Early in the story of Spiderweb Software’s Avadon 2: The Corruption I found myself engaged in conversation with a Hand of Avadon, basically an agent of the titular fortress, tasked with hunting down any and all who oppose the Pact, an alliance of five nations making up one of the major political powers in the game.  Dialog trees are nothing new, especially in RPGs, but this one was different.  I found myself trying to be a bit canny, as I had been speaking freely to other characters I’d met about the “tyranny” of Avadon, and it’s leader, Redbeard, and had been met with everything from halting agreement to chilly silence.  This character, however, seemed like the type who may not appreciate my cavalier attitude, even though he himself questioned his orders.  I felt it necessary to be more cautious, especially as this character was to be my traveling companion as I petitioned Avadon for aid after a rebel attack.  I caught myself thinking hard about this choice, and I realized that THAT is the hallmark of good writing.  I’d already found myself caring about characters in this world, and I was barely an hour into the game.  This writing is what makes Avadon 2 a title that should be required for all fans of the genre.

As a turn-based, story-driven RPG, Avadon 2 breaks no new ground from a gameplay standpoint.  It features serviceable (if not spectacular) visuals, and a minimalist set of sound effects and music (although the opening overture is fantastic).  This game is not going to entice those who prefer a more graphically intense experience with AAA voice acting, nor is it meant to.  Avadon 2 is a callback to “old-school” RPGs where story and reigns supreme.

What I’ve always liked about Jeff Vogel’s games is that he tries so hard to create  living, breathing worlds, and does it successfully.  Nothing feels out of place in Avadon 2, and great care is taken to make it feel like this world exists beyond the events of the story, and, to an extent after the power to your PC is switched off.  Events are much bigger than you or your party of characters, although you most definitely have a significant role to play in shaping those events.  Also, I’m a sucker for political intrigue and having choices regarding how my character will interact with (by influencing or perhaps eliminating) the various powers at play in this world.  I really don’t want to go into any amount of detail as it will spoil things, but suffice to say Avadon 2 asks you to think about the nature of freedom vs. safety in a nuanced way that rings true, especially in the wake of current events.

Gameplay wise, Avadon 2 is fairly straightforward.  A simple point and click interface is all you need to explore, talk, and fight.  In battle, the interface incorporates a grid system which calculates movement rates and ranges.  It’s a seamless transition to this battle mode, and it’s just the matter of a click to end this mode to return to normal exploration.  All the information you need for battle is right at your fingertips in the form of health and mana bars, and quick slots for inventory management.  Again, there’s nothing revolutionary here, but it’s all well executed.  That being said, I wish the looting system post-battle was a bit more intuitive.  In order to loot, you need to click the enemy directly, which is fine.  However, sometimes items are left on the ground, and you need to enter the inventory screen to see what’s there.  A more MMO-like loot pickup would be welcome.  The same goes for trading items between characters in your party.  While it’s fairly easy to do, it just seems like the interface could be a bit friendlier.  Minor complaints, certainly, but something I’d like to see addressed in the future.

I also have an issue with  basic questing mechanics.  They’re unlocked and recorded in standard manner (with a handy journal feature), but I’d really appreciate a quest marker to let me know where I needed to go.  I get the fact that exploration is part of the fun of an RPG, but sometimes I don’t want to search the area in order to find out where I’m supposed to be.  There may be a map element or icon I’m missing, but if that’s the case there should be a better method of conveying that information to the player during a session.  I’m especially bad at remembering maps, so if I have to leave the game for an extended period, just telling me the name of my contact, or the location of the MacGuffin I need isn’t really enough.  It may be lazy gaming, but I’ll still feel free to explore even if there’s a giant arrow on the map pointing the way to my objective.

Despite these blemishes, Avadon 2: The Corruption is a great value at $9.99 on Steam.  It’s quick to pick up and play, lends itself nicely to either short sessions or extended gaming marathons (it’s VERY easy to get caught up in the story and lose track of time!), and has ridiculous amounts of things to do.  It’s epic in scope, and and absolute must have.  Like you need to ask… highest recommendation.