Avencast

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 Post subject: Should I or Shouldn't I?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 3:24 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 2:56 am
Posts: 1
Yes, yes you should.

If you have come to the forums to investigate, to see what Avencast might be - yes, you should get it.

If you are stuck, desperate, and frustrated, and wonder if you should continue - yes, yes you should.

If you are wondering whether you should continue reading this, yes - yes you should.



Melodrama aside, I will come out and say this - Avencast is the single most incredible RPG experience I have EVER had. To preface the rest of the review, let me just give a brief list of games I've played - not necessarily completed, but played extensively. This list would include ES4: Oblivion, ES3: Morrowind, Baldur's Gate II, Icewind Dale 1 & 2, Fate, Torchlight, Dungeon Siege, Silverfall, Sacred, Divine Divinity, Final Fantasy 4, 5, 6, 9, 12, Champions of Norrath, Rogue Galaxy, Shadow of the Colossus, and these are only the ones I can see from my desk where I write this. Avencast stands among the very greatest of this, and perhaps even at their pinnacle. This is because, for literally the first time in my entire life, I played an entire video game through, rather than in fitful spurts. I tend to alternate between games because I either grow bored by the story or the gameplay, and return to them later to finish them, if I return at all. Not Avencast - I completed Avencast in roughly three or four days (hard to estimate, I played some at night as well). I'll leave the actual review portions for in a moment, but in brief, I found the gameplay superb - it not only did not distract, but enhanced the feeling of playing the mage in the story - and the story itself fascinated me enough so I played the game as voraciously as I'd read a Salvatore novel, salivating for the next clue or detail that might indicate how the story might end. I will offer no spoilers, but let me say this - the ending is...remarkable. Moving, even.

Now, to begin the actual traditional review, which some will read to get my opinion (possibly while they're shopping) and which I'd like Clockstone to see, just so they have concrete examples of what I liked, rather than generalized drivel.

STORY: 9/10

First, let me say this - the story of Avencast probably deserves a ten out of ten. Although containing a few fantasy cliches, they are marvelously blended in and so many original elements take place in the story that one very rapidly ceases to compare the game to other games or books and just accepts Avencast for what it is. Clockstone has captured a concept that resounds through myth and literature - the Hero's Journey, an epic tale, a prototype that appeals to the fundamental nature of man because it so perfectly contains all the elements that a story must to be truly epic. You'll find them here - a boy who must learn to be a man, a person corrupted by power, amusing sidekicks, hints of a love interest, the teacher and student relationship, ultimate evil confronted by good in an epic showdown - it is that which makes the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Shannara books, and the Legend of Drizzt timeless. This is made even better by the unique way in which the story unfolds - told by the protagonist's mentor and father figure.

SETTING: 10/10

I read an extremely offensive review in which the braying mule who wrote it obviously had played little of the game. He accused Avencast of being a Harry Potter ripoff, merely because it was set in a school of magic. This is...so far from the truth it hurts. In reality, the setting of Avencast perfectly serves its job - from the moment you enter the Academy to the final confrontation (I shan't tell you where it is!) every single bit of architecture, engraving, NPC, side quest, each serve to let you have a glimpse into the world in which Avencast is set. I would dearly love to see a sequel to Avencast, because in the sadly linear campaign you have not the opportunity to always pursue the fascinating vistas which open up before you, glimpses into other lands and other stories apart from your own. Surely Clockstone has nailed this - they neither give too much nor too little, giving enough to titillate the fancy and giving little enough so the imagination is free to run its course. The illustrations also are beautiful, particularly during the narrations, and give some meagre glimpse into the lands of Avencast that are not seen during the gameplay.

SOUND: 8/10

The spellcasting sounds are superb - letting rip a mighty beam of force sounds just as it should. The monster sounds are a bit weaker, as they are rather repetitive, but I can honestly say they serve their purpose - hearing the scratch of a crystal crab will still make me jump.

VOICEACTING: 10/10

I separated this on purpose from the sound. The voiceacting is incredible, perfectly done, flawlessly translated, and every voice serving beautifully to portray the character that it ought, from the protagonist's mentor to one particularly slimy demon.

CUSTOMIZATION: 9/10

Is marvelous. From the garb to the weapons to the skills and statistics that may be chosen, this game possessing only one real class still manages to give huge amounts of customization and allow you to tailor your character to suit. I have only two complaints - there was not enough variety in staves, and the Soul Mage hats were...well, they were ugly. And odd looking. All the other clothing was perfect, but I would have preferred an option to hide the helmet from view.

SPELLS: 10/10

I have only used the Soul Mage tree. However, if Blood Mage (which I'll be using on my next playthrough) is anything like it, Clockstone deserves another round of applause. Every single spell I could think of was there, even a few - like Soul Chalice - that I didn't know I needed until I got them out of curiosity. The spellcasting system, although also mentioned in the gameplay portion of the review, really sells the skill system - it actually feels like you cast each spell, and that somehow lends them even more impressive weight.

GAMEPLAY: 10/10

The gameplay is both simple and complex. I know that sounds odd, but the gameplay in Avencast is pure hack and slash at its heart (although this is more Fry and Burn than Hack and Slash), yet still has an astounding level of complexity. The variety of spells I received playing as a Soul Mage, coupled with the unique casting system, made it incredibly fun to freeze enemies and hammer them to death with mighty spells of doom. Poor strategic decisions, even on the lower difficulty level, spelled death more often than not. In fact, one of the gameplay elements that impressed me most was the casting system - I went from a numb-fingered newbie that could barely even target an enemy to a skilled combatant that could whip off any spell instantly. It made the journey from apprentice to master mage feel like my journey, instead of just a gradual increase of stats and skills. On the other hand, and perhaps even more brilliantly, panicking in the middle of a fight would frequently lead to my demise just because I would use the wrong spell or even none at all.

