium for the gameplay and storyline to entertain you.

Overall, I would still
recommend Avernum to anyone who
wants a wonderful hardcore RPG experience, though pedestrian players need not
apply.

Will I play it? YES

 Wojtek Janda- Stronghold

My brother had a big phase
of playing strategy games in which you have to build a functioning kingdom from
the ground up. When he found out about Stronghold a few years after it came out
in 2001, it reignited a hunger for being that medieval ruler. I figured that I
might as well see what made Stronghold tick, and if it could be a game for
me.  The intro video I was greeted
with when I first booted up the game provided the groundwork for what I ended
up thinking of the entire experience. The awful/awesome voice acting and
animations best described as “gooey” immediately put a smile on my face. I knew
that I was in for a game that meant for its surroundings to be taken seriously,
but in itself, isn’t very.
 

After playing through the
tutorial, it was clear to me that this is not a strategy game in the vein of
StarCraft 2 that I’ve been playing for the past 7 months. All the buildings
rely on each other in some shape or form: 
I had to have a Stockpile so that my woodcutters could place their
finished lumber there, the fletchers had to have access to the Stockpile so
that they could get wood to make bows; there has to be an armory so that the
bows can be stored somewhere. While this might seem like quite a bit to grasp,
after playing some of the main campaign they seemed to ease in the new
buildings and units rather smoothly.

Speaking of the campaign,
there are two: a military campaign and an economical one. The military one
seemed to be the one that was focused on the most, as the economical campaign’s
mission select screen only shows 4 slots, while the military campaign is around
20. The military story is pretty typical; you are the son of some Lord, and
people decided to overthrow the King that your father was fond of, and your
father was killed, so now you have to gather the people that are still loyal to
the first King and reclaim the land, all while taking revenge for your father’s
death.  The story progresses in
between the missions, with little scenes that use two portraits talking in bad
accents.

The game looks really nice,
with hand drawn graphics and a rather easy UI. The combat is simplistic, and at
first didn’t work at all for me because I kept right clicking to move, when you
actually have to left click. It’s mostly about having your units at a higher
ground than your enemy, and making sure that they don’t wander into your
stronghold and start ripping at your villagers.

There was something very
rewarding about setting up walls around your keep, putting your archers up on
them, hearing the “enemies are coming” alarm, than watching them all run the
other way after your archers shoot a blanket of arrows in their direction. That
is why I will definitely be playing more of this game.

Will I Play It?  YES

So, what moldy, forgotten gems are waiting around in your backlog?  Let us know in the comments below if you really intend to play them.

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