Avencast: Rise of the Mage (in this review, avencast would be used instead of the whole long title), is an action Role-Playing Game (ARPG). Action in the sense that you can hack and slash anywhere you want, and role playing in the sense where you, well, role play as the character or perhaps the hero? I have yet to complete Avencast (50% completed already) but I doubt the game will have too much of surprises which are fantastic or will overwhelmed me. I must say though that Avencast developers sure surprise gamers as they are hidden talents. Never heard of them but the game they just produced sure is good.
Almost every RPG have a strong storyline backing it. Avencast however only has a mediocre one. Very straightforward, you ought to know what to expect in the end and is pretty much like the hero killing the bad guy. You start with an introduction on how you are born (well not actually born but like, you know found or something) and then how you arrive in this magical castle called “Avencast”. Very peaceful at first and the game goes around teaching you the basics etc. Smart move by the developers as it masks the tutorial as somewhat like a quest. You learn how to fight etc and soon you found your way doing a examination to prove your worth. Upon completing it and arriving back at the castle, you, expecting the castle to be as peaceful and merry, was wrong. It was in complete ruins and monsters are everywhere. That is when your true adventure begins and the storyline develops even further and deeper. I quote from Avencast’s official site:
“In the magic kingdom of Aldgarth, demons tore up a dimension portal and invaded your academy… Now a forgotten demon army is about to descend on your world… Descend into the depths of a sunken civilisation…. Fight the mighty Demon Marshal Morgath, forged from the crystals of the God…and uncover the secret of your past!” ~Avencast.com Game > Story
Yeah that is pretty much it. Nothing really special nor breathtaking but still, enough to make you get into the game and be part of it.
The menus for shop screens, main menu etc is all very neatly done. With a very magical and ancient blend to it, it sure blends well with the game’s theme. The in-game inventory etc is very simple, and to view the different details of the items, you simply have to hold down your right mouse button or if it is a letter or so, double clicking the left mouse button would enable you to read the contents. To compare equipment you just looted, holding the right mouse button on it will enable you to compare both the current equipment you are wielding and the one that you just looted. Good job as it enables players to easily compare and contrast to decide whether wielding the newly looted equipment would benefit him or not. Texts are readable and the in-game UI (User Interface) shows everything you need to know quickly. Health, mana etc
Like almost every single games released, sound plays an important factor to it. Whether you want the mood to be very scary or perhaps a very light mood where you can feel the joy and happiness in the air, sound plays a big role in it. Besides that sound also have a component called “voice-acting”. And that is extremely important in RPGs as it brings out the characters’ character and personality. Music played, the voice-acting and the narrator (at cut-scenes) are all well done but not to the extent of superb. The music is well, alright, enough to bring out the mood and feelings to the gamer. Music at the castle before it was attacked was very merry and happy, while after it was attacked, very down and sad. When you are about to enter a battle (meaning an enemy is nearby and is about to engage you), the music will change to a battle beat. Sure that is a great addition as it paints the battle images more vividly and make gamers more excited but the variety of music is just not there. After a few battles you will be bored and tired with the music as it gets boring and repetitive after quite some time. Luckily, special sound effects help to further bring out the atmosphere of the area. Different sound effects will be played when the player uses different spells etc. Even when attacking and your attack comes in contact with your enemy, “bah” (yes I do not know how to explain nor express the sound.) or something can be heard. On to voice-acting,; The narrator, which you will hear during cut-scenes, have a very fatherly feeling to him. He really sound like a person reading a story book to a child or something and I really like it. A story ought to be told by a storyteller no? Then come the different characters in the game and their voice. Everyone that you are able to interact with will have a speech accompanying its text. The great magicians all sound great and the adepts blur and stupid. Not bad with the voice-acting and I should say the best of all the other sound effects.
I do not really want to comment much on the textures, character models, animations etc. They are pretty much so-so. Of course you do not compare it with other graphics intensive games such as oblivion etc. For its level, graphics are just average. What I really want to comment on is the special effects for spells. Whenever you cast a spell or similar (summon or whatever), the graphic effects produced is sure interesting and eye catching. You might go “wow” even with the simplest of spells. For example a shield spell (summoning a shield) is extremely pleasing to the eye (for me in this case). It sure brings out the grandness of mages and magic and show how powerful your spells are. Another aspect I want to comment on is the ability to see what you wear. Many games produced in previous years lack such feature. Confused? What I meant is that for example you wield this humongous sword and when you view your character in the normal game view, you can see it. So Avencast is no different, wielding a staff with a skull looking thing on its tip will be seen when you wack the hell out of your enemies. I really like these kinds of features and I feel that it is a must for RPGs as it further brings out the personality of your own character. In Avencast, I find myself switching to different armors (not caring if it degrades my character or not) for pure entertainment and self pleasure. I wonder why some armor looks extraordinarily good but suck in actual fact. Perhaps that explains the saying not to judge a book by its cover eh? So let us recap what are the best graphics aspects of the game, the dress your doll/character effect (is that what it is called? I know there is a term for it but I just cannot recall it) and the spell effects. Once more, I would like to emphasize how good the spell effects are.
