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Mostly aimed at the beta testers, I'd like to know what people's thoughts are on A4, from beginning to end. Here are mine.


Movement and areas: I have to admit that for me it was a bit of a jolt at first, thinking of Avernum in new terms of distance and travel. Eventually, though, it became sort of nice to travel so rapidly, and I always liked that every area around a city was filled in with people outside the city walls.


I did think it was weird that every city was now the same size, and that the Tower of Magi didn't really resemble any of the previous incarnations.


Villains: The shades were my favorite part, but they were a little anti-climactic to kill when it eventually came time to kill them. And the reincarnations of all the villains of previous Avernum games was a little annoying. Dorikas is Hawthorne reborn, and you literally kill Garzahd again, and Rentar-Ihrno is back and you fight her again — this all seemed disappointingly unoriginal. But each was well-done in its own way; Garzahd in particular was creepy.


Magic: I think I like that the spells cost a bunch more to cast but your spell energy is far greater than in a previous Avernum. The need to inflict many types of damage was kind of cool. Freezing was a weird new effect — there wasn't any way to heal it, was there? Possibly Divine Restoration, although I never tried: by the time I had DR, I had stopped being frozen.


Combat: The ability of monsters to strike back when struck was tremendous. It seemed as though just about every monster was capable of parrying and riposting, and it was particularly nasty to attack a monster and suddenly get charmed. I put more stock in missile attacks than ever before. Well, I'd never used missile attacks before, except in BoA, but still.


Oh yeah, and the new death system was GREAT.


Conclusion: Gameplay was great, although I kind of wished that he had included some sort of water travel. Not battling the sea monsters made me feel incomplete. But the plot was, er, predictable?


At least Rentar is finally dead. No more scenarios about her.

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To be honest, when I first started playing I was hoping Jeff was aiming for a satire of A3's plot. No such luck. It was the same, only there wasn't even any suspense this time. The less said about the plot, the better.


Space: Wandering around before reaching Fort Avernum was exasperating. Words cannot express how much I came to loathe the door in Khrosth's camp between Fort Draco and Fort Monastery. After Fort Avernum things were better, and I actually liked the layout of the Great Cave a great deal.


The major tunnel systems, like those connected to the basement of Patrick's Tower and the chitrach caves under the Eastern Gallery, were neat. I've always wanted to know why Avernum seems to be as flat as the surface.


The towns that spread a little past their single screen, especially Cotra and Silvar, were nice. I do wish that Jeff had taken more of the chance to sprawl over multiple maps to do just that. Everything is still in nice little squares.


Magic was excellent. There was a real concern of not running out of energy. Okay, it was a manufactured concern born of my desire to win without a single potion, but a concern nonetheless. It made finding enemies to kill easily for First Aid more important. There were areas of effect, single targets, the nuke effect of Divine Retribution, and the somewhat mystifying Lightning Spray, which I never did completely understand. (It targets things roughly in a line away from the caster, right? But only roughly?)


Monster special abilities while getting hit were definitely a good kind of pain that required some thought. Charm was the worst, although there were ways around it. Chitrachs became a terror with parry. Against enemies like that (and those very physically resistanct slimes!) magic was absolutely essential. is it just me, though, or did terror become the worst possible threat? Once a character started running, I generally had one turn to get a priest close enough to dispel it, and that was pretty close. Otherwise the character would go off into the sunset, often into oblivion as well, and never return in time for the battle.


And pylons. I love pylons. A lot. I think my favorite battle is the one after talking through the crystal in the Sulfurous Flats and then escaping past pylon hell. The fight in halls of pylons in the Darkside base next to Fort Saffron was also fun.


Villains were unexceptional. Rentar-Ihrno failed to be especially difficult, although the first version of her keep was even more of a joke. I thought meeting Garzahd again was a nice touch the way it was handled, but the rest I could've been more new and exciting.


Loot was a mixed bag. Jeff beefed up spears a little bit (due to my whining, probably), but I still feel like the spear users get short-changed. Shields are often very good, there are always better swords available than spears, and ultimately I can't see any compelling reason to have a spear character except maybe the desire to have two acid-causing melee fighters.


