Spirderworks Software, an independent "company" (of about two persons) has been in the cRPG trade for over 20 years. They specialize in what are called "old school" cRPGs. By which, I deduce, are meant games with rather plain graphics but excellent writing. One series is that of Avernum, to which I direct attention because it, too, takes place in an underground world (replete with mushroom wine). A party-based series of six games, the writing is excellent for a game of this nature, and the game system itself interesting enough, although it does lend itself towards the min/maxing of stats and attributes so beloved of the power gamer. The whole series has gone through several incarnations, and the company is re-writing each of the adventures amidst their other works, the second in the series having just been completed. Or the original six could be had for nothing at the Spiderweb website (they might not work with present systems, though), or the second incarnation is available at GoG, that invaluable site.
edited by malthaussen on 10/11/2015
I have played Avernum, and it was a great game, but I prefer Geneforge also by Spiderweb! The premise is really interesting: altering genes via magic, to put it very simply… The combat system appeals to me more, as does the SF/fantasy world in the latter. But SW is a very good Indie company.
That reminds me, I still have my Geneforge set on Humble Bundle… Maybe I should get started on playing the series again…
edited by Sestina Valdis on 10/11/2015
I played Avernum:Escape from the Pit a long time ago. It was an excellent old-school RPG (top-down isometric party based). I should warn that the place is big. Really big. And pretty much open-world - you’ll spend a lot of time wandering around. It’s been a while since I played it, but I seem to recall that the UI was a little obtuse in places. Congratulations, you have the ‘acrobatics’ skill, or some such. Now you just need to figure out what it does… Of course this was in the days before wikis…
I’ve played Avernum ever since it was known as Exile. They’re quite good!
Ah, the old Exile games were the reason I skipped more than a few classes in elementary. I can honestly say that they shaped my taste in gaming. Exile 3 blew my mind. Later Avernum, Nethergate, Geneforge… Damn, I remember all the hunting for good scenarios for Blades of Avernum. Those were the times. Avernum 3 was biggest and most complex, but I honestly liked Avernum 2 even more. Some locations could really convey a sense of dread, give one that chilling you-really-should-not-be-here, you-are-what’s-for-dinner feeling.
If anyone’s wondering whether or not to pick up some Spiderweb Software games, I wholeheartedly recommend all of them. I honestly consider them to be the Skyrims of isometric old-school RPGs.
I haven’t tried Geneforge or Avernum yet, but I enjoyed Avadon tremendously. I wish that Dexterity as a stat weren’t quite so overpowered in the first game of the series, but broadly speaking they are all fantastic games.
Avadon is for a single character, right? Avernum is party-based, while Geneforge is single-character also. I’ve never played Geneforge, but I’ve heard nothing but good about it.
Avadon starts with one character, but you quickly unlock the other 4, and as your mission progress, you may bring up to … three? … of them with you.
(haven’t tried Avadon 2 yet).
I remember playing the Exile trilogy, and especially the tons of player-made scenarios for Blades of Exile. Even in this time, I am still looking forward to playing (and replaying!) some of those. I think the later incarnations lost something with the graphic upgrades - with Exile, my worldbuilding imagination was running at "100% CPU", which it didn’t with any later games. Or maybe it’s just that I was much younger then?
And while Geneforge has nominally a single character, the creations you can (make and) bring with you make it sort of a party based game too (they don’t have inventories though).
edited by xKiv on 10/18/2015
I quite enjoyed Geneforge! But I’ve only ever played the entire first game through to the ending. What were people mostly unhappy with?
The Creations are fun, yes. There’s also human party members that you can get in some of the games.
Exile II: Crystal Souls is still one of my favorite games of all time. I feel like a bit of the magic is lost in this new incarnation, maybe it’s the sounds, or the look. Never the less, they’re quite good.
I think the first Spiderweb game I tried was Nethergate, waaaayy back when. Really unusual premise and aesthetic, drawing its fantasy tropes from ancient Rome instead of the Middle Ages. There is a remake of it that I haven’t tried. I played some of Avadon and recently bought the rerelease of Avernum, but I think my favorite stuff is still the Geneforge Series, especially Geneforge V. I’ve always liked summoning magic in fantasy games, so maybe that’s why.
My one complaint about Spiderweb is that Jeff Vogel keeps reusing so much of the tech and mechanics for each new game, which gets boring. One of the reasons I lost interest in Avadon was because it looked and played almost exactly like the later Geneforge games. Even the remakes are getting this treatment, to the point that I’d prefer the more dated versions to having everything look and feel the same. It doesn’t help that his approach to the gameplay is too streamlined for my tastes. Still worth playing his games, though, and the whole Geneforge series is 15 bucks on GOG.
Recently-released Age of Decadence has a Roman vibe, too. It’s a bit controversial because the combat is so hard.
[quote=malthaussen]Recently-released Age of Decadence has a Roman vibe, too. It’s a bit controversial because the combat is so hard.
I’ve heard great things about it, specifically in terms of story and reactivity. Not compatible with my system currently, but someday…
Oh yes! I remover downloading and playing Exile - and basing my first RPG character on their cat-people!
i played blades of exile for a while but got stuck in my very 1st scenario. something about a poisoned well. can’t say i like the battle system or UI though, or maybe i’m too spoiled by easier modern and JRPG game. looks like all the older exile games are now free to download.
also bought the geneforge saga on GOG a week or two ago. not sure if i’ll ever find the time to play all 5 of them! the summoning of customised creatures was appealing to me.