Publisher: Lighthouse Interactive
Intl - 10/25/2007
N Amer - 11/14/2007
AVENCAST: Rise of the Mage Review
The role-playing genre has seen a lot of flux over the past few months. There have been games that have tread new ground and a slew that have gone back to revisit familiar formats while trying to weave different tales. Avencast: Rise of the Mage falls into the latter category.
In some aspects, Avencast is a very limiting game. You only get one character and customization options are not overly abundant. The story is linear and the quest-driven gameplay will have you moving through it at a regulated pace. But the Lighthouse/Clockstone title does juxtapose some of the common with intelligent gameplay mechanics.
Oh, and if you die, it’s game over - until you load from the previous saved spot. But that is a trend that follows many games like this. The counter is to save and save often. Hit a dungeon, save. Defeat the first wave of monsters – save. You get the idea. You can save at almost any point in the game.
In Avencast, you take on the role of a young student at a mage academy who seems to lose interest in the classes, drifts off to sleep, is called out by the teacher and must prove himself.
You begin in what amounts to a tutorial level. You have to run around the school, meeting with instructors and earning their marks of approval. This is what will teach you the basics of the combat system, and embark you on learning how to cast spells while specializing in the branch of magic more to your style. This also can present a bit of a challenge as some of the quests you undertake are of the variety that will have you clearing areas of the school overrun with insects, vermin and undead.
The crypts are particularly challenging early on as not only are you confronted with monsters that don’t crumble at your first spell cast, but fire back with ranged attacks before they close into melee range. And the AI seems to understand use cover, when available, en route to attacking you. This is a nice bit of programming.
As a mage, you are not particularly well equipped to deal with melee, though one of the spells you get does have a bit of a wallop with your staff.
There are eight slots for magic in your hotbar, so selecting the right spells to carry plays into the strategic element of the game. But the game is also one that treads the familiar too often. It can be argued that there are few original ideas to fantasy games and Avencast would agree. The game begins with a demonic force attacking the school and the student you play must uncover the reason for the attack and defeat it.
The game plays in an isometric viewpoint, but the camera is not always your friend. You will discover the laborious nature of moving the camera about when you are fighting near the start of the game. Coupled with the fact that you actually have to click on the target to cast a ranged spell at it – even while it is moving – and you have a scheme that is less than perfect. Leading the opponent does parlay into defensive capabilities as well. When you are attacked with a ranged skill, you can move and avoid taking damage. Ah, dodging – it is indeed nice to see the magic missile go by the wayside and give over to the reflexive ability to avoid damage. This makes for a much more strategic game. You can use environmental elements for shielding, as well.
Early on, it is almost smart to run from fights where you are overwhelmed and taking a lot of damage. Picking away at the opposition is a solid battle plan.
To propel the story along, you will engage in conversations with others you meet. They will make a statement and you get to select from a list of answers. You can loop the conversation if you feel you have missed something and need to see it again.
No need to worry about losing your way in the game. The game interface has a mini map that helps with directions of quest targets. It may be a tried-and-true feature, but this game may present a problem otherwise.
When it comes to combat, there are three areas of magic you can specialize in – summoning, blood (fire and ice attacks) and soul magic (which seems to be the AoEs). Each discipline has level requirements as well as costs to activate. You can’t just plow your level points into skills with each level but actually need to consider what you are going to choose and save points for it.
Players will also have to keep their eyes open for levers and hidden doors. The level design is really pretty good and there is treasure to be had in some out-of-the-way places.
The sound is a decent supporting element, with a nice musical score and decent monster noises. The graphics are working off an engine that emulates old-school gaming well while giving the game a polished look. The lighting is handled nicely and the environment texturing does a nice job of adding to the mood of the game.
While the first few quests proved to be more of a cakewalk than a challenge, the game does ramp up as you move through the levels. It is incumbent to learn the new spells and keep your character on top of the levels in order to succeed. Should you not pay attention to that, you will fail. But watch the levels, learn new and more powerful spells and you will find that you can work through the levels without a lot of difficulty.
The two primary bars to pay attention to are the health and mana bars. One is your life, obviously, and the other affects your ability to cast spells. Fortunately the mana bar regenerates at a nice pace so you are never drained for too long.
Avencast also has a nice auto-equip system. If you find a new piece of armor, rather than having to spend time in your inventory, the game will add it to your look quickly.
Avencast has some RPG clichés in it, but it still manages to emerge as a nice bit of armchair gaming. This is a game with some solid concepts that will not only provide a bit of challenge, but a fair share of entertainment as well.
Review Scoring Details for Avencast: Rise of the Mage
This is role playing and strategic gaming wrapped up in one. The interface has a small learning curve and you can’t just barrel into the mobs and expect to survive. Patience is key here. And speaking of key(s), the UI is well done. The only major problem is the isometric camera angle. Sometimes you will hear the enemies before you see their feet appear at the top of the monitor.
This is not going to dazzle you but it will give you a solid sense of the environment. The special effects are nicely handled, as are the lighting and shadows. The environments set a nice mood and the character animations work well.
Moody music goes hand in hand with monster hisses, the sounds of scraping walls and doors and other ambient effects. This is a nice supporting player to the graphical elements.
The dev team has taken some of the better elements from other RPG sources and combined it here. This is a nice little package that may carry some genre clichés with it, but still has some nice touches.
Avencast has its share of clichés, but still provides a challenge and is entertaining as well. This is a single-player title that would do well to introduce newer players to the genre, but will give veterans a nice old-school experience.
Avencast: Rise of the Mage treads familiar ground, but does present both challenge and entertainment
Reviewer: Michael Lafferty
Review Date: 11/07/2007