—Alorael, whose final analysis is that A4 is tactically the best of the Spiderweb games. The plot is best left undiscussed, but the game has enough entertainment for that to be okay.

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Not being familiar with the previous Avernum plots, the unoriginality of the overall plot outline didn't really strike me. Logically speaking Jeff's major villains are reasonable choices, though, no? Rentar-Ihrno was a thread left hanging, as I understand. And if Dorikas is Hawthorne reloaded, well, where did Hawthorne come from in the first place, anyway? (I am aware he was Emperor, but I mean that a culture which generated him might well pop up another one before too long.) Granted, logic isn't everything, and people could have hoped to be astonished before realizing it was inevitable, rather than going straight there.


On the other hand, surely the plots were pretty original on a slightly finer scale. Sea monsters and shades wouldn't have been my first idea for attacking Avernum, but the paranoia reactions were both plausible and effective. The crystal contacts with vahnatai factions were spooky. And Dorikas's orchestrated insurgency, which was initially hard to disentangle from Rentar-Ihrno's plot, can't have been something an Emperor like Hawthorne would have had to do.


I liked the upstairs and downstairs, and the numerous tactical surprises. I really hated those chitrachs that would pop up out of the ground at you. My only real complaint is that the game just got a too easy towards the end. From the giants on, I'd say, at least. Dorikas and the last Vahnatai Lord were nasty; everyone else was kind of a pushover, especially on Normal. But maybe it was just that, having figured out how the game worked, I should really have upped the difficulty level.


Overall I was very impressed.

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I am currently stymied trying to reach the castle on Torment.


Once you pass the Formello Barrier and make it in to the Eastern Gallery, you are babes in the woods. Archers will pick you apart. The bugs will rip you up. It's like a bad episode of Starship Troopers.


Skunky Joe is just plain horrible.

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Originally written by Student of Trinity:
Logically speaking Jeff's major villains are reasonable choices, though, no?
Reasonable, yes. Satisfying, well, not to me. I guess A4 was kind of inevitable from A3, but A3 was such a turn for the worse that A4 suffers.

And if Dorikas is Hawthorne reloaded, well, where did Hawthorne come from in the first place, anyway? (I am aware he was Emperor, but I mean that a culture which generated him might well pop up another one before too long.)
But Dorikas needed more background for me to care. Why is he so devoted to Hawthorne's cause, and what has he been doing in the better part of a century since Hawthorne died? But I guess all of that is for A5....

And Dorikas's orchestrated insurgency, which was initially hard to disentangle from Rentar-Ihrno's plot, can't have been something an Emperor like Hawthorne would have had to do.
Actually, it was. Hawthorne had various Empire outposts scattered throughout Avernum but not the teleporting capacity to bring a full army (as Garzahd did later), so he worked in almost exactly the same way.
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Eh... simply put, I loved it. Still I'll try to be more specific as others have been... MAJOR SPOILERS:


Movement/Areas: There was some serious hatred towards keypad movement in earlier betas, so I'm glad that Jeff fixed it. I think it's accurate just how long it takes to run between towns (running iron back to Monastery was annoying, though). And obviously, I loved the teleporter pylons (show me someone who didn't). The whole "everything's a town" approach was strange at first, but I got used to it. I do miss the elevation though... (looks longingly at BoA)


And where'd Fort Ganrick go? Anybody else notice that?


Villains: Rentar was done justice (this got better towards the end), and I particularly liked NOT killing her. It did my heart good to see UV so completely debunked, and to see a satisfying conclusion to the whole "the vahnatai did it" plotline. In fact, it was good how well Jeff balanced the elements of the vahnatai. Good to see that some of them sided with Bon-Ihrno after all those years. I wish I hadn't killed Vyvnas, though... he really didn't deserve it.


On the other hand, killing Garzahd was a lot of fun (I love how he came back).


Dorikas was... well, annoying (in that you can't kill him). His unstoppable fear is really stupid. And which other game was he from, because I want to say A3.


Assorted bandits were interesting. Occasionally they'd be truly difficult, but not very often. For instance, Skunky Joe was a piece of cake to me.


Allies: Starrus was an interesting character, much better than I'd expected. And it was good to see the old A2 crew back at last... Rone again, Solberg (where's Cheeseball?), Kelner, Crisper even, and of course X (still going with the anvil theory). I even recognised Townsend in Formello, and Mayor Bevan.


