Rogue, the original grid-based dungeon crawler, inspired the Ultima series and a slew of other PC and console games. The age of the iPad has arrived and with it, this sentimentally respected game genre has also come to the iPad courtesy of Spiderweb Software's Avadon: The Black Fortress HD. Does it deliver the kind of rabid devotion that the game giants had before it, or does Avadon dish out a tired formula from a bygone PC gaming era? Read on to find out, adventurer!
Avadon: The Black Fortress HD, is the first game in what is expected to be a series of games, much like Spiderweb Software's desktop-based games like Avernum and Geneforge. Even so, the game is quite expansive, offering multiple endings and dozens of treasure-seeking hours of fun. Having been a fan of the turn-based RPG formula since the days of the first Wizardry, playing Avadon on the iPad transported me back in time to an era that required an active imagination and high-density pixels of the mind. While other games focus their attention on over-the-top graphics and sound, Avadon's somewhat sparse environmental embellishments are far surpassed by the bounty of items, armor, weapons, potions and other treasures that await to be discovered in the game's large play areas.
In addition to your main character (derived from one of four different character classes), you can eventually control two other characters joining your party. Combat is dished out in the usual turn-based hit-point system that has been honed to perfection. The tension and anticipation of battles won and lost during these encounters is what continues to make this game genre so addicting, and Avadon has interpreted this format for the iPad admirably. However, because the game's origins come from their well-received desktop version, the character movement and icon interface was optimized for the mouse. Since fingers are not nearly as precise as the tip of a mouse cursor, exact selection of movement locations and attack orientations can be initially frustrating. The isometric overhead angle adds to this constraint. It's easy to see how this game's interface offers much less friction on a desktop. Persistent players will learn how to overcome the tactile interface limitations, but patience and good touch aim are paramount traits for success.
Speaking of patience, Avadon is not conducive to a few minutes of play every now and then. The addictive qualities will confine you to the iPad for hours. If you have a cross-country flight or will be a passenger in a multi-state bus ride, Avadon will make an ideal travel companion to pass the time. And for those who reach an impasse in the game and need some higher-level assistance, Spiderweb Software offers a hint book for the game (replete with cheat codes for the less patience player) available for purchase from their online store.
While the story that motivates players to further explore the various maps is adequate, it is really the combination of elements that make Avadon such a memorable game. Although not quite on par with the greatness of the grandfather RPG titles that Avadon based its game mechanics on, it is nevertheless a top notch adventure experience on the iPad and one of the very few that offers the longevity and addictive "gotta play just a few more minutes, sleep be damned" concessions that anyone signing up for the quest will self-negotiate. Avadon's designers love for the turn-based RPG genre is obvious in this title and retro gamers and those who enjoy engrossing RPG's will be satisfied with the hours of fantasy exploration and turn-based encounters that Avadon provides.
Product: Avadon: The Black Fortress HD
Developer: Spiderweb Software
Rating: 4/5 stars