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Siege of Avalon (Windows)

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Written by  :  Matt Neuteboom (941)
Written on  :  Sep 20, 2005
Rating  :  4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars

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Summary

Play any good books lately?

The Good

This is an amazing game that never really got noticed. It has one of the most amazing storylines coupled with beautiful NPC interaction, amazing graphics, a fun class system, and still manages to be quite a long game. I believe that it is up there with Fallout and Diablo as a great RPG, not because it did anything new or revolutionary but because it did what it did really well.

Personally I think this game has one of the BEST and most immersive storylines I have ever played in a game. Like Digital Tomes logo, it is a digital book. You are thrust into a rich world filled with life and teeming with characters and people. The story is so deep that the developers even included over 5 pages of history to read on the land. It turns out that the seven lands are warring against the Sha'Ahoul, a race of orcs and shamans that defile the lands. Swift victory seems at hand, but as the war wages on the humans become more deprived of resources. Men and supplies are quickly dwindling, the reinforcement army needed to conquer the orcs and humans has been delayed by a new kind and bad weather, and the humans are forced to build on last defense against the Ahoul, the fortress of Avalon. You arrive there as a simple recruit. However as you stay there you slowly start to build up influence. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the game. As the game progress, more people know you. They greet you, and you become a beacon of hope among the hopeless and defeated people of the castle. Soon you become sort of a celebrity. People talk about you everywhere and the castle rallies about your name. It’s an inspirational story that will delight you until the very end. The story is very twisty, and there always seems to be something going on. Quests that you do are always related to the story and are very rarely stand alone. Unlike World of Warcraft or Diablo, the quests always pertain to your ongoing story, and instead of going on quests, then having short outbursts of plot changers in the middle, the story unfolds as you do the quests. And unlike other games where you and the character have different minds, the developers always jump ahead of themselves. Whenever you discover something insidious or amazing, you'll be surprised to find out that your character has as well. Without warning your character may open up new dialogue options because he has also discovered the same thing as you have without the need to "examine this" or pick up an object that would trigger the new dialogue option.

Except in a book, you must read about what actions the character does and what he says. This is a game though. You transform the story the way you like it. You can go around talking and introducing yourself to everyone. Or you can talk rough. You don't have to know anyone at all. You can even turn on the guards and attack them, and kill everyone living in the castle! The more people you meet, though, the better. All NPCs have their own personality based on what they do, where they are from, and how much they know/like you. If they know you, they can give you side quests as well. Besides the excellent storyline, the things you do affect the way people react to you. One chapter you may meet a person and say hello. They may mention a food shortage. After you solve this, some of the people you meet will mention this about you. If you don't solve the problem, then they may mention something else about you. Depending on your actions, your responses from people are changed as well. Most people tend to have tons of dialogue if they are crucial to the story. Others may have a a dozen if they are non-crucial to the story. And as a result, the characters are very memorable. They all seem to have personalities and feelings. There are hilarious ones, serious ones, and ones that capture your imagination.

The result of this is that the games feels like its in a living breathing world that changes as you enter it. You are not just in the world, you shape the world. As you perform deeds, the people start to talk about them. People become familiar with you depending on your actions. As things happen around your castle, not only do the people involved talk about it, but bystanders talk too. People's responses change every single time you talk to someone else. As you talk to one person, other dialogue options become available for others. The NPC's remember you and respond differently to you when you return to them. NPC's are constantly moving around the castle you inhabit and are constantly talking about current events. About how they need to do something like this, or how the food shortage is coming, which always seems to come back to your actions. The atmosphere changes as you progress. As you enter the castle on the first day, the atmosphere is dark and defeated, but as you begin to help the poor people, they start to feel better. Instead of greeting you in a defeated a somber manner, they start to talk optimistically. As the game progresses their mood lightens up as the tide slowly turns in their favor as you win more and more victories. The people just seem real, they're dialogues are constantly changing at such a rapid rate, and over time their attitudes towards you and everything around them changes. This creates an imaginative world that seems very real and filled with real people.

This, combined with memorable characters, and a great plot add up to an amazing, twisting, and hilarious story. Although the game is scripted, the plot (or to put it more clearly, the way it is presented) tends to change depending upon you.

The game play is quite easy to follow. The game controls similar to Diablo. Simple point and click is all it is. The game follows experience points rules. The more you kill, the more experience points you get to spend on increasing stats. The higher the skill becomes, the more and more experience points it costs. Instead of being very vague about something, it allows you to see how everything changes right on the screen and tells you what the skill would do. As you add something to a certain skill, you can see certain damage modifiers like skill with weapons and damage absorption go up and down before your eyes. With this you can also experiment with weapons and armor to see how different things would affect your stats. Also, there are no class restrictions. Fighters can use magic, and rogues can wear armor. A little bit into the game you get teammates who will follow you and fight with you. These can be anyone willing to be recruited, allowing for better team construction. There's also plenty to do. A million side missions, and over 200 unique items to find. The item, weapon, and armor customization in the game is quite astonishing. You can find anything from armor at the shop to wearing the dirty shirt you found on an orc, the loin cloth of a troll (you can do it, really) while brandishing a Lich's club. Anything that suits your tastes is available.

The areas of this game are literally huge. The areas of the castle you can explore are quite amazing. There are secret passages and other rooms that the game doesn't require you to go into. But if you do you will find tons and tons of side quests, and no matter what, the castle always seems to be filled corner to corner with people who want to talk to you and know your stories. The outdoor areas are quite filled as well. You will find that even on the edge of the forest or the town, there are secret buildings and areas that the game doesn’t require you to go to but are filled with interesting items and enemies. It does not get to the point where it seems endless though, like Diablo. They are reasonably made to a good length, and are designed by the creators themselves, so everything seems natural and adds a great touch to the universal feeling of the game,. Even still, there are so many different places that are created for you to explore. And they are personally made that tons of adventuring and exploring can be done by you, to explore every nook and cranny of the magnificent world.