And your allies AI... impressive. The escort mission that wasn't (with Ghall-Ihrno) was completely doable, in that he could fend for himself. Every vahnatai who fought alongside you was intelligent (except at the end... they ran back and attacked the pylons in my game).


Combat: Enemy AI: good. The challenges were diverse enough (like the monsters that discourage melee... all of them) to keep me on my feet for my first time through. I did die a fair amount in my first game, even on Normal.


Pylons... I hate them. Them and Submission Fungi. But still, having to stealthily sneak by the pylons west of Fort Remote was a welcome change of tempo.


No more arrows is good.


Magic: I love A4's spells. Daze is awesome, and I think it'll be underrated. Divine Retribution is good again. Acid does damage for once, Forcecage is gone at last, and group shielding is better (Arcane Shield, anyone?). Even Terror had its uses... as a wand. I do miss group Haste, though...


Items: So many good items, so little time. Jade Halberd has been restored to its former glory! Even the potion system was well-done, along with the item-crafting system. But swords aren't as good as pole weapons until late in the game (yay Demonslayer).


Conclusion and Ambience: Plotlines from older games were resolved a bit, thankfully (like the Spiral freakin' Crypt). Good to visit the final resting places of Patrick and such folks. Also, very nice to see the ruins of old places (like Erika's Tower, which seemed too small).


I like having an influence on the ending, and for once the "you can't continue" thing from A3 works. As I said, I liked not having to kill Rentar, and the first time through I actually missed Dorikas completely... so a variable ending is good.


Overall impression: It feels like Avernum, and that's good.

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Okay, a few more things.


Some of the continuity was weird. At least one character was recognizably the same but with a different name (Carol, a member of the Hamer clan in A1, became Hamer in A4). There were some other oddities. Ganrick left me scratching my head too, and some other towns had strange geographical alterations. Where'd the water by Fort Duvno go? Nothing was too awful, though.


I liked seeing all the preserved mages, but I was sad that none of them did anything. Solberg in particular got only a bit part, and the part didn't mesh with his previous roles. He complains about it, but I don't know. It didn't feel right.


I'm not sure what I think of long-term buffs. Leaving town and immediately casting whatever I could became a reflex. Then I'd wander around with untouchable fighters until I passed through some gates. In a few battles with allies, especially vahnatai, Arcane Shield becomes ridiculously good. You suddenly end up with an effectively immortal goon squad on your side.


—Alorael, who had no trouble with fungi. It's interesting that their range is one space less than yours with spells. That makes them rather easy. Even tougher things like spraying shrubs weren't hard because of turn order: Fighters wait, shrubs have nothing in range, casters step up and cast, fighters swap mages out of range and move out of range themselves, shrubs have no targets...

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I must say that Jeff almost entirely succeeded in his stated intention of removing the annoying, boring, and repetitive aspects of the previous games.


Things I don’t miss:


• arrows

• lockpicks

• potion making skill

• unswappable PC locations during combat

• lost items after battles if you couldn’t pick them all up on the spot

• absolute weight carrying limitations (which also once affected the previous point)

• item identification

• automatic absolute penalty for visible theft

• poisonous swamps/the need for pathfinder skill

• the need for food (food is pretty worthless in A4 and should have just been done away with entirely)


Things I kind of miss but can live without:


• light spells and torches

• move mountains

• far sight


Added things which I appreciate:


• Fun and useful archery

• Even more weapons and armor to choose from than ever

• Improved spells and area spells, including useful acid (use acid on the skeletons and undead around Mertis for startling effective results, even before learning how to disrupt their magic).


Things that need to be added:


• Better info on what certain skills do or affect. I keep not being able to tell for sure if things like Blademaster or Quick Action apply to both poles and swords.

• More moddable beginnings. Maybe a game as a duo or singleton would be fun and doable if I had all the skill points for four available PC for just the singleton to match the overall party skill level, but housed in one superman. I don’t want to type cheat codes over and over to set up a game like that A4 is best with four PCs overall anyway, though, so it’s not a big deal.

