RPG Beaten: The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past

Year: 1992

Platform SNES

It’s entries like this that I’m glad I only have about four or five regular readers because if I did have a large fan base or a hefty amount of traffic I think I could probably hear them now putting down their mice and keyboards and getting out the torches and pitchforks. “But random RPG blog guy, the Zelda games are NOT RPG’s!!!!” they would exclaim loudly and angrily. “They are adventure games or action-adventure games at best you fool! renounce your heresy or burn in the fires of damnation!”.

To these people I say……your probably correct, well about Zelda games. Look, I know the definition of what an RPG is can be nebulas and varies a bit from person to person. Hell, some even deny traditional JRPG’s are RPG’s because you don’t actually roleplay or create the character from scratch. Let me just say the purpose of this blog is not to define or philosophize on what makes a game an RPG. If you disagree with me including Zelda games that’s fine but TO ME they always really felt like RPG’s….even if just barely, so I want to include them. I know I’m in a minority group on this but if you disagree that much then just skip this article and I’ll happily greet you next time….unless the next one is another in the Zelda franchise or a similar grey area RPG. anyways….

Let me start out by saying LTTP is my favorite of the Zelda series and possibly in my top five games of all time. My best friend who is a big Zelda fan bought this game when it came out and I ended up borrowing it and I just fell in love with it from the moment It started and I walked out the door of my in game home and into a downpour on my way to the castle to save the princess.

The envisioning of Hyrule, the world that the game takes place in was such a colorful and varied world when I was a kid and even to this day I love traversing it. In honesty the world is nowhere near as massive as some game worlds and only features one town (two if you count the dark world) but it’s a huge step up from the NES iterations and it is a bright and colorful world of detail and varied terrains. Your goal is to explore the world searching out the various dungeons first to find the pendents which enable you to wield the master sword and later to save the decedents of the sages. The world is actually twice the size as it first appears as later you discover a mirror “Dark World” that you travel to and eventually can freely traverse back and forth.

The controls for the game are pretty spot on and I can’t complain. With Zelda being a action RPG controls are pretty important but everything works as it should. Progression is also done via the traditional Zelda way with you as Link usually discovering a new item in every new dungeon that is integral in defeating that dungeons boss and opening the way in the outerworld to the next dungeon. I suppose it isn’t strictly liner but I honestly cant remember as a kid getting lost or doing dungeons out of order and hitting a difficulty spike. Of course having played this game a few times over in my youth I had no trouble navigating in my latest playthrough.

The game doesn’t do anything very new for the Zelda series. Its the same dungeon to dungeon grind to collect new items and abilities on a quest to collect X number of pendents and then decedents with an overall goal of defeating Ganon and saving Zelda. I want to stress though this certainly is not a bad thing and I think this game really feels like a updated and improved Zelda on NES. Its what I like about the SNES library as many of the “Super” sequels really do feel like they kept the core of the NES originals which made them fun and just updated them and made them more expansive.

For the time the color and sound on LTTP kind of blew me away. the colorful world and excellent soundtrack that plays as you journey the world. I loved the effects at the time such as rain in the opening sequence as well as the swamp in the dark world. The fog and atmosphere of the forest was another part that really impressed me back in 1993. Me and my friends would always get a kick out of making Link do his little push animation on NPC’s since it kind of looked like he was humping them…hey, we were 13

The hero as always is the elf like boy Link and the main baddie is of course eventually discovered to be Ganon but before that it’s the evil wizard Agahnim whom is really just Ganon’s avatar. Ganon, as iconic of a villain as he is was never really a complex or developed character in my opinion, at least not in the early titles. He was just kind of evil and wanted power and Hyrule for himself. It worked but it wasn’t very developed though I do believe in later titles they expanded Ganons past and motivations. The enemies are familiar and varied. We see a lot of familiar faces from Zelda on the NES such as Zoras and Octorocks but also plenty of new fiends.

The dungeon bosses are a treat as always and are varied and visually impressive. They almost always have to dealt with via the item or power you most recently obtained. A few that stand out to me are the annoying worm boss that gets faster as you hurt it and has a nasty habit of knocking you off the ledge to the level below as well as this strange scorpion monster that you need to bust its armored mask off to hurt it.

There are a few tricky parts such as one section where to reveal the dungeons boss you need to lead a captive you free earlier into a section of light that shines through a window and then through a hole you create with a bomb. As a kid this part held me up for quite some time and I distinctly remember asking my mom to call a local used game store to ask if anyone knew how to progress at this point.

There are plenty of important items to pick up but when compared to more traditional RPG experiences the armor and weapon selection is a tad small but this tends to be the nature of most action RPG’s and I cant really say LTTP suffers from it at all. you do upgrade your armor and sword throughout the game as well as alternate item/weapons such as bombs and the boomerang though its only a few times you can with each.

I have to admit i’m a bit biased on this game because I have so much nostalgia for it but I do think it’s a great game regardless. The game has several pleasant surprises like the dark work opening up and the sound and visuals are excellent for an earlier SNES title and still hold up today. It really feels like a “super” upgrade from the NES origional and is certainly worth your time to play or replay if you hadn’t beaten it for awhile like myself.

The Grade

Game WorldA-

Controls B+

Game play – B

PlotB-

Graphics/Sound – A

Protagonist (Main Character) B-

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – C+

Weapons/armor/items/magicC+

Enemies A-

Stability –Grade: N/A

Overall B+

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RPG Beaten: Kingdom Hearts

Year: 2003 (Playstation 2 original) 2013 (PS3 remake)

Platform: Playstation 3

It really shouldn’t work at all, yet somehow it does. When I first heard of the concept of a Disney / Squaresoft RPG I found the idea laughable, I mean how can this work?, Yet it did.

I originally beat this RPG on the PlayStation 2 where it was originally released but never got around to playing the second game also released on the PlayStation 2. Since then an HD remastered version has been released on the PS3 as well as the PS4 since apparently half of the PS4 library needs to be PS3 remakes. so I decided to pick up part 2 in one of its newer HD incarnations. Since I was taking this route I decided to replay the original on PS3 and that’s the screenshots you’ll be seeing in this article.