Graphics are something to be liked. The graphics are 2D, but very charming. They are isometric like Diablo, but unlike that game, Siege of Avalon has much more detail put into them. All of them are pre-made unlike Diablo, and have minor details added to every nook and cranny of them. Highly detailed and large maps backgrounds, as well as great character models. There is also some amazing detail put into the looting system. You can loot the clothes off of the enemy and the very articles of clothing will disappear off of their body. Quite a nice touch if you ask me.

This game also has a good layout. You don't need 3 windows open just to cast a spell, look at your stats, and keep track of experience. Simple tabs allow you to close in and out of windows easily. There's not much to it. The item system is exactly like Resident Evil 4, where different items have different sizes of squares. A spell can even be assigned to right click, like say, heal, so you can heal right in the middle of battle and fight all the while.

The music is nicely done. It sounds like its done by an orchestra, but I definitely could be wrong. It’s perfect at the right times. During your times in the castle it is soft and gives off a warm feeling for you. While you are in the dead of night prowling the Ahoul infested villages, it becomes tense and scary. It fits the situation well, and is one of the things that loan to the nice atmosphere and immersion that the game creates.

One of the finer points of the sound part is that there are no voice overs. Voice overs get in the way of letting you perceive the way characters are. Remember, it's like a book. You decide how you want to perceive the way he would sound, not how the game developers want him to sound. If I thought of how a character would sound, it would stick throughout the entire game. But voice overs get in the way of how I perceive that character. If I were to imagine a person as a gentle, wise character, and he ends up having one of the gruffest voices that I have ever heard, the disrupts my mental image of the character and forces me to believe that he is not how I imagined.

And through all of this, Siege of Avalon becomes a heart-warming tale. Once you are done the game you felt like you have read a book. You are attached to the characters, and it feels like you have not only read about them but you've existed with them. You fell like you have visited their world and came back, and it leaves a delightful in your mind once you have completed this game.

The Bad

Where Diablo picks up on, Siege of Avalon falls on. Compared to other isometric RPG’s, Siege of Avalon is a bit repetitive when it comes to combat. This is not to be confused with its game play. While it is fun and easy to play, It just seems like more could have been put into the combat as it is mainly only one move you can perform with melee attacks. There is also a very limited selection of attack and melee spells that can be used at the height of a battle. It doesn’t get to the point where you are so bored that you need to quit the game. It is far from that. It just seems that it could have been...well...better than it was. Throughout the game, it is important to try and mix it up and bit with spells and having a well rounded team. Unfortunately...there's a lot of combat.

The AI, while sufficient, is nothing too polished or amazing. Your allies and enemies also seem to be suffering from some head trauma because they can never get your orders or even their own judgment right. Allies tend to get in the way when you’re trying to retreat. Either that or they always ignore your order and run back to fight and eventually die. I can't tell you how many times I have had to reload my file because after I retreated, my teammates felt compelled to stay in the battle and die. It's the same with enemies. Enemies seem to have no care for their own health or well-being, the exception being wizards and bosses who know when to retreat and heal themselves. I suppose this could be explained by the fact that the underlings would be suicidal machines and the upper ranked men know when to run, but somehow I doubt this.

The character creation screen in the beginning is quite useless. The only thing that matter is perhaps your name and your physical appearance. The stats that are offered to you at the beginning of the game don't matter as much since the enemies you kill will allow you to expand upon those skills later in the game anyway. The classes are by far the stupidest. Despite the fact that you can choose rogue, wizard, or warrior (a very small selection I admit), it doesn’t even matter. In the game the classes overlap as I mentioned before. Even though I picked to be a wizard it learned many weapon class skills and trained to become a skilled magician at the same time. Not to mention that the rogue skills are quite useless during the course of the game. Your shirt and pants color are easily the silliest options to choose from. You can easily change your shirt and pants by going to a clothes vendor in the game. In the end, only my name, my facial hair, and my hair color were the permanent things to stick with. The rest were either temporary or didn't affect the game at all.

Overall, Siege of Avalon has plenty of problems working on an XP or Mac. I originally played mine on Windows 98, and it ran flawlessly and smooth, even with little RAM and only 11 Gb of space. I needed to tweak some setting on my XP to get it to run smoothly. Even then, I did encounter a few random crashes during my game.

The Bottom Line

This game is one of those games where story, immersion, and the feel of being inside a moving universe is the entire game. You enter the world feeling like sort of a noob, and you leave as a demigod, and beacon of light. This game will take you through hours of adventuring, and allows you to interact and make friends with the hundreds of NPC's along the way.

All in all this is a great game which I'm surprised did not get enough attention from RPG fans. This game is the story counterpart many RPG's are missing. Unlike many other typical RPG's, which is mainly "go there, kill that monster, this game has a great, twisting, surprising, and hilarious plot. Unfortunately, it is missing the combat counterpart. Combat doesn't allow you as many options as Diablo or other RPG's do when it comes to spells and melee moves. Also, AI is somewhat stupid.

But the story and atmosphere easily make up for a lack of amazing combat. Play this if you are tired of just run in there and do it type of story, and you have the patience to truly read all of the dialogue and appreciate the plot, because that is the game - the story. You wouldn't read a book for the action parts. No, you read it for the story. I can guarantee that if you play this game you will get sucked in to its world, and you will leave with a satisfied feeling in your heart. Like you feel when you just finished a good book...