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So, I played the original Avernum series back in the early oughts, but never finished it (some combination of save file corruption, poor note taking to know what I still had to do, and lack of time).  Seeing it on sale reminded me I've been planning to come back to it, and I figured the updated UI (and quest tracking system) would maybe help me actually finish the game...

 

Unfortunately, compared to the original UI, there are some serious usability issues, which have me considering if I want to actually play the game, or request a refund before the 2 hours/2 weeks is up (current plan is to see if they're resolved in Avernum 2 or Avernum 3, and decide from there).  Anyway, whatever I decide, I figured it would be worth posting my feedback where maybe Jeff will see it; maybe it'll improve the Avernum 4 remake if it ever happens.

 

There are 2 major issues I encountered (and one annoyance), both before getting out of the tutorial area. 

 

The first is the game is not playable without a mouse.  In the original game, you could do nearly *everything* with just the keyboard, and the UI was excellent.  Walk into a chest to open it, 'L' (or was it 'E' for examine...) key to look in a chest if any party member was next to it, 'L' key to get a description of anything further away, 'T' key to try to talk to something.  The keyboard-only stuff works decently well for combat, but the world exploration phase will drive me crazy if I have to touch the rat.  On that note, the remaining key binds are nonsense.  If you have one hand on the rat (presumably your right hand), some shortcut keys are now out of reach of your left hand (mage and priest spells, for example).  By itself, this issue is... annoying, but not the end of the world.

 

The second issue is much more serious.  If you are running a fast, nimble, frail party, you rely on careful, exact positioning of party members in combat.  This means things like carefully lining up at the edge of vision range to fire your first salvo, letting you get a second salvo before enemies close to measure.  And here's the problem.  There is NO indication of what your actual range is.  There is NO warning when one of your spellcasters will run forward, nor how far they will run, in order to get their spell off.  In the original game, targets out of range of a spell or attack would not be given a target label, allowing you to reposition and try again.  In games like Shadowrun Returns, a line is drawn indicating where the character will move to before shooting, letting you either go with it, or manually order a more sensible move than running out of cover.  Instead, what do we get?  Nothing.  I don't have any multitarget spells yet, so I don't know if a single too far away target will cause this running, but it doesn't really matter... 

 

As for the annoyance, in-combat waiting has been removed.  You can skip a character's turn, but you can't have them wait for a target.  This means your front line fighters will generally skip their first turn, which is annoying.  In the original, you could have your characters act in any order you wanted, by letting the enemy go first, and then using the wait command if the characters tried to act in the wrong order. 

 

All in all, there are some improvements over the original Avernum games (like the new skill tree, new graphics, actual tutorial, and so on), but the gameplay itself is simplified in a bad way.

 

 

Edit:  After a bit more poking, the 'U' key will let you select an item for "use", which includes opening doors and the like.  It is neither listed in the help menu, nor does it have a UI element dedicated to it.  I found it by "simply" trying every key on the keyboard.  That still leaves the combat auto-movement, which is honestly the more serious issue anyway...

Edited by lperkins2
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Jeff rarely reads the forums except just after release of a new game, so posting here isn't as useful. Try support@spiderwebsoftware.com for complaints.

 

The remakes have from the main menu access to the keyboard shortcuts list and some of them are ones used in earlier games. This might help you.

 

The more recent games like Avadon show when you are in range, but you have to watch the AI for movement since they can still take you on bad paths that aren't what you want.

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29 minutes ago, Randomizer said:

Jeff rarely reads the forums except just after release of a new game, so posting here isn't as useful. Try support@spiderwebsoftware.com for complaints.

 

The remakes have from the main menu access to the keyboard shortcuts list and some of them are ones used in earlier games. This might help you.

 

The more recent games like Avadon show when you are in range, but you have to watch the AI for movement since they can still take you on bad paths that aren't what you want.

 

The entry on the main menu is the same that comes up in the game if you hit F1 (or click on the related icon).  As I said in the edit, the "use" key (which still doesn't "inspect"/give a description of a distant item) is undocumented in that menu.  It's odd that Avadon shows when you are in range, given that it came out in 2011, a year before the Avernum 1 remake...  I suppose that functionality just got missed when moving (back?) to the world map/local map engine (instead of the unified map used in avernum 4-6 and avadon).  I verified that the behaviour is still terrible with Avernum 3, from 2018.  Unlike 1 and 2, it *does* tell you how many AP will be used to move forward when you mouse over a target.  This is an improvement, but not by much...

 

Anyway, I'll forward a copy to the support email.  Thanks for that; it's often hard to tell at a glance how to actually get feedback through to developers.

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8 minutes ago, TM Paladin said:

Avadon doesn't use a unified map like A4-6.  It has separate zones, like Geneforge.

 

I definitely agree with your gripe about the lack of range indications.

 

I only played most of the way through the demo of Avadon 1, so I'm half speculating here. 

 

According to the wikipedia entry for Avernum, 4, 5, and 6 used the Geneforge engine.  They were simply small enough games to fit into a single Geneforge zone.  My point was simply that the "outdoor" map used in avernum 1-3 (the originals and the remakes) is at a different scale (1 cell / mile or thereabouts) than the scale of the map used for cities or dungeons.  This precluded combat on the world map itself (loading an encounter map instead).  My impression was that Avadon, like Avernum 4, did not use encounter maps.  Maybe I just didn't get far enough through it to see the world map as a world map.

 

 

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The Wikipedia entry oversimplifies.  A4-6 use basically the same engine as Geneforge in terms of character stats and combat mechanics.  The map is completely different -- Geneforge isn't visibly grid-based -- and A4-6 were larger on average than the Geneforges, certainly not small enough to fit in a single zone.

 

Avadon and Geneforge don't use encounter maps, but they don't have world maps either -- or rather, there is no walkabout mode on the world map, just zones that you click on and immediately go to.

 

I suggest you give the games a chance.  Also, FWIW, if you buy directly from Spiderweb, they have a no-questions-asked refund policy that they are pretty generous about -- no specified time limit, just trust that people will use it in good faith.  (This is, of course, in addition to giving money directly to an indie dev rather than to steam/gog/other middlemen.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am posting late to this thread, but I hope I can still be helpful. Lperkins, I must say that I am impressed that you remember game play details from almost 20 years ago.

 

While I agree that the spellcaster positioning behavior is a problem, it was something that I quickly developed a 'sense' for. After I had played for a short time, while I did not know exactly how a spellcaster would move, I was certainly able to avoid the disastrous mistakes that are interfering with your game.

 

(This of course only applies to targeted spells; the area-of-effect spells do show a grid of the potential affected area, allowing you to cancel the casting, move to a better location, and cast again.)

 

So I agree with the Paladin: give the games a chance.

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