The game world or rather worlds that Kingdom Hearts takes place in is the possibly the best aspect of the game as it can draw upon over half a century of works from Disney as well as themes from various Squaresoft games. Seeing as Disney is a world spanning media colossus most people will be familiar with the characters and world that span from movie titles such as Tarzan to the Little Mermaid and the Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s really something for everyone. Travel to these worlds is done via a “gummie ship” and shooter type flight stages that although seems a tad out of place I personally enjoyed. Customizing the “gummi ship” though was another matter and I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. Constantly forgetting what button did what and the rules of the creation. Also the three dimensional grid that you build and modify your ship in is a little disorienting.

controls and gameplay are just fine and the action RPG element worked quite well. I wouldn’t say the game is easy but there were very few points I had to stop and level grind. The only spot I can really think of that gave me trouble is the battle with Ursla since its not so straight forward as attacking her.

The plot….the plot is….well I actually don’t know if I like it or don’t. Of course they had to come up with something to get the main characters to visit all these Disney themed worlds so naturally the plot can come off as slightly odd. see your main character which in typical JRPG fashion is a young, maybe just turning teenage male and he lives on this seemingly completely isolated island. Its not really explained if the island you start on is your entire world but its suggested that noone knows whats beyond the ocean…then again its also stated Sora (the main character) has parents and there’s some kind of civilization on this island…anyways to boil it all down these black ink type enemies called the heartless which sort of remind me of something out of a Never ending story movie show up and your love interest is taken away and worlds are at stake blah blah blah. Micky who is the king of some other dimension is also missing so Donald duck and goofy are sent to find him. Your paths cross and so with a common enemy in the heartless you join forces and travel through Disney themed universes searching for Micky mouse as well as your romantic interest all the while attempting to stop the spread of the heartless. there’s also your special sword called a keyblade that seals worlds and…yeah, it’s all a bit strange.

Graphics and sound are great, both on the PS2 and the PS3. The enemy variety is also nice as the heartless monsters are all based and themed around the Disney world your currently in. So you have merman heartless in the little mermaid world and monkey heartless in Tarzan world. Bosses are nice as well and generally are the villain that accompanies that particular movie world so Ursula is the boss of the Little Mermaid world and Oggie Boogie for Nightmare Before Christmas.

To be honest I kind of felt strange playing this game at times…you know, doubting the ways I choose to spend my time. Now this is going to sound odd but stay with me. Kingdom Hearts is a very fun game and your like most people and you grew up on Disney movies its incredible fun to see the various worlds. The problem is the theme sort of amplifies the issue I have with a lot of JRPG’s…they make me feel a little immature. Look, I love video games and I’ll likely be playing them until I die and I don’t see anything wrong with a 70 year old man or woman spending there free time playing a video game but Kingdom Hearts…well, between the super cheesy theme song, the very young protagonist and just the overall atmosphere I felt a bit silly playing the game at times and sitting there at the beginning had to actually cringe a little getting through the J-POP intro, as catchy as it is. Don’t get me wrong though, its a fantastic and nostalgic RPG well worth your time but it does make me want to clean my palette afterwords with something that feels a little more mature and heavy metal and less J-POP..

The Grade

Game World – A

Controls – B

Game play – C

Plot – B-

Graphics/Sound – B

Protagonist (Main Character) – C

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – B

Weapons/armor/items/magic – C+

Enemies – B-

Stability –Grade: NA

Overall – B (92)

RPG Beaten: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition & Dragonspear

Year: 1998 (original) Tales of the sword coast expansion (1999) Enhanced Edition (2012) Dragonspear (2016)

Platform: Windows PC

Baldur’s Gate is one of those games from the late 90’s that I couldn’t get enough of. I was and still am an avid fan of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons so when I don’t have a group going or am feeling not so social I love the variety of D&D based video games available. I didn’t buy Baldur’s Gate when it first came out but it was pretty close. I fondly remember the game having issues with my computers built in Trident video chipset and having to make some adjustments. Being pretty new to PC’s (I had a C64 and Amiga prior) it felt like quite the accomplishment to fix the issue.

When I heard about the new enhanced edition of Baldur’s Gate coming out I gave it the same reaction I give most game remakes, a shrug. Then I learned about the entirely new expansion that was also coming out known as Dragonspear which directly followed the first game and filled in some gaps between it and the second game. I have to also admit it was so long since I played the original as well as the expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast, that I was kind of excited to have the opportunity and excuse to replay it and check out the new additions to both the base game and the new expansion.

I was a little worried though as I knew the expansion was going through quite a lot of controversy revolving around  heavy SJW influencing which some reported had drastically and unrealistically changed character personalities as well as attempted to artificially shoehorn certain agendas into the plot. I’m going to be talking about Baldur’s Gate as well as Tales of the Sword Coast and Dragonspear as one combined entity in the following but will talk briefly about Dragonspear at the end.

The world of BG is without a doubt its strong point as it can pull from literally decades of Dungeons and Dragon lore and world building. Some may feel the medieval/fantasy setting is overdone but being a directly licensed D&D title really helps. The world in short is fantastic with varied and detailed settings from dungeons to cities to towers. The lore, atmosphere and political intrigue are all there and you can dig into it as little or as much as you like. Thanks to this being an established setting the Sword Coast is extremely fleshed out and a delight to explore. Controls overall are pretty good though I think my biggest gripe would be the path finding as some party members tend to lose themselves. It sucks traveling across a forest or dungeon map only to discover one or two of your party members have decided to go a separate route and are now barley clinging to life against a group of zombies and carrion crawlers. Another part that annoyed me is that I left one of the expansion missions half way through and left a mission critical item. When I returned to the mission the item had disappeared and I was unable to finish the quest. Thankfully back in the day I completed it in the original game so I don’t feel like I missed something.

If your familiar with 2nd edition D&D and that rule set your going to be right at home with this game. I grew up almost exclusively playing a mix of 1st and 2nd edition rules so the game quickly clicked with me and I understood all the weapon and class strengths and limitations.

The game is certainly linear and divided into chapters as you progress but I never felt boxed in. I liked that I always knew where to go next but at the same time I had the freedom to explore the world, recruit new characters and take up the many side quests. BG is one of those games that you are free to choose to play a good and bad or a something in between type character. My first game back in the late 90’s I played a lawful neutral priest but this time around I went with a warrior type.

