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Avadon 2: The Corruption (Mac) artwork

Avadon 2: The Corruption (Mac) review

"While not perfect, a definite step above the first game in this series."

It would be uncharitable to state that Avadon 2: The Corruption can be summed up as "second verse, same as the first." Though the sequel is very similar to the first Avadon game, Spiderweb Software was able to expand upon what it did with that prior outing to create something that is, in essence, a superior version of it. I spent longer playing through this game than I did clearing the original, encountered some neat gimmicks and endured notably higher difficulty. Those factors ensured the experience was more satisfying.

That's not to say there are no flaws. The first of those flaws might rear its head the instant you start playing. Avadon is a three-game series created by Spiderweb Software and, much like Mass Effect, this trilogy sets out to tell one big story. The tale concerns the efforts of Avadon, an authoritarian governmental center designed to rule over a number of lands that often have trouble getting along, as it works to fend off troubles caused by surrounding lands that were not invited to be members of the Pact. As you play through the first game, cracks in Avadon's control become more noticeable, and you wind up having to make some big decisions, including one answering the question of whether you believe the leadership of the increasingly stressed and exhausted Redbeard is a good thing.

This isn't Mass Effect, though. It's a role-playing game created by a talented independent designer who doesn't possess all the resources that a company like BioWare has at its disposal. No matter what decisions you made in the first game, the second begins with Avadon still in control, albeit from a weakened position. Redbeard is still in charge, even though his mental state seems to have declined further due to a trusted advisor turning traitor and joining the movement against Avadon (which no longer is quite so secretive). Oh, and you'll neither hear nor see much of anything about the hero and his allies from the first game, or their current whereabouts.

Instead, you'll control a new character who initially is not an official member of Avadon, but a soldier in one of its Pact lands currently threatened by rebels. While you are out with a scout exploring the lands in the vicinity of the local fort, trouble starts brewing and the two of you wind up being forced to flee powerful forces. The scout gets captured, but you make it back to the fort and, after doing a couple more quests, are sent to Avadon to report on what just happened. This chain of events leads to you being conscripted into Avadon's forces as one of their Hands.

While I may not have been fond of Spiderweb essentially taking an eraser to potential choices made in the first game and effectively saying, "No, now this is what REALLY happened.", I have to admit I was immediately sucked into The Corruption. Instead of controlling a random guy who showed up at the gates of Avadon looking for work, I began in the thick of the action, so the tutorial stage of the game felt fraught with tension instead of being a mere formality I had to endure to get to the real game.

After my character got his new post at Avadon, things more closely resembled activities and events in the first game. Redbeard and his new right-hand man, Protus, repeatedly send you to solve problems in three different regions: the Contested Lands where you started the game, the Tawon Empire and the titular Corruption. By talking to people in either the fortress or those three regions, you get a slew of side-quests ranging from simple fetch quests to battles against powerful foes. Much like in the first game, things will progress in a linear fashion, with you undergoing a mission in one land, returning to Avadon and getting your new marching orders. When you leave, you'll still be able to pick two companions to join you in battle. And, once again, as you progress, the same questions arise concerning Avadon's place in the world and Redbeard's status as its boss. Such dilemmas give you the option to be a loyal soldier, or perhaps a turncoat willing to help any and every force opposed to Avadon.

Combat plays out much the same as it did before. As you progress through regions, you find monsters and enter strategic turn-based confrontations where you can use basic attacks, items or any of a number of skills. You have to be careful with those skills, as each of them has a fairly lengthy cool-down period. Skills also get more powerful as you progress through the game, as when you level up, you get points to power them up or learn new ones. Since you'll not get enough points to fill up anyone's skill tree, choices will have to be made to either get a large array of special attacks or power up a handful of them to their maximum level. Of course, enemies have their own skills and are particularly fond of buffing themselves and inflicting status ailments on you. Overall, if you played the first game, it won't take any time to get into this one, as the fundamentals are so similar.

But things don't play out exactly the same as they did the first time around. Spiderweb implemented a few measures to make this game a more rewarding experience. First, The Corruption is a pretty challenging game, even on the Normal setting. In the first game, the only things I found to be truly tough were a few optional battles and a fight or two that was meant to be avoided. Here, there are tough confrontations scattered all over each land. Some, like the cluster of bandits in an isolated Contested Lands' ruin, can be made a lot easier by simply waiting a while to assault them. Others will rear their heads much later in the game, making that tactic useless. And, often, you won't know when a brutally tough battle is around the corner. Fairly late in the game, you might get a side-quest to clear out bandits and cultists from a pair of towers in the Tawon Empire. Most of the fights there are easily manageable if you're careful, but on the top floor of one tower, there is a wizard whom (if you choose to fight) will immediately summon two fast-moving demons that prove far more formidable than any of his cohorts. Frequent saving is definitely your friend.

There also is a more interesting variety in locations in The Corruption. While the Contested Lands won't offer anything you didn't see in the first game, the other two main regions are different. The Tawon Empire is loaded with crumbling temples inhabited by fallen gods desperate to regain their former glory, in essence mirroring the empire's hopes of regaining its pre-Avadon prominence. Meanwhile, the titular Corruption is only the worst place on the planet. It is a realm of pure chaos, where the efforts of man to build forts or other structures is doomed to failure because the beasts and environment will quickly wear down any attempts at civilization. What is this place, how was it created and, more importantly, why is the traitor from the first game so determined to seek out sources of power located there?

Innovation bleeds into several of the game's major battles. While chasing the traitor, you'll at one point find your party held captive by a wind demon. Deciding that both your party and the traitor are annoying nuisances, the demon charges his wind powers and sends the two groups careening through a series of corridors and rooms, fighting each other--as well as its minions and turrets--just for the demon's amusement. Later, you'll be stalked by a dragon through its lair, which forces you to avoid open corridors and stick to monster-infested side paths. Oh, and for this area, you'll be alone. Your teammates are not permitted to meet the great beast, meaning caution is even more important than usual. It's painfully easy to bite off more than you can chew.

And that's not getting into the minor improvements. The four classes from the first game (Blademaster, Shadowmage, Shaman, Sorceress) return, and they are joined by the Tinkermage. A warrior who chooses the new class will be a combatant capable of dropping turrets that can assault enemies, or can heal or buff party members. When taking part in battles where you have three characters going against at least a half-dozen enemies, having one turret blasting those foes with jets of fire on a turn-by-turn basis, while another heals your team regularly can be a real game-changer. Also, as in the first game, certain characters will give your party access to multiple side-quests. This time, however, your quest menu will keep their entries open after you've cleared their initial quests, so you know to regularly visit them until you've exhausted their work.

The Corruption is a definite improvement upon the first Avadon. The newer game is more robust, more challenging, adds a new character class and takes you to some intriguing locales. When it comes to my experiences with Spiderweb's games, I still prefer the more open-world Avernum to the linear style of this series, but the gap between the two has closed significantly with this offering. At the least, I'm looking forward to playing the final game in the trilogy, just so I can see how Avadon's battles with its enemies turns out and see whether the old fortress is still standing by the time I'm done with it.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 12, 2017)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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