Back in 1994, I was primarily a PC gamer looking for experiences that expanded far beyond what I was seeing on consoles at the time. Games like Fallout and Ultima VII opened my eyes to how expansive and open-ended games could be. Those classic role-playing experiences tapped imagination in the same way books do, tossing an invisibility cloak over the crude graphics present. In the end, I wasn’t just playing in the world through a keyboard and mouse; I was living in it. Avernum: Escape From the Pit is as niche an RPG should get nowadays, while remaining a game fans will adore.
Avernum is an underworld of volcanic pits which you and your party have been condemned to, by the Empire’s evil Emperor, leaving you the option to end your journey as you see fit. That’s it, there’s the plot. After a quick tutorial the wonders of the Pits are free to be stumbled upon however one wishes. Dialogue trees, and split-decision making become a companion on your escape from Avernum as anyone familiar with the genre would expect.
Avernum sticks to the traditional isometric-overhead view of the genre, which I’m ok with. The problem is the camera is pulled back too far for my liking, making the observation of the game a pain to the eyes. Graphically, Escape From the Pit is nothing to tweet about, yet sharp enough to dismiss as a distraction. As for the user interface, it clutters the screen as one would expect a game with such depth to do, with no attempt to simplify its layers.
Touching and tapping your way through Avernum works with little to no control misfires. What proves to be more of a chore is getting acquainted with the user-interface and all it attempts to accomplish; nothing new when speaking of games in the genre, but a lot to remember.
The thing that intrigues me most about Escape From the Pit is its ambition to bring “real” game experiences to iPad. Avernum is by no means your standard iOS RPG, but succeeds most in not being one.
This is what I want my iOS game experiences to be like; games designed to be ON a platform and not FOR a platform. It has all the trappings of a 30 hour epic, lore for days, charming humor, and an interesting world filled with interesting people. Avernum is by no means a toilet seat game, and for that I am grateful.
What ultimately made me love my time with Avernum was its ability to jump start my imagination. Much like a great fantasy novel, the characters that I encounter through my journey are as much my own as is the writer. It’s the kind of rare charm that comes along at a perfect time, but often misses its mark with some gamers, feeling simply “old”.
Avernum: Escape From the Pit is a must have if you neglect your iPad over the idea that games like it don’t exist on the platform. It’s an engaging, strategic role-playing experience that caters to those who remember why early 90′s PC RPGs were so wonderful. Games like this just don’t get made any more.