The plot itself is pretty engrossing and involves your main character being the possible spawn of one of the D&D worlds many gods. Making it more interesting though is this particular god happens to be a very evil one. The main villain whom you eventually discover is behind the woes of the coast is your brother, another spawn of the evil god.

The game play is done in an isometric top down view and sound and visuals are pretty good. nothing ground shattering but still very good with some beautiful 2D sprite work going on as opposed to the ugly 3D world of the later Neverwinter nights series. The world is absolutely filled with a variety of weapons, armors and monsters to obtain and battle. Monster variety is one of the widest Ive seen in awhile and like the settings the compendium of monsters available are pulled right from the many tombs of D&D monstrous manuals.

I absolutely loved this game as well as the expansions. Even if your not familiar with the D&D rules or setting I think most players would still enjoy BG. There’s just something supremely satisfying when leveling up a character in the D&D games that can be lacking when leveling up in other generic RPG titles. Placing stat points around choosing proficiencies as well as moving around armor to get the best values is just fun to me.  BG both the original and the enhanced edition are games that keep me up late at night  just wanting to play an hour more and see whats in the next dungeon or level up one more character.

As for the expansion Dragonspear, well, I was pleasantly surprised. I felt the atmosphere and game play was spot on to the feel of the original and it was hard to tell that so many years happened between them. I feel the controversy was quite overblown and it didn’t bother me in the slightest despite not being what would be considered a modern liberal. I just didn’t see the hate for the “change” in the character of Safana to a thief willing to use her feminine charms to get what she wants to more of a “strong willed independent women” in Dragonspear. In all honesty I just didn’t see it. She really didn’t talk much at all in the original anyways so to me it just felt like her character was being a bit more fleshed out in the expansion. Lately we have the issue with the trans character Mizhena. Now I played a slightly later patched version where her dialog was supposedly made to happen a bit more naturally but originally I read that how she revealed this was a bit “in your face” as in “Hi, i’m a shop keeper and also trans BTW.” Now this I can agree does feel like agenda pushing but moreover it’s just bad writing. The version I played however this topic seemed to unfold pretty naturally as you have conversation with the character which is perfectly fine. As a matter of fact the D&D world is the perfect environment to have trans or gay or whatever kind of character you want. The D&D world is packed with diversity, for gods sake we have half-elves and half-orcs running around as a common sight.

Overall I loved BG as well as the enhanced edition that added a few characters and odds and ends as well as giving the game a mild facelift while keeping the charm and esthetic of the original. Dragonspear I felt was a fantastic expansion as well and I really loved the expanded story about a mysterious “crusade” taking place to the north laying waste to the countryside. Is the leader of this crusade your friend or foe? great stuff.

The Grade

Game WorldA+

Controls C+

Game play – B

PlotA-

Graphics/Sound – B-

Protagonist (Main Character) A

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – B

Weapons/armor/items/magicA

EnemiesA

Stability –Grade: A

Overall A-

RPG 154 Beaten: Phantasy Star

Year: 1987
Platform: Sega Master System

Phantasy Star is the underappreciated first game in the Phantasy Star saga which mostly took place on the Sega Genesis before petering out with a so-so multiplayer online game for Dreamcast and other systems of the early 2000’s. I’ve actually beaten the other games in the series and Phantasy Star II and IV are some of my all time favorite RPG games of all time but I just never decided to tackle the original, until now. Phantasy Star is for the Sega Master System and as far as technical goes I feel this game blows offerings from the NES like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior out of the water.

If you can tell by the screenshot I played the patched version which retranslated the game keeping it a little more faithful to the Japanese release and things such as hamburgers are renamed back to a medicine sounding made up name as well as allowing the FM soundtrack if you have a modified master system with FM capabilities. Many people, especially in the USA grew up hearing the PSG soundtrack for this game and although it is very good the arguably superior FM track deserves hearing.

Phantasy Star does play very similar to a Final Fantasy type game of the era with random monster encounters, weapon and item shops and a sprawling overworld. Phantasy Star takes a decidedly Sci-Fi turn though with the overworld being made up of three separate planets to explore. For the time its an absolutely huge game world. Unlike the far more common medieval themed RPG’s of the time Phantasy Star or PS featured space travel, robots, vehicles and firearms. The story is that the king or I guess emperor has gone pretty much crazy and started ruling with an iron fist. your brother, a resistance fighter is killed in the opening sequence and you vow revenge. Pretty simple but for the time it was more then enough. You also play a female lead in PS which was pretty uncommon for the time.

One cool thing I liked about PS that carried on to later games is you see the members of your group (four total in this installment) following you on the overworld and in towns once they join you. As a kid playing the second and third games I thought this was really neat. One thing that has to be mentioned about PS is the dungeons. Once you enter a dungeon it does into a 3D first person view which you have to see to believe. For running on a 8-bit system the look smoothness of these sections is great.

The dungeons though can be pretty frustrating and maze like. Its one of those old school games where mapping is strongly recommended. I though, hate mapping and have a pretty good sense of direction so I , believe it or not, did not map. That’s right I basically fumbled my way through every dungeon which is no small task in a game like this. It can get especially frustrating later when you start encountering pit traps that drop you down one level. Thankfully your allowed to save anywhere and in multiple slots which is a godsend.

The game is fairly linear but there are plenty of opportunities to explore. There were a few moments when I just wasn’t sure where to go next. At one point the story just kind of stops when the professor is building your spaceship which allows you to freely visit the other planets. I just kind of had to hang out and randomly wonder the world until he finished the ship. Also near the end your looking for several weapons and pieces of armor that are needed to fight the final boss. These items are scattered about the planets in different places and can be a pain to discover. Thankfully it’s not to tricky and if you pay attention to what all the NPC’s say there shouldn’t be to much trouble. Its nowhere near the level of obtuseness that say Ultima II was. There are a few sections where you have to give the right response to an NPC to get needed information which can trip you up for awhile if your unaware. For instance there is one NPC which will ask about a certain vehicle. its a yes no question but if you give the wrong response and do not know any better to talk again and give the opposite response you cant proceed later in the game.