Puzzles also deserve a strong mention. This game is packed with them - endlessly creative, always fascinating, with excellent rewards for the optional ones that require a bit of thinking, I think these puzzles also added to the experience. It somehow made me feel more like a mage to be using MY mind to solve puzzles, rather than just clicking on a skill. Oh, and some of these puzzles are wickedly clever - I remember one in particular that had me scratching my head for quite some time until I remembered a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade...



In conclusion, the pricetag for Avencast is too low to be giving this a second though. Avencast is a game that I shall always remember - innovative, fresh, appealing, with a story that appeals to my hero-starved heart. I will be seeking out a box copy soon, out of fear that Steam may someday collapse. Is this a game that I will replay many times? I'm not sure - but I will play this at least once a year, simply to remind myself of what can be done with a game if people really put their hearts into doing their best.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I or Shouldn't I?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:19 am 
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Kyranian Master

Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 12:21 pm
Posts: 353
Hi RunHamster!

Thanks a lot for this very nice review :) In fact that sounds so good that people might think it's a fake one written by ClockStone for marketing purposes. Be assured though - it's not 8)


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 Post subject: Re: Should I or Shouldn't I?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:10 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 07, 2010 7:18 pm
Posts: 1
I'm afraid I'm going to have to brand this review as rubbish, it has me wondering if you've ever played any of the games you listed (or this game for that matter). Perhaps I should elaborate by going over roughly the same things you have, but rather more objectively. I should also point out that I do really like Avencast, it just irritates me to see blatant fanboyism giving a false impression.

Story:
It's almost wholly comprised of clichés, there's no way round the fact that it's a typical fantasy setting we've seen in a thousand games to date (there's an ultimate evil doing bad stuff, solo good guy goes on a journey to stop it). The story is rather weak, clearly simply being there to drive the action from location to location and the delivery is lacklustre too. Make no mistake this is an action RPG through and through, Baldur's Gate it is not. Character development is non-existent, for that matter so is characterisation in the first place with the protagonist having all the personality of a brick wall.

Sound:
The game's sound is certainly competent, with the effects mostly sounding ok. However Clockstone would do well to take a page out of the books of shooters in this department, spells just don't sound very powerful (when compared to for instance a shell landing in Call of Duty). Monsters similarly sound pretty unmenacing and could have used work. Music is again competent, pretty usual fare for what goes in modern games, neither leaping out at me as good or bad. The only real irritation with the music is the combat music; this fades in whenever an enemy spots you and fades back out when they're dead or lose sight of you, this will almost certainly annoy you after it's played for 10 seconds - for the 50th time in 15 minutes. The voice work in prerendered scenes is generally quite good, but ingame voicing is poor, borderline awful. Not that many other games do any better, but bad voice acting in games is something the game development industry shouldn't be able to keep getting away with.

Visuals:
Avencast is by no means an ugly game, but at the same time it looks a bit dated by modern standards. Don't expect textures so sharp they'll cut you or animations to die for. Spell effects redeem the graphics somewhat, these really do look quite pretty. Good thing too, since spells are really what this game is all about.

Gameplay:
The core of this game is spellcasting, no two ways about it. Good thing this part of the gameplay works well then. The rather more hands on method of using your character's abilities works well, being more involving than a typical RPG and avoiding the need for a cluttered quickbar full of spells. Combat works the same as any other action RPG you'll ever have played; enemies with basically no AI to speak of (they either charge straight at you or circle round you) come at you in droves, you carve your way through them until the level's end. The 'puzzles' that intersperse the combat are neither creative or fascinating. They're the usual affair of finding an item or code to unlock either a door or treasure chest, and while rewards are usually of good quality the loot tables are such that it will rarely be useful.

Summary:
Story - 6/10 - Cliché upon cliché. Don't expect anything groundbreaking, it's pretty mediocre but basically on par with any other modern action RPG.
Sound - 7/10 - Underwhelming but competent. It does the job, but not amazingly.
Visuals - 7/10 - Lacklustre texturing and animation redeemed by excellent effects.
Gameplay - 8/10 - A solid use of action RPG mechanics to produce a fun experience.
Overall - 7/10 - 'Good' sums up Avencast nicely. It's a fun game that any fan of action RPGs will appreciate and want more of, but at the same time it isn't going to set your world on fire.

Avencast is a good game, and certainly worth a purchase. It isn't perfect, not even close to it. What it is, is a good start and a promising concept. I hope to see a sequel, or at least a game in the same style as this, that builds on Avencast's strengths and remedies its weaknesses.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I or Shouldn't I?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:18 am 
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Kyranian Master

Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 12:21 pm
Posts: 353
Thanks for sharing your opinion. Please don't forget that Avencast was an indie development and probably had less than 1/10th of the budget of comparable titles done by bigger publishers.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I or Shouldn't I?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:50 am 
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Adept

Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:44 am
Posts: 5
Alls I gotta say is this - I have many big-budget AAA titles that cost me top $$ sitting there collecting dust while Ive been having a great time playing this awesome game. Good job Clockstone!


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