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Reflections on Avernum 2


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Reflections on Avernum 2 from someone who played Avernum 4, 5, and 6 first:

 

Initial thoughts:

 

The graphics are rough. It took me about fifteen minutes to get used to finding my characters on-screen. It took about an hour to reliably locate the active character in a fight. Jeff has mentioned updating these games to the new engine: if he decides to do that, it will probably be well received.

 

The game really, really wants to be run from the keyboard. The mouse is frighteningly inefficient without pathfinding. Once you start using the keyboard for motion, it becomes awkward reaching for the mouse to activate priest spells and such. I only use the mouse to select inventory items, and only then when I forget I can press the keys. The game just runs more smoothly if you do everything from the keyboard.

 

Avernum feels bigger with separate indoor and outdoor areas. I didn't like this the first few times it happened. After about 8 hours playing the Avernum 2 demo, I'm a convert.

 

Progress is slower than Avernum 4-6. Reaching level 2 takes a fair amount of time, unlike later games where killing a few goblins gets you your first batch of skill points. On the flip side, you get a lot more skill points in Avernum 2. One of my characters is a fighter/tool user. I realized quickly he would be much more useful with some priest and mage spells added. I've been able to do this without losing too much of the other things I wanted. In later games, that would have all but nerfed the character.

 

You really need a walkthrough to get the most out of this game! I skipped the vast majority of the demo on my first playthrough. My characters hadn't even used their skill points before I sent them off down-river and into the Vahnatai lands.

 

Hidden areas are all over the place. You need a walkthrough and/or persistence to find them.

 

I had no idea you could circle outside a city and still be in the "indoor" area. My expectation was that you just walk outside the gates until the screen switched to "outdoors". I missed so, so much because of this.

 

Having to get items identified is a pain. My first party grabbed two cursed waveblades before I even knew such a thing was possible! Cognitive dissonance does make it more rewarding once you know what things are, however.

 

This game has a lot of "save...fight...die...reload", even on Easy. The Avernum 4-6 games are much easier to play in terms of not dying on early fights. Fights in Avernum 2 have a strong tendency to either go really well or really badly. One lucky sword strike can make the difference between the two, especially when fighting Arenae. My party has become more reliably survivable as they level up, but I still have to save after every fight, because once in a while the next fight surprises you.

 

Things I wish I had known starting Avernum 2 the first time:

 

Start one mage off with a LOT of points in Mage spells. Having Unlock Doors available at the beginning of the game avoids a lot of hassles. The same is true for Ice Lances. You're going to have to go through a lot of fights to reach your first few levels. Ice Lances makes those fights easier.

 

Start your fighter off with a point in mage and a point in priest spells. Having your fighter able to self-heal and firebolt frees your powerful mages/priests to do more important things.

 

Repel Spirit level 2 can have multiple targets. This makes it worth getting for all priests and possibly all characters.

 

Now that I've finished Avernum 2:

 

Overall, it's an enjoyable game. All of my comments from the beginning apply at the end. Even near the end of the game, the next fight can still surprise you. (My characters were all above level 35, and a random encounter with a Rakasha and a wizard proved surprisingly difficult.) I like that you can keep playing as long as you want.

 

I tried playing a big section of the game without a walkthrough. Eventually I reached the point where I'd been basically everywhere and killed everything, with no idea where to go next. I had missed a tiny accessible area in the northwest corner of my explorations, but without the hint book maps and walkthrough I'd have never found where I missed. It would have been a shame, because the last third of the game is great!

 

The story is good; possibly better than Avernum 4 and Avernum 5, because there's more to it. I found the "you just finished a quest!!!" splash screens jarring, but in retrospect they were nice punctuation marks breaking up a long adventure.

 

Finally, if you get the games, buy the hint books. Even with walkthroughs available on-line, the information in them is worth the purchase.

 

That wraps up Avernum 2! I'm gearing up to start Avernum 3 (with walkthrough and hint book) in the next few days.

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Usually C means re-cast your last Mage spell. Experiment with every key on the keyboard and see what happens if anything.

 

Party make-up:

My front two PCs are fighters, one of them handles the rogue work while the other does Cave Lore. They eventually acquire Haste at level 3, they can haste the party while the two spellcasters in the rear cast damage spells at the monsters. Fighters don't normally kill serious enemies in the first round of combat anyway.