Battles are fought in a sort of first person view where you see the enemy in front of you. Encounters are never mixed groupings and just some number of a certain enemy. There are your staple enemies such as zombies and skeletons but the vast majority are fairly original in name and design and they even have animated attacks. I especially liked the little shoulder shrug and slobber the zombie enemies performed when attacking. I also found a few pretty amusing like when encountering a group of “Bat man”.

Some enemies are of questionable design

As for control the game plays just fine. The only small annoyance has to do with the pause button being on the console itself but that’s a flaw of the console and not the game. King Lassic makes a pretty good arch enemy and as the game goes by you hear from NPC’s in towns how hes basically turning the world to s%*t with silly oppressive policies. Of course hes just a stooge for the main villain of all the PS games. Dark Force.

Other then finding where to go next to be a little confusing at times I had a lot of fun playing through PS. So much so I may give the PS2 remake a try just for fun. If your into RPG’s you really owe it to yourself to play this classic.

The Grade

Game WorldB+

Controls C+

Game play – C+

PlotC+

Graphics/Sound – B+

Protagonist (Main Character)B-

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – C

Weapons/armor/items/magicC

EnemiesB

Stability –Grade: N/A

Overall B-

RPG 153 Beaten: Contact

Year: 2006
Platform: Nintendo DS

Contact is a quirky little action RGP for the DS that seems to get pretty overlooked. Contact is an action RPG where you play as a boy who ends up going along with an older professor (a la back to the future) in order to regain the professors stolen “cells”. Contact plays as an overworld action RPG where you gain xp in skills via using them. for instance if you get hit you gain HP, if you use a sword you gain skill in using sword type weapons.

Contact has several gimmicks, first being a sort of job system though very cut down compared to say FF V’s job system. You find several outfits such as cook or thief and these outfits give you unique abilities and skill buffs. The second gimmick is “decals” that you have to use the stylus to place on certain items or enemies to progress the story or cause an effect. In all honesty I never used these unless the story required it. The final gimmick is a sort of breaking of the fourth wall where the main protagonist and the professor are aware or become aware that an outside force (you, the player) are controlling things. At several points in the game the professor directly addresses you.

Despite its charm I found myself not really enjoying Contact. I really cant quite place my finger on why though. The overall art style just didn’t quite jive with me and the games sense of humor was just sorta “off” if that makes sense. I felt the whole thing was just kind of stupid with bad humor. Its not to say I hate humor in games as i’m currently 60 hours into Disgaea and I love that game. Thankfully the game isn’t all that long or hard. It is extremely linear as well. Id say the Egyptian island maybe gave me the most trouble as its slightly puzzle requiring finding all four elemental cloths.

The Grade

Game WorldD+

Controls C

Game play – C

PlotC-

Graphics/Sound – C

Protagonist (Main Character)C+

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – C-

Weapons/armor/items/magicC+

EnemiesC

Stability –Grade: N/A

OverallC

The game comes out with a decidedly middling score Though in honestly Id rather play many of the games that fall below it.

RPG 152 Beaten: Orcs & Elves

Year: 2007
Platform: Nintendo DS

Ok, well this is the first post of my new format for this blog so will see how it goes, I do have some catching up to do since I beat quite a few RPG’s in my hiatus from writing here.

Orcs & Elves for the Nintendo DS is a surprisingly fun first person turn based dungeon crawler for the DS and is a great pick up and play game. Originally a mobile phone port the game isn’t very deep or long but it really doesn’t have to be. The basic premise is that you are a wizard progressing through a underground dwarves fortress that has been overtaken and wiped out by an evil force. As always the dwarves delved to deep.

The game play is first person action turn based. as in enemies do not move or take actions until you do. The difficulty though is turned down from dungeon crawlers of an older age. As far as weapon, magic and game world your pretty much confined to the dungeon with your only area to buy weapons/armor being a sole dragon you meet that will sell you a limited amount of upgrades. You unlock more magic as the game progresses but I didn’t find myself using the magic much.

The game in my opinion was very fun. Its very short and took me maybe 4 or 5 hours to breeze though but I found it very enjoyable. The levels have a varied look and there are some nice details like insect covered walls and partially flooded levels. There is even some variation such as a section when a rat man steals and item from you and you have to chase him through a section of the dungeon. None of the puzzles are very taxing and it really is a good pick up and play dungeon crawler.

Visuals are what you would expect for the 2d DS game and weren’t bad at all and enemies were limited but varied. They are mostly your typical assortment of rat men, orcs and ooze men but they all look pretty well done. I really liked this game. Sometimes it’s nice to play a simple game after wading through a few overly complex or long RPGs. I suppose this could also be a weakness though since the game was probably a little to easy and/or short in length. The plot and character development are also razor thin and the game world and item/weapon selection is rather limited but that’s excusable to a degree for a portable dungeon crawler.I would of liked to see it be a few hours longer but I really can’t complain.

The Grade

Game WorldC-

Controls B

Game play – B

PlotC

Graphics/Sound – C-

Protagonist (Main Character)D

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – D

Weapons/armor/items/magicD+

EnemiesC-

Stability –Grade: N/A

OverallC

 

Update 7/24/17

What to do with this page. Its been months since I posted an update and to be honest Ive really considered just ending this project. For one it just hasn’t been that fun for me to write. second, In my last year writing this page no one commented or really seemed to follow it anyways so I don’t feel anyone would miss its passing. thirdly I have several other projects like a tech blog and Youtube channel that eat up most of my free time. Lately between the CRPG addict and the console RPG gamer they really seem to have this whole RPG game blogging thing covered.

That said a part of me really wants to keep doing this and sharing my adventures, even if no one is reading. I considered just converting the blog into a Youtube channel but that would likely be even more work.

In the end I think what I’m just going to do is scale the blog back. shorter articles and instead of focusing on everything I did in the game or the technical “review” aspects i’m just going to write my personal feelings on the game, bias and all. If it only takes one post that’s fine, if more even better. I’m going to do away with the grading I did at the end for the most part. This was actually my least favorite part to write. I’ll still have the categories and i’ll still grade them but its going to be a lot more of a “fast and loose” area. Also the final grade will be purely my opinion and not a result of adding up the categories and translating that into a grade. That way I won’t have a situation again like Fable III which got a decent score as it was a technically competent game but I hated it and wanted to give it a lower grade based on my personnel feelings.