I would like to break this section into a few different parts than reviewing it individually. Gameplay itself is too broad a category thus I want to divide for more specific and detailed review. So the components are: Camera, Battle System (includes controls etc), Character Development, Puzzles and Quests and Misc (everything else not mentioned)
Fantastic. One word is enough to describe the camera viewing system. I would say it is very simple and good to use. Effective for you to run in and out during battles, targeting enemies and looking around the surrounding for items etc. Avencast lets players choose from 3 different camera type (easily switchable during the game) and among the 3, the one whereby is called “expert” (not really hard to use, needs some time to get use to it though) is the best. It gives you the freedom to swing your view left and right, follow your character etc. You really have you try it out yourself as it is hard to explain. All you need to know that it is effect and comfortable for the players. One problem is that you can only pan left and right, zoom in and out, but not up and down. This thus results in you sometimes to hear your enemies first before even seeing them. However, this pose not much of a problem.
Battle System (Controls, Hotkeys etc)
Alright. Every gamer ought to know what an Action Battle System means. It means you have to press or click something, to perform an attack. It is not point, click, wait, enemy dies, you feel happy. No, action battle system is whereby you press different buttons to perform different attacks on your enemies. One major problem with such system is that if the game is not developed with advanced enemies or so, you will end up button smashing. However, in this case, Avencast requires players to dodge from time to time and to think frequently. (Yup, some strategy is involved) Let us talk about the controls first. W A S D are movement keys, F1, 2 , 3 so on are the hotkeys and the mouse controls where to aim and clicking on the left/right mouse button will perform an attacking move. Left clicking performs a melee attack while right clicking performs a ranged attacked. A perfect control layout for an Action game and is even better when you talk about the hotkeys. When we think of hotkeys, we usually think pressing a button to perform a spell instead of manually going through the spell list and then right clicking it or whatsoever. Yes Avencast is no exception but with a bonus. You can press movement keys followed by an attack to perform a spell. Interesting? Definitely. This system implemented sure give players more freedom on how they want to perform their combos etc. For example pressing left (A) than right (D) and followed by a left mouse button will make your character perform a firewheel spell (or others). It is definitely cool and a unique system I must admit. Right so now we understand how great the control scheme is, we talk about battles. You can summon monsters to help you distract the enemy while you perform a time consuming spell or perhaps just rushing to the herds of monsters and perform and devastating area damage spell. Whatever it is, button smashing will get you nowhere (well during the beginning at least. You see when you start off, the game is rather difficult thus button smashing will definitely get you killed). Also occasionally you have to perform dodges etc and that is simply done by double movement keys. Left and left (A and A) will make you roll left and so on. Thus when you see an enemy shooting a fireball at you, you have the choice of being a retarded hero, absorbing all the damage or simply rolling away dodging the fireball.
Like most RPGs, you have levels and experience points etc. Upon leveling in Avencast, you are given 10 points to spend in whether your normal attributes or to learn a new spell. You ought to get what I mean by now but one thing I would like to point out is the two different types of paths of magic you can take. One is Blood Magic (Melee) and the other Soul Magic (Ranged). It somewhat replaces a class system in most RPGs and for this game since you only can be a magician, you can choose between a melee magician or a ranged one. Besides those two paths, you can also summon things to help you. Whether is it for distracting enemies or a pal to keep you from being lonely, summoning sure is helpful.
Puzzles and Quests
Avencast surprises me with the different variety of quests at the beginning. It is not just purely go to that person, talk to him, kill a certain amount of monsters than coming back etc. Avencast has quests that involve the players to be quick with their fingers, and to be cunning enough to hide from certain people. Stealth and thinking is what quests of Avencast provide. Very interesting I would say. The different variety sure keeps players from being bored. Another thing is that the game has a few riddles and puzzles for players to solve. However, none of them provides a challenge at all. Still it adds on to the variety of gameplay and definitely make player feel that they ain’t doing things over and over again. There is always something new throughout the game.
Misc (Others not mentioned)
That is practically about it. Anything else not mentioned are usually the same as of other RPGs. Equipments, looting etc. Nothing too special nor worth mentioning except the ones above.
Avencast let players choose from three difficulties and two classes. Upon completing one path (one class) you might want to try the other one just to see how magnificent the spell effects are. You are likely to play again to try beating another difficulty as there are no bonuses or anything that makes you want to do so. The game is not too overwhelming that keeps you wanting more. It is short and sweet and definitely worth your money, especially if you are a hardcore RP Gamer. Not much replayability value except to test out the other class. No multiplayer or co-op mode is present (though is discussed in their forums and one of the developers said that they will look into that) thus once you complete the game once or perhaps thrice, you can actually keep the game for the cover and disc, or just sell it away. Hold on to it for awhile though as mods/expansion packs might be available (for free, well, I hope) in times to come. If your holidays are approaching, getting Avencast sure can entertain you for a few days.