I loved Avadon, and I’m a big fan of Spiderweb Software games. As soon as I finished Avadon once, I played it again. I got it on the iPad so that I could play it while on the road. It’s a big, awesome, old school game that feels like it was made just for me.
I got some very negative feedback for that review from a few longtime fans of Spiderweb Software games though. They didn’t like the fact that Avadon simplified a lot of the mechanics that fans had come to expect from games like Avernum and Geneforge. Character development certainly has less choice and complexity in Avadon compared to previous titles, and automatic healing between battles was also disparaged by these folks. I can certainly understand and respect their points.
Still, Avadon quickly became Spiderweb Software’s best selling game ever. I’m forced to admit that it is the Spiderweb Software game I’ve replayed the most, and I found myself champing at the bit for Avadon 2 to come out. Maybe I’m simply not as old school as I thought.
One could take all of the discussion in my previous review about the game mechanics and simply paste it here. Avadon 2: The Corruption plays almost exactly like Avadon: The Black Fortress. There’s a new support style class called the Tinkermage that can set traps, build turrets, buff companions and debuff foes. It’s a welcome addition that adds some new strategies to the battlefield, but from a mechanics standpoint, I basically just described everything new about Avadon 2.
You begin the story as a scout for an outpost, not an actual Hand of Avadon. You’re thrown right into the middle of a scouting expedition which serves as a really great tutorial that gets you into the mix immediately. By the end you discover something that has a major impact on the game’s universe, and you’re suitably pulled into events well beyond your ken just like any classic fantasy story.
The Black Fortress itself and its all-powerful ruler, Redbeard, are no longer as feared as they once were thanks to the events of the first game. This has led to destabilizing of the entire game world, as rebellions have been springing up like weeds as foes of the realm grow bolder. Will you aid Avadon and bring stability (and perhaps tyranny) back to the realm? Or will you aid the rebellions and bring freedom (and perhaps death and danger) to the world?
The story itself twists and turns, and you gather companions throughout that remember choices you make and approve (or disapprove) of them according to their own motives. The original Avadon does an excellent job of making you feel like your choices mattered, but also made you think about the gray area between freedom and safety. It’s a theme no less topical now than it was then.
If I have a gripe with Avadon 2: The Corruption, it’s that I wish there were more non-violent options to pursue in the game. I love the combat in Avadon 2, so this isn’t a complaint that fighting gets boring. It does not. But the rare chances you have to solve a plot point that don’t end with you killing a villainous foe lacking nuance or any redeeming qualities are the more memorable in the game and I’d like to see them with greater frequency. Obviously choices like that require more writing, more plot branching, and more work for what is a small developer. But the illusion of real choice is made stronger by these moments. The game is necessarily going to pull you along a certain path to scripted encounters no matter what you do, but the choices you make do have a big impact on how you’re treated during those encounters.
I’d also like to see some updated sound effects. The sound effects are still useful as audio cues, but they’ve been recycled quite a bit now and certain sounds, like the noises in town, have been used so many times that they’ve lost their luster. The graphics I think still hold up and look pretty good for a small studio, and with a game and story this large from a small shop I’m still willing to deal with models that I’ve seen already in this and other Spiderweb Software games.
It doesn’t make sense to try to pile more words into this review. Avadon 2: The Corruption is everything the first Avadon was, but bigger and with a new class. However you felt about Avadon: The Black Fortress is how you’ll feel about Avadon 2: The Corruption. My scores reflect some slight decay in some areas, but this is still a fantastic piece of work. I suspect I’ll be playing through this multiple times (and also purchasing it again for iPad once ported) until the inevitable Avadon 3.