Maybe this to will lose my intrests and the blog will ultimatly die but i’m going to give it one more go.

 

RPG 151 Beaten: Cthulhu Saves the World

Cthulhu Saves the World 5_11_2016 6_45_18 PM

Cthulhu saves the world is another game from the same company that brought us the poorly scored “Breath of Death VII” and is also available only in digital download form. Thankfully despite my initial fears this game would be even worse I was rather pleasantly surprised and Cthulhu Saves the World is a better game in many respects.

The theme of the game revolves around the reawakening of Cthulhu who for those not in the know is a character from the literary works of H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu is basically a god type being that is a massive force of destruction and leave insanity in his wake. Insanity, the insignificance of mankind and the “hidden horrors” of the universe is a reoccurring theme in Lovecraft’s works. The main premise of CSTW is that you play as reawakened Cthulhu who has suddenly lost his powers and must become a great hero to recover them. Yea, straight off you can tell this is another comical game not to be taken seriously.

Initially I thought this would be an issue as I generally prefer serious tones to my RPG’s rather then flat out parodies and comical adventures. Thankfully I found myself enjoying this game far more then Breath of Death though some of that may of had to do with my love and familiarity of the Lovecraft mythos.

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Visually this game is very much like its predecessor BOD: VII though the overworld and general feel is a lot more “generic original” if that makes any sense. It just feels a lot less like a Dragon Warrior clone/rip off and more of its own thing while still using a fairly generic SNES era graphical look. It also plays very much like your traditional Japanese 16-bit era RPG complete with overworld, turn based battles and even a dragon later on that acts as an airship.

As I mentioned previously and like BOD VII this games does not take itself very seriously and it full of humor though I never found this very grating like I usually would with these kind of games.

The game does play very much like an improved BOD. You can still save anywhere and every area still has a set number of random battles that once reatched you don’t have to contend with them anymore. Leveling up is also very much the same way with getting a choice of two powers or stat bumps to choose from upon attaining a new level.

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So lets talk about what’s new with CSTW. First off the visuals seems a little more polished and refined as well as dungeons being a little more complex. There’s just a lot more overall polish then the developers earlier game. One example is tombstones and bookshelves. Its a very minor detail but every tombstone in CSTW has its own message on it while on BOD many tombstones reused the same messages. Bookshelves as well have different books on them all.  There is also a new ability that Cthulhu can do that causes insanity in enemies. To be honest I didn’t really use it and I’m not completely sure what it did but I really liked how it caused the enemy sprites to change when they became insane.

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There are also a number of small side quests or side dungeons in most areas where you can battle an optional boss and win a powerful weapon for various party members.

Cthulhu Saves the World 5_16_2016 3_21_09 PMA foggy forest dungeon

Speaking of party members CSTW allows you to chose four active members from a roster of characters you pick up as the quest advances. I thought this was a pretty nice feature overall and helped expand the main cast outside of just the four characters one would have in the party. The main character of course is Cthulhu but you also end up recruiting a fan girl mage a sentient sword and alien cat and even a dragon eventually.

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combat is traditional turn based and fought from the first person perspective with options such as fight, item and magic. The difficulty is pretty fair throughout especially since you have the ability to save anywhere though I did find some enemies near the end of the game annoyingly difficult.

Like BOD before it I was able to beat this game in just a few sittings and it clocked in at maybe 5 to seven hours, perhaps less. I have to say though that I actually enjoyed myself through the bulk of the game. The game is full of Lovecraft references that someone like myself could appreciate and I found myself looking forward to seeing what would be referenced next even though it was all done in a tongue and cheek manor. Sure, I personally would of preferred a serious game but my preference doesn’t make this a bad game at all.

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The game is very linier as you travel to once Lovecraft reference to the next eventually “ending with a sort of fake out ending where Cthulhu finally becomes a true hero, gets his powers back and promptly conquers the planet driving everyone insane.

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This though As I mentioned is a fake out, and alternate ending if you will, with the true course of the game being that Cthulhu decides to remain a hero and the party ventures on to the newly risen from the sea city of R’lyeh. The game ends with a final battle against Azathoth, and elder god that disagrees with Cthulhus recent change of heart.

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After this last boss fight the game is won and Cthulhu goes into space with his alien cat pal. the end.

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So do I think this is a great must play game?…..no, but it is a significant step up after Breath of Death VII. The game is much more polished and enjoyable but it still just comes off as to generic and low budget even with its great Cthulhu theme. I’ll admit I may be biased since I do greatly prefer more serious games to overtly silly ones.

Help: 0

Year: 2010

Platform: Windows (Steam)

Length: (1/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – The game world of CSTW is developed only so far as it’s a parody of the works of H. P. Lovecraft. If your not into or do not know of Lovecraft’s works it just comes off as rather generic. Some of the areas are interesting such as the town overtaken by undead. Other then that it doesn’t do anything terribly interesting as far as world building. I really want to give it a higher grade because I DO like the Lovecraft themes but honestly it just doesn’t deserve it. Grade: C-

Controls – Full controller support that works. Not sure what else to say about it. The game doesn’t really do anything to test the limits of game control. Grade: C

Game play – The length of this game is short compared to many non-indie RPG’s of the 16 bit era it try’s to emulate but I think they did a much better job here then in Breath of Death and the side quest, although short and limited helped pad the game out a little. Other then the improved play time most of what I said about BOD applies here. “The battle system is traditional and turn based but this also where CSTW introduces some really interesting concepts such as the health restore and partial MP restore after every battle. Most of all the ability to get a A or B choice when you level adds a great deal to this style of RPG. Its small when compared to the leveling in other more complex RPG’s but in a traditional JRPG it really adds a lot. The difficulty curve takes a pretty steep climb in a few parts of the game but its completely mitigated by the save anywhere system.”  Grade: C+

Plot – The plot of the game is ridicules but then, its meant to be that way. As much as I initially hated the plot that basically boils down to “do heroic deeds at Cthulhu in order for him to regain his powers” the game kind of grew on me and the humor was actually pretty good and not grating. Grade: C

