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Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) artwork

Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) review


"Yer a Diablo clone, Harry."


Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) image

Avencast: Rise of the Mage treads a lot of familiar ground. Its tale begins with an orphan being rescued by a magician, who then takes our soon-to-be hero to a magic school. There, the protagonist grows into the insolent sleeping student we see during the campaign's introduction. The only thing missing from this prologue is a pair of close companions, a wizened and kind-voiced headmaster and rumors of an evil sorcerer's return from the dead.

Despite what transpires during the opening sequence, the protagonist isn't a total slacker. He's bored with his studies because he's brilliant and ready to graduate, or so says his mentor. So he sends his pupil out to complete a few standard quests that include running through a crypt, fetch tasks and blasting his way through a cave of trials. These journeys play out like every PC role