• More, not less PC graphics. Where’d the cute blonde gal go? Not the sprites, which are fine, but the faces and bodies in the PC info screens. Only two slith possibilities? And I have ever only barely liked the look of one nephil. Of course, cat people are hard to take too seriously, period.


Things I miss:


• Elevation, elevation, elevation. It must be brought back for A5.

• Even though perpetual town mode has its advantages, I still kind of miss getting a bigger view of the outdoor world and often felt unsure just where I was. Yes, I know there is a map, but that’s an extreme scale.

• Using boats. I spent most my first game waiting for the part of the game where I got to finally make boats work and explore places by water, but it never came. Heck, there were even parked boats here and there you couldn’t hop into that made me think I would eventually be able to. I agree that the solution to the water monster problem was never handled very sastisfactorily. I wanted to be more involved in it somehow.

• Group haste. Considering you can still group everything else, why not haste? I think Jeff considered it too much of an advantage, but it isn’t logical to not be able to do when you can mass heal, mass cure, mass shield, etc.

• The ability to improve barter, though in a way it’s nice not to have to worry about. I just didn’t feel right getting only 37 gold for a suit of chain mail the whole game. Not that money was a problem, but just the ratios felt so miserly. I’d have been happier to get 33% or 50% as the fixed resale value, but have everything be accordingly more expensive to buy. Same deal for the Skill Points for levelling up. 5 SP feels miserly. I’d rather get 8 or 10 and have skills be more expensive. This is all just psychological, I know.

• More quests for legendary items. I like the feeling of going through something brutal and harrowing like the Pit of the Wyrm to get the Fury Crossbow in A3. The only real such quest in the game is for the Emerald Chestguard. Even the challenge to get Demonslayer didn’t seem that monumental once I figured out how to go about it. Something equally amazing in way of a bow or magician’s tool to hunt down in some difficult and farflung location would have been nice. I think there should be four such legendary items per game, at the least, one for each PC potentially.


“I have some KILLER ideas for Avernum 5.

- Jeff Vogel

November, 2005”


The plot strongly invites an A5, and Jeff suggests he may be inspired to do it. One day perhaps we’ll see how “killer” it is. Maybe if he’d let some of us help him write the plot...I know I have some fresh ideas.

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Jeff will make an A5, and none of us will have anything to do with writing it. It will involve Dorikas, and it will involve a return to the surface. This much is obvious from A4.


My guess is that Dorikas releases new monster plagues in Valorim, but I'm hoping that I'm wrong.


I very much liked how much better Spray Acid was than in previous games. I actually used it regularly.

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Originally written by Synergy67:
Maybe if he’d let some of us help him write the plot...I know I have some fresh ideas.
If only... that would be simply amazing. But it would make sense, as we now have the best knowledge of A4's workings possible (well, in comparison to everyone else).

And about the legendary items... that was odd. I did find a few that seemed like they should be, like that Eliavri's Bow. A bit of backstory would've been nice on that one. And who are the Klin and Khar whose shields and helms appear in to many games?
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Which beta version did you play when you got the Emerald Chestguard, Vlish? In the first game I played a month ago, it was pretty easy, at least after a couple attempts. My second game, on V1.0 or the final beta before it, the fight was significantly beefed up and it took me many attempts and strategy experiments to pull it off. Many fights have gotten harder than they were in the earlier betas.

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Goldenking, that's what Kelandon was saying.


I got the Emerald Chestguard with some difficulty on b2.something. The undead were no trouble, but I ended up reloading a few times until I figured out how to arrange the battle to minimize getting zapped by an angry necromancer. The demon wasn't so bad without the Lightning Sprays.


The Oozing Sword is even more absurdly easy to get, and I used it all the way up to the end of the game. I think its acid damage was toned down eventually, but it's still immoderately good.


Yes, being able to acid up those resistant enemies was lovely, and getting experience for poison kills was lovelier. That reminds me that I never did figure out of kills by allies give experience or not. Did anyone else check?


I got used to individual hastes and I like the lack of Barter. The boats tricked me too, though, and I missed them. I still have nostalgia from the very first Exile of hopping in a boat purchased in Silvar and exploring the great blue expanses, running into slith forts, and so on. And there's Dark Waters... Oh well.