Graphics/Sound – The graphic and sounds thankfully feel a little more original then Breath of Deaths Dragon Warrior inspired visuals. The enemy sprites are pretty well done overall and there’s a few interesting 16-bit Interpretations of Lovecraftian creatures. There were also a number of competently done cut screens that help elevate the visual storytelling above BOD. Music was okay with no tune standing out but nothing being overtly horrible. It was also nice that every monster had a separate “insane” sprite. Grade: C

Protagonist (Main Character) – The star of the game is of course Cthulhu who of course is absolutely nothing like he is in the stories. Despite this I found him to be fun to play as well as the other characters that join your party. I wouldn’t call the cast of characters ground braking and there’s really nothing in the way of character development with the small exception of Cthulhu but they are a interesting group. characters vary from Umi the Cthulhu fan girl to Sharpe the sentient sword and Paws the alien cat. There’s even a few relatively normal characters thrown in like the old man healer and the girl wizard. Grade: C

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – The main villains in the game aren’t really built up to and are just kind of there. On the other hand like many references in this game if your familiar with the Lovecaft mythos you will know a little of the backstory to a number of the main boss enemies. That said I guess reading a novel shouldn’t be required to build a backstory to your villain characters. Grade: D+

Weapons/armor/items/magic – Weapons are and armor are pretty generic with each character being able to use one type of weapon/armor. Generally newer more powerful weapons can be found in the next town though side dungeons do give access to a few powerful weapons that may not be available in town shops. Grade: D+

Enemies – Enemies range from the ridicules such as actual space invaders in the alien ship dungeon to more serious monsters such as zombies and a few Lovecraftian horrors pulled from the stories. There are a few palette swapped enemies but nothing overused. Grade: C+

Stability –Grade: N/A

Overall – Overall Cthulhu Saves the World is worth a few hours it takes to beat it. This goes double if your familiar with the writings of H. P. Lovecraft just so long as you taking nothing in it seriously as it takes wild comical liberties with the source material. It is certainly an upgrade from Breath of Death both gameplay wise and technically though I wouldn’t say its a huge leap it does make a difference in enjoyment. I honestly thought I would hate slogging through this game but in the end I have to say I kind of enjoyed it. Grade: C

RPG 150 Beaten: Breath of Death VII

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Breath of Death VII is a game that actually made me do some questioning on what I consider an “official” RPG. what I mean by that is must I be compelled by every RPG that ever Tom, Dick and Harry decide to make in an RPG maker program? What about Indie games like this one, should I count that? What about if the game has no physical release at all and what is the difference between a homebrew and an indie dev? I faced this issue a little bit with Avernum but thankfully it did have a sort of semi-official physical release and several of the games can be found on retail shareware and compellation discs. In the end I decided that if I limited myself to games that only had physical releases I’d be excluding myself from a lot of recent games that by all accounts are excellent and fun to play. That said I’m counting games that have no physical release but are sold through official channels such as steam as legitimate to my cause. I’ll always favor physical release games which tend to be a deeper experiences since it costs money to get a game and materials made up physically I will dabble in the steam RPG’s if I hear there worth it.

BoDVIIPC 1_26_2016 8_43_38 PMIt’s obvious right away this is a Dragon Warrior clone

That brings us to this posts game, Breath of Death VII, the beginning (there is no BOD I-VI). Breath of Death or BOD is very obviously a Dragon Warrior clone right from the start. The actual over world sprites may actually be lifted from the SNES versions of the game but I’m not sure. In all honesty the only real tip off that’s its not an SNES game is some of the music sounds a little to good to come from that console. I guess the best way to describe breath of Death VII is a RPG parody game. direct refrences to other games, even outside the RPG genre are everywhere.

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The game is also very self aware and constantly pokes fun at standard RPG game clichés and tropes. The game plays pretty much like any JP RPG of the 8 and 16 bit era. you start in a town with easy monster around it. Grind to get gold and money. Buy the best weapons and armor as you level up and then proceed through a dungeon before going to the next town ect… ect… BODVII does manage to mix things up with some pretty cool idea though.

The initial story was something that really got my attention. After a massive war were all sorts of experimental weapons were used the modern world is completely destroyed. In the wars wake a new civilization of the undead and monsters arise. You take control initially of a skeleton warrior from this future post apocalyptic world.

First off you can save anywhere almost like save states in an emulator which at first bothered me and gave me the feeling that the game was to easy but this actually balances things out later when the game can become pretty difficult and the dungeons more maze like. Another thing that bothered me at first is after a battle all your characters have their HP fully restored and a small amount of MP restored. again I felt at the start this would make things far to easy but as the game progressed it actually just made it manageable.

For being a simple parody game the features and ideas presented really gave the game a unique feel. Another feature I like is the ability to instantly enter a random battle via an option. Every area also has asset number of random battles that occur. Once you hit that number you don’t have to worry about any random battles in that particular area again.

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Battles play out much like any RPG from the golden era and are turn based. other then fight and potion you also get the option of “techs” and magic which from what I saw were basically the same thing. Unite was a special option that could be used in conjunction with other team members for a special attack.

On feature I really liked was a simple choice presented after every level where you can pick one of two option to level advance. Usually this is selecting between more HP and MP points or a raise in states but also between magic and techs. Do you go with the stronger spell that hits a single enemy or a weaker one that hit a group?

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As the game progresses it did get pretty challenging and that save anywhere feature really came in handy. I always got the feeling that enemy monsters targeted my weakest characters and would relentlessly pound on them.

Usually with my entries I write about my journey through the game as I play it but this game was just to short to bother and I completed it in a matter of a few short hours over a period of a few days. As I said earlier the game is pretty basic. You start in an area with a town and basically grind for gold and levels until you feel your strong enough to get to the next area that also has a town and a dungeon or two and pick up party members along the way. The party members you end up acquiring are a ghost mage a vampire technophile and a zombie prince with a bad fake German accent who acts as the parties “tank” character.

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I kind of wish the post apocalyptic angle was used to better effect but the game is obviously not meant to be taken seriously so I guess it cant be faulted to much. After the initial starter dungeon your just kind of roped into going along as a sort of body guard for a ghost mage/archeologist. By the second area your learning about these power cell type things scattered around and finding these become the goal of the game.