I have one spellcaster who majors in Priest spells and minors in Mage, another spellcaster who does the opposite.

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Exile/Avernum 2 are my favorite of all the Spiderweb games. E/A1 was very rough, though admittedly the feel of "you have no idea what's going on, you're new to all this" works very well. By the time 2 rolls around, there are enough interface upgrades that I was really happy with it. The fact that I played Exile 1 before any other Exile game, and Avernum 2 before any other Avernum game, doesn't hurt. Go go nostalgia.

 

I probably had more fun with Avernum 2 than any other Spiderweb game. That is not to say the other games aren't fun; they are all excellent games in my opinion, but Avernum 2 is my favorite by far (even if I DO miss all those nifty little spells from the Exile days... God do I miss being able to cast my own barriers and the "return to fort Ganrick" spell).

 

I think I had more fun with the Avernum 2 quests, too. Something about the three win conditions, each interweaving yet mostly seperate, really grabbed me.

 

I also have to admit that I miss the monsterpedia from Exile 2 Back in Exile 2, you had a button that gave you a set of stats on every monster in the game... assuming you had the Arcane Lore to know what said monstrs were. Invaluable in late game.

 

I actually wa sort of sad when the engine go changed and the overworld was eliminated. It made the whole world feel so much smaller, and even if most of that space seemed very empty, there were interesting tidbits hidden all over. It was the first game I played as a kid where I actually WANTED to explore every corner of the world just in case I'd missed something, and it has influenced me to be an obsessive explorer ever since.

 

Also: Woo first post!

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E3 also has monster listings, but you need to actually cast Scry Monster to get them.

 

E/A2 is also my favorite in the series (though 6 comes pretty close). While I prefer the gameplay of the newer entries, the story and flavor of the game are very pleasing to me. E/A1 is interesting in that it's more of a sandbox than later Avernums, but I think there are better sandboxes out there. For that matter, Jeff has made better sandboxes, viz. Geneforge 1, 2, and 5. I prefer those games, and for that matter the Fallout series and Planescape: Torment because they let you make real choices about the way your characters relate to the world, whereas in A1 you're kind of stuck in the heroic mold, so the choices mainly seem to boil down to "do I do this quest, or is it not worth the trouble?"

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Originally Posted By: Tirien
Originally Posted By: Erasmus
In exile each spell had a key mapped to it smile
Each spell in Avernum also has a hotkey, you just need to hit M (for mage spells) or P (for priest spells) first. Hitting A after that will select the first spell, B the second spell, ect.
Exile and Avernum are exactly the same in this respect.

Originally Posted By: Ishad Nha
Usually C means re-cast your last Mage spell.
Uh, what? It's M or P to open the spell list and Shift-M or Shift-P to re-cast the last spell.

Originally Posted By: FnordCola
E3 also has monster listings, but you need to actually cast Scry Monster to get them.
This is the case in Exile 2 as well for some of the most powerful monsters (though it doesn't get added to the roster when you do so).
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Capital letters also cannot be used when selecting targets for spells, as an accidental brush with a capslock key showed me earlier today. I spent a good fifteen seconds trying to figure out why in goodness name I wasn't able to target that darn Dervish before realizing my capslock key was on.

 

The fact that it's case sensitive WOULD imply that other hotkeys are in fact case sensitive as well. Someone mentioned Shift-M and Shift-P... sounds like capital letters to me.

 

I haven't actually tried fast casting the last spell yet, but that's mostly because training myself to use a different hotkey that saves me all of one button press wouldn't be worth the trouble. c, g (or later, k or q), abcdefgh, hear that "ugh" sound when things die.

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Originally Posted By: The Mystic
Odd. For me, "m" and "p" open the mage and priest spell lists for the entire Exile/Avernum series; "c" opens the spell lists for the Geneforge series and Nethergate.
...what? Since when does Geneforge have a spell list?

As for the shift-C thing, apparently that's the case on Mac too. It's odd, because I had thought that I'd used shift-M and shift-P in those games in the past, but I guess I was getting it mixed up with Exile. (It also lacks a way to recast the last priest spell.)
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