Avadon: The Black Fortress out for PC now



Anyone who says there aren't any real RPGs anymore clearly haven't played Jeff Vogel's games. The consistently funny and thoughtful Seattle-based indie developer have not only been making isometric, party-based and turn-based games since 1994 - he's also been able to earn a living by doing just that. Apart from delivering generous demos and serving a dedicated fan base with precisely the kind of games they actually want to play, an absolutely essential part of Spiderweb's business strategy is that the company is not giving its games away for, say, $10 or less. While there are promos and discounts occasionally, Vogel has always insisted that huge and ambitious independently developed games must be allowed to reach a certain price point or else the possibility of making any kind of profit (not to mention the ambition and depth) will be sucked away from the indie scene entirely. This sentiment has of course been echoed by various Apple denigrators recently, who worry about what the pricing on the App Store is doing for game development (...which I guess makes it all the more ironic that Avadon is coming to the iPad later this year).

What makes Avadon especially interesting (apart from the upcoming iDevice release) is that Vogel both has left his long-established series Avernum (which focused on exploring huge cavernous kingdoms) and GeneForge (which was all about summoning and the faction system) behind and started an entirely new series with a noticeably upgraded graphics engine. Among other things, the tweaked engine provides more detailed sprites as well as seamless (as opposed to grid-based) movement inbetween combat scenarios. The skill and party systems have likewise been significantly changed, and jn a particularly radical move the custom-made party members from Spiderweb's older titles have now been replaced by distinct characters designed and written by the developer himself. This allows Vogel to insert unique dialogue specific to these party members and thus have them react to story events and comment on the various parts of the world which the player is exploring. Thus, there has been some BioWare-ification of the classic Spiderweb formula, although players who have gone through the full game say that the party banter element is still relatively limited in comparison with more heavily story-focused games.

So far I've only just scratched the surface of this generously sized RPG, but I'm very much looking forward to see what the world of Avadon: The Black Fortress has in store for me. Let's party like it's 1993 and no one has heard of a bad Ultima game yet!
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