After this its simply on to the next city were I had to deal with a corrupt king and save my forth party member Erik from the dungeon. The last area of the game is a desert laboratory where I had to defeat an end boss that was your typical large sized semi amorphous undead/demon thing that kind of reminded me of the end boss of the phantasy star games.

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After this you discover the power cells are for a time machine and you send the last true human back to prevent the war and in turn completely wipe the game you just played through out of the time line.

BoDVIIPC 3_26_2016 12_40_18 AMWell, I guess that’s beats a  “Congatulations!”

Help: 0

Year: 2010

Platform: Windows (Steam)

Length: (1/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – This is a hard one since the game obviously isn’t meant to be a long game and thus doesn’t have much time to establish its game world. The plot of the game being set in a post apocalyptic world where you play as the undead is actually somewhat fresh and a neat idea unfortunately the game is just to short to take advantage of this. I really have to look at this game from the perspective of a 90’s NES/SNES JRPG but even for that era the game is a little to generic as far as overworld. I think this was intentional of course but it still feels like a lost opportunity. I love post apocalypse worlds but I just cant help feeling its to underdeveloped. All the history we get of this game world is pretty much presented in the 10 second intro. To be honest I’d rather a well developed generic fantasy world then such a simple sci-fi inspired one. The economy and cities are pretty alike and bog standard for the genre and the only politics to speak is the corrupt king scenario. It probably doesn’t help I’m not a huge fan of parody games. Grade: C-

Controls – Controls are fine but again were talking about a very simple game so its not to impressive that they got a turn based game that feels at home on a controller with 2 buttons and a D-pad right. thankfully the game does fully support controllers Grade: C

Game play – Obviously the biggest game play I had with the game is the length. In retrospect its probably not much shorter then the original dragon warrior game but I have to take into account that this is a modern game and not limited by the technology. I understand its an indie team and a budget title but if your going to make an RPG in this day and age I feel it still needs some length even if its a discount budget title. The battle system is traditional and turn based but this also where BOD introduces some really interesting concepts such as the health restore and partial MP restore after every battle. Most of all the ability to get a A or B choice when you level adds a great deal to this style of RPG. Its small when compared to the leveling in other more complex RPG’s but in a traditional JRPG it really adds a lot. The difficulty curve takes a pretty steep climb in a few parts of the game but its completely mitigated by the save anywhere system. Grade: C+

Plot – the main goal of the story starting out is simply to escort a part member as you explore ancient locations from before the great war. This eventually leads to finding a robot that is trying to locate power cells and that there may be more scattered at other ancient sites and that’s about it. Again I think this is fine for a game this simple but also the simplicity of the game limits the story to a level that’s detrimental. Just because its what the developers were going for doesn’t mean its good, deep or engaging. Grade: C-

Graphics/Sound – the sound overall in this game isn’t bad and in general it fits. The visuals on the other hand just feel directly lifted from an SNES Dragon Warrior. The one bright side are some of the unique enemy designs and even the more generic enemies are well done which probably saves this game from a D grade. Grade: C-

Protagonist (Main Character) – The main characters though lacking much development are actually pretty unique not least because they are all undead. All four members do have a personality and I especially liked the somewhat sarcastic nature of the main character Dem who is your standard skeletal warrior. Sara the ghost plays the good natured healer, Lita the techy vampire girl and finally Erik plays the brute character who is also a womanizer and has a bad German accent. There is even some nice back and forth between characters as the game goes on and its fun playing a group of monsters for once. Grade: C+

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) –  Not much to say here as the final villain isn’t even built up to or mentioned until the very end of the game. he’s a generic “ultimate evil” that appears to prevent the current time line from being erased. The towns people as well are completely generic and for the most part look the same between tows. characters like inn keepers say the same things in every town. Grade: D

Weapons/armor/items/magic –  Again, its just about as generic as it gets with each town usually having one grade up of the equipment from the last town. Items are mostly limited to heal potions and each party member gets a weapon slot and armor slot. for instance Erik uses axes and suits as armor and that’s it. not much depth at all or customization. Magic is probably the most interesting aspect here but even then its not to impressive. I still don’t understand the separation of magic and “tech” as they function pretty much the same way. Grade: D+

Enemies – Enemies come in a variety of forms but many of them were unique spins and well drawn, especially undead variations that had bones exposed or torn flesh. there weren’t to many palette swapped enemies and the developers did seem to have some fun with a few monsters such as demon cars; There were not many boss monsters in the games but the ones there were had well done sprites and ranged from the grim reaper to robots. Grade: C

Stability –Grade: N/A

Overall – You pretty much get what you pay for with BOD VII which is to say a short experience. I cant help thinking the game could of really been made more enjoyable if it was just lengthened a little, after all RPG’s aren’t meant to quick experiences like shmups. now some games do manage to fit a lot of fun into a shorter span but BOD unfortunately does not, at least for me. Its certainly not a bad game and it has a few really good ideas but it wasn’t a memorable experience and maybe it took its parodying a little to literal in the end. Grade: C-

RPG 149 Beaten: Avernum 3

av3xx-3Assisting against the golems

Well, when last we left off I was closing in on the last areas of the game and combatting a horde of Golems. I can say this. getting through the “factory” where the golems are made was probably one of the most annoying areas of the game. it involved mostly running around a large maze like golem infested factory with minimum resources searching for keys and avoiding laser beams that constantly turn on and off. Not particularly a fun time.

av3xx-4Viewing a provincial map

The Golems turned out to be the second to last “monster plague” for me. The last section of the game involved sneaking into Black Crag fortress and meeting with the Emperess to broken a peace between the Empire and Avernum as well as getting access to the final walled off area that was suffering from the final plague of “alien beasts”. Six legged dog things that arnt has powerful as their made out to be.

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Before entering this area two things took place. One is the villains responsible for all this chaos is revealed to be the vengeful Vahnatai who never forgave the Empire for the capturing an torture of the crystal souls in Avernum 2. This of course causes friction with Avernum whom needs the surface world intact and seeks peaceful coexistence with the Empire. The second event that took place is the seizure of the tower of Magi by a powerful demon lord which requires you to head back to Avernum proper and stop the demon before he can enter Avernum via a portal on the towers roof.

