Created by Spiderweb Software Avernum: Escape from the pit is a ‘from the ground up’ rewrite of the company’s earlier trilogy of games known to many as the Exlie series.
Avernum: Escape from the pit in its simplest form a homage to fantasy RPG’s from the mid 1990’s. Focusing on gameplay over graphics Spiderweb Software has seemingly made it their primary goal to provide the best 90’s RPG experience they can. The question we pose, is Avernum that experience?
So we will kick things off with a look at the character selection, or rather a party selection screen as you have a band of four adventurers in this journey. You can customise the aforementioned characters in many ways to suit how you want to play or to simply have a different experience from the last. Limited character outfit options are made up for by the vast amount of character classes you can play as even with the option of creating your own class if you have experience in this genre of games or even if you simply don’t like the plentiful choices on offer.
One thing you immediately notice is the beautiful artwork that accompanies the opening screens but they are the only true stand out visuals I noticed during my time with the game. Avernum tells its story through text and does it well. The writing is the centre of the game and without it Avernum wouldn’t be half the game it is. When in-game the writing keeps everything going and creates the wonderful atmosphere. A challenge that more recent games leave to graphics tricks and clever sound designs.
Combat for this RPG is strictly turn based, you command your party members through their various tasks and then see what the enemy has in store for you. As a big fan of turn-based combat I found this a good and strong feature of the game. Now let’s talk about after the battle, more importantly the loot. There are plenty of goodies to arm your characters with and each character has 12 active item slots meaning there is plenty of option when it comes to outfitting. With hundreds of items there is definitely a reason to keep questing and exploring the world and its many wonders.
Avernum: Escape from the pit isn’t a game without problems though. A cumbersome menu system means simple tasks like equipping your characters with the loot you’ve earned in battle turns into a much more difficult affair as each character needs to have their inventory accessed individually with no way to quickly switch between them. The freedom to do what you want also comes at a price, even though it allows for quests to be completed in almost any order it does mean that the game can at times leave you feeling a little lost and unsure of what to do next.
All that being said I believe my issues with this game may be due to the target audience for this game. I’ve mentioned a few times in this review that this is a throwback to the mid 90’s RPG. As a very young gamer in the 90’s I found myself more taken by the likes of Crash Bandicoot as a game this complex for someone as young as I was would have been far too much to comprehend. This means although I now have a vast experience of RPG games I don’t really have anything to relate this game too from that era.
I guess what I’m getting at here is Avernum for me is a game from this era of titles and thus I compare it to today’s standards and this means I can’t answer the original question of is Avernum the definitive 90’s RPG? What I can tell you that I from fresh eyes what we have here is a retro looking RPG that has an incredibly rich world plenty of options and ways to experience the game in any way you want to. Although some issues with the game can leave you feeling a little lost or confused that by no means completely ruins the experience and are these issues just a part of the older design blueprint the game uses?
Avernum: Escape from the pit is certainly a game world I plan to revisit one day and quest my way through in a whole different way. It may seem on the outside that this game is to be trying to appeal to a niche market it certainly has this gamer looking for more experiences and is looking forward to the next release in the series.
As to whether Avernum is truly a 90’s RPG, I’ll let someone else decide.