Blades of Avernum

Computer-based role-playing games (RPGs) have come a long way since the early days. Today the genre is filled with sophisticated 3D adventures and huge online multiplayer worlds that make reality seem shabby by comparison. But one company that has largely remained untouched by this evolution is Spiderweb Software, whose line of classic RPGs has seen only minor changes over the past decade. The company’s latest game, Blades of Avernum, features a storyline recycled from an earlier game and an updated graphics system that still manages to look old-fashioned.

Blades of Avernum is a collection of three RPGs co-opted from the company’s classic Blades of Exile game. But whereas the earlier game used a 2D tile-based graphics engine, Blades of Avernum features isometric 3D graphics – essentially a three-quarters view of the game play. This is certainly an improvement, but it will likely disappoint some RPG fans who have grown used to seeing full-blown polygonal 3D characters.

Still, there’s plenty to keep you busy. The game features a rich and detailed story line; complex, challenging game play; a detailed skill-building and inventory-control system; and intriguing nonplayer characters who offer missions and tasks that can really extend the game. You’ll need weeks to play through every possible journey in Blades of Avernum. And the game’s low system requirements make it a good companion for older laptops and home machines.

After you’ve played through the three scenarios that come with the game, you can use its included scenario editor to create your own levels. You can play scenarios that other users build, too.
If you’ve played the Baldur’s Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, or other recent RPGs, you’ll probably find Blades of Avernum’s interface quaint and anachronistic. Its graphics have a rather homespun appeal that will underwhelm eye-candy junkies looking for sophisticated effects. And although it runs natively in OS X, the game has many obsolete elements that make it look like a relic from earlier iterations of Mac OS.


If you’re an RPG fan who relishes substance over style, Blades of Avernum can keep you busy for weeks – if not months. But if you’ve already played Blades of Exile, there’s not a lot that’s new here.

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