After this situation was taken care of it was back to Footracer province to deal with the “alien beasts” and then on to the Vahnatai. I did at this point neglect to do a few things which made the game harder for me. First off I neglected to visit the dragons until after I took care of the “alien beast” threat which is a shame because they furnish you with a beast killer sword. second there is a secret headquarters that can be found in Avernum that will create a magical weapon for use against the “true threat” once you discover who it is. I held off on this though thinking maybe it really wasn’t the Vahnatai behind events (it is). There is one section when your making your way through valleys and fortresses to the Vahnatai lands and you face a battle with a group of revered crystal souls. Well if you get the special item you can largely avoid this fight. I though did not have the item and was forced to kill the crystal souls resulting in a tough fight and a possible harder fight later.

a3nc2My unnecessary battle with the crystal souls

The good thing is if you need to heal you can always backtrack from the Vahnatai lands to the surface and heal. The bad part is the Vahnatai lands are crawling with constant patrols that lead to tons of battle. I had to end up using the flying artifact a few times to avoid battles. The final castle isn’t to difficult but it does require exploring the entirty of it and finding four (or was it five?) switches.

The final battle is against the head mage of the Vahnatai. luckily I did do one thing right and accepted the pendent from the mage Erika earlier in the game. After liberally spamming monster summon spells and making my way to the head mage the pendent reacted and summon Erika who did battle with the Vahnatai . it was relatively easy at this point though things end with Erika being killed.

a3nc5The final battle

After the victory there’s a little cutscreen show that depicts the onset of peace with the Empire and the Empress herself making you official dervishes of the Empire and that’s about it.

Help: 0

Year: 2002

Platform: Windows XP

Length: (2/3)

Difficulty: (2/3)

The Grade

Game World – The game world in Avernum 3 is outstanding. The game is finally brought to the surface and it does not disappoint. The least habituated continent of the Empire feels very organic and realized. the southern half is backwater and underdeveloped with the bigger cities being in the earlier settled north. Just like Avernum 1 & 2 there are many MANY things to discover in the wilds of the surface world. It all just feels like a very fleshed out area. cities each have there own politics and tolerances for Avernites, religious cults wonder the land and cities all are coping with the various monster plagues in various ways. There is even a sort of drug trade going on as people are taking these special herbs to escape the harsh reality of the plagues as what’s left of the imperial forces on the continent work to prevent its use and further weaken the defenses. It doesn’t even end with that as your also given a portion of the Vahnatai lands and Avernum to explore. Avernum 3 is another example of excellent and believable fantasy world building in the Avernum series. Grade: A

Controls – The controls are about on par with Avernum 2. They get the job done for sure and far exceed the first entry into the series. Grade: B

Game play – Avernum 3 features a vast and somewhat varied world. like part 2 I feel this game is just about the right length. Despite being non liner and mostly allowing you to go where you want upon emerging to the surface its generally made clear where you should go (south to north). The maps were also a huge help in not getting lost on the surface world which proved a little bit harder to get lost in then the corridors of the underworld. The process of leveling and assigning skill points to various skills are about identical to the first two games as well with the exception that some have been renamed to suit the new surface world, example being cave lore changed to wilderness lore. Grade: A-

Plot – On one hand I felt the basic plot was a little less inspired then the war plot of Avernum 2 but at the same time the mystery element of who was behind the monster plagues on the surface kept me interested and wanting to move forward. Also seeing the fabled empire and learning why the Empress was seemingly abandoning the continent was also pressing me to play on. In the end I still feel the plot of the second game wins out if ever so slightly. Grade: B+

Graphics/Sound – The graphical style is again almost identical to the first two games and as the first two well inferior to most of what was out at the time. On the plus side cutscreen were added as well as ambient sounds that were dependent on your location which were a step up from the silence of the previous installments. Grade: C+

Protagonist (Main Character) – Characters are given the exact same options as in the second game. Grade: C+

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – The main villains work perfectly. The most fun is actually trying to figure out who they are as the game progresses as it could be a variety of suspects. Is it the dragons seeking revenge on the Empire for killing there kind or is is Erika the powerful mage who hates the Empire with a passion. In the end its actually your allies the Vahnatai who cannot forgive the Empire for past crimes against their revered crystal souls. I think making a former ally into the main villain was a nice move. All through the game I sort of suspected them but the dragons and even Erika felt like more likely suspects though in the end it makes perfect sense that the Vahnatai would be behind things with their mastery of magic and unrelenting need for revenge. Grade: A

Weapons/armor/items/magic – As far as weapons and armor go things are exactly as they were in the first two Avernum games. Unfortunately the surface world didn’t really equal a larger variety of armor or weapons. magic is exactly the same as in the first game which was an improvement of the first. Items seem to be slightly more varied and I really liked the inclusion of maps which were a must for navigating the openness of the surface. Grade: B

Enemies – Enemies are varied and interesting. Not only are we treated to a variety of enemies from the first game such as giants, Vahnatai, giant rats and those damn floating eye beats that always drain my magic but were also introduced to a new variety of surface creatures such as evil unicorns, troglodytes (which is ironic as traditionally these are underground creatures and bears both natural and mutated. I also liked the inclusion of a few more “boss” style monster encounters which were usually encountered when ending the various monster plagues in an area. That said I don’t think it really did enough to warrant a higher grade then the previous Avernum.  Grade: B+

Stability – Have exactly one crash the first time I started this game on the intro cutcreen cinema. Grade: A

Overall – I have mixed feeling about Avernum 3. On one hand it did take series to a new local and we finally got an opportunity to emerge from the caves of Avernum that we had already trodden through twice up onto the surface. We got to explore a piece of the Empire first hand and the green open world was a somewhat different feeling. On the other hand the new environment kind of felt a little generic compared with the unique underworld of Avernum itself. I think a game based on the surface was certainly needed in the series and the change of local was refreshing but at the same time it didn’t really do a whole lot new. Now its one thing to stick with what works and most of Avernum largely works well but it just started feeling the tiniest bit stale at this point. The game local is different but not necessarily better overall and I think this is reflected in the score. Avernum 3 comes within a single point of Avernum 2 but just doesn’t quite make it to the same level if only by the smallest amount.  Grade: B+