Avencast: Rise of the Mage Review
|Release Date:||October 26th, 2007 (UK)|
It's generally a bad sign when a game is released with little or no hype whatsoever, and discreetly slips into shops, ready to fool unsuspecting gamers into parting with their money for it. Avencast certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to slipping under most people's radar, but pleasantly surprises with its decent gameplay and pretty aesthetics.
The initial impressions are mixed - following a decent opening movie, some suspect voice acting and uninspiring cut scenes do nothing to get you excited about playing, and it can seem like a bit of an effort. Persevering with Avencast is the key to unlocking its qualities, however. The opening section of the game serves as a tutorial for learning how to navigate the environments, how to fight and how to accept and solve quests. It's all very by the numbers, but is necessary as some of the control choices are tricky to get the hang of initially. Three different methods are on offer, so some trial and error with each mode may be required to find which suits your preferred playing style. The camera is one of the main issues, and the default isometric view does feel restrictive in some environments, not allowing you to look around.
Thankfully there's a decent map on the game's HUD, and as well as being an essential tool for working out where you are, it provides pointers detailing where to go for your next quest or item. Accepting quests and doing jobs for NPCs is the real meat of the game, and pushes the story along as you go. While some are pretty standard and uninteresting, others have some entertaining objectives and puzzles that will get your brain ticking. This is very much where Avencast shines - even though a lot of the game is by-the-numbers and nothing new, you become surprisingly engaged in the quests and puzzles, and the urge to explore and push the game forward creeps up on you unexpectedly.
Combat is a bit of a mixed bag. While it's satisfying to hack away at enemies with your staff and casting spells can be done with ease, the controls let it down somewhat and it feels as though a little extra care and attention in this area would have benefited the game a lot. The mouse-guided aim is nice and allows for a quick and responsive change in direction while attacking, but again the camera is an issue and being forced to stand still when using mana attacks is frustrating. The system becomes more intuitive as the game progresses and you use it more, but it's always less than ideal.
Aesthetically, Avencast is decent although nothing more than that. Environments and characters look nice and there are some nice graphical effects and touches, but the limited camera means that there's only so much you can see at once, and what there is in that restricted view isn't anything special. The voice acting ranges from poor to average, and so the option of skipping the speech and just reading your objectives and the storyline is preferable here. Music and sound effects do go some way to adding atmosphere, and are one of the better aspects of the game.
There isn't a great deal more that can be said about Avencast - it's a standard RPG with nothing to write home about. If you're willing to look past that though, you'll find a game that's surprisingly involving and will provide a decent, if not spectacular, few hours of exploration and quest solving.
- Involving (if you put the time in)
- Challenging in later areas
Not so good stuff
- Mostly average
- Poor controls