Surprisingly not a complaint about writing. I don't play as many games as I used to but one that has gotten the odd hour recently is Avernum: Escape from the Pit. It's quite a game. You play a band of misfits tossed into the lightless caves below the earth. There you must carve out a life amongst the other exiles and prevail against the countless monsters that wait in the dark. Avernum is very much an old-school dungeon-crawler with your party battling lizards, aranea and demons for their precious experience. It also comes with a fleshed out world and solid if impersonal story.
How fleshed? Let's find out.
The picture reminds me of Caravaggio.
Avernum is a great game. So great in fact this is the second time it's been remade. It originally came out as Exile: Escape from the Pit, then got rereleased as Avernum I. Now it's become Avernum: Escape from the Pit. A hybrid fusion featuring the strengths of both? Well let's see.
The first thing to be sure of is things have changed. Diablolike skill trees accompany fairly heft spellbooks, even warriors get a bunch of combat abilities. Gameplaywise mechanics have been tightened but things are also more restrictive. In previous games you could knock down walls but you didn't have a quest journal.
The world too has changed, courtesy of its developer Jeff Vogel. The main story is still the same but details differ. There are new people, new dialogue, new areas and new quests. Jeff's conception of Avernum and its factions evolves constantly. Going through the games is a writer's journey. I will say that there are certain elements introduced in new Avernum which interested me greatly as they said much more about the conflicts going on. Of course all these new elements change the feel of the game too. In the original Exile there were no roads between towns. In the new Avernum previously empty stretches of land are now occupied. Food and rest, already demoted from being critical are now as simple as walking into the nearest town. Game mechanics inform the atmosphere. Thief makes you feel fragile and paranoid. Space Marine makes you feel like a walking god. New Avernum feels much less wild than the previous iterations, a consequence of the increased population and softer mechanics.
Overall the new Avernum is an interesting mix of the old and new. While I disagree with some of the changes I still enjoy them. Jeff's games, which started out as a love letter to old-school dungeon crawlers, have themselves become a nostalgia trip. Going back somewhere you haven't been for years and seeing how much has changed. Avernum is that kind of trip and stands well both as a remake and its own game.