—Alorael, who liked the plethora of powerful items made easily available at all times. On the other hand, a few real artifacts would have been nice. Even Demonslayer is no challenge to get and then not really especially powerful. It spent most of its time as a secondary weapon.

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Originally written by Ytterbium-Enhanced Razor:
That reminds me that I never did figure out of kills by allies give experience or not. Did anyone else check?
I'm reasonably certain that they don't give experience.
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No, I'm pretty sure you get it way before then... my rogue was wielding it well before getting Demonslayer last game (by which I mean somewhere early in the Great Cave).


There are like three Blazing/Flaming/Whatever Swords in the game... kind of takes away the unique nature of a flaming sword.


Anyway, the Radiant Soulblade beats them all.

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I also used that friendly oozing blade for almost the entire rest of the game, only interchanging it with Demonslayer when appropriate and replacing it near the end with the fantastic Radiant Soulblade. The Oozing Blade can be found in the very SW corner of the Honeycomb area—really it's more a part of the wilderness between the Tower Colony and Fort Samuels. You can access it through some tunnels which emerge on the west side of the river there. I remember going under the river through a cave and coming up on the west side and facing several very hard to kill slimes on a little swampy shore with some herbs. The final slime drops that Oozing Blade, which might almost be appropriate since I think the slime liked to ooze acid as well.


That other blade you are remembering is the Venomous Blade (12-36 damage, +12 acid and poision resistance, drips poison), which Craftmaster Strine makes for you out of a Fine Waveblade, or you can get one at the very end off the Vahnatai Lord I believe. I think the Oozing Blade is better overall, as acid is more effective than poison.

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I don't remember it at all in my first beta game. I think it was added in later, but I did find it somewhere quite near the end of my second more recent game. I can't remember exactly who had it, but it might have been under E's Ruin where you know who was holed up.

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The Radiant Soulblade wasn't there on my first time through either. A Venemous Blade was available at the very end of the game, and I used it. Why? It did less damage than acid, but the acid from the Jade Halberd and the Oozing Sword didn't stack. Poison and acid did.


—Alorael, who had the Emerald Chestguard before he had any other plate armor and the Oozing Sword before any other magical sword as well. It seems that loot may have been placed in the wrong order. He also still can't figure out why Blessed Platemail is more encumbering than the non-blessed version.

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Ah, acid and poison combined...Alo, sometimes I think you're too smart for your own good. Naw, not really. You've got great attention to detail. That Emerald Chestguard does seem to become available oddly early in the game (not that I was complaining), and the Oozing Sword was the first I found, followed closely by the Flaming Sword I believe the demon upstairs in the Tower Colony drops.


There are a couple anomalies in armor and robes like the one you mentioned where the "better" more expensive one is somehow more disadvantageous than the normal equivalent.


And don't get me started on the annoying Mercuric garbage which tantalizes at a cost not worthwhile. mad

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Originally written by Synergy67:
And don't get me started on the annoying Mercuric garbage which tantalizes at a cost not worthwhile. mad
Actually, I found it most useful for my lead fighter. Mercuric Plate and the Mercuric Sandals: two guaranteed attacks per turn, three if hasted (did I ever get four with a Quick Strike bonus? - I can't remember). He had Elite Warrior and around 13 base strength. The minor damage tradeoff from lower strength was more than made up with the guaranteed extra attck.

And, I almost forgot, with over 10 Quick Action he was typically hitting twice per attack.

Trust me, if your character has Elite Warrior (obscene levels of Parry and Blademaster) there is no appreciable cost.
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I can see how combining enough Mercuric items could really pump up the AP, though you'll be sacrificing a certain amount of better possible armoring of feet and body to do it. As it seems strength is not nearly so useful in A4 as previously, maybe the penalties aren't so bad and the sacrfice is worthwhile, especially if you had Fast on Feet already.


I'd just be afraid of getting mercury poisoning. I hear that makes your Hardiness, Dexterity, and Intelligence go way down.

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In hand to hand combat that's likely true. The sacrifice is less protection against magic and other elemental effects. It's one perfectly good strategy, one more offensively than defensively geared. I may have to give it a try in a future game. Elite Warrior, Fast on Feet with several AP-enhancing items ultimately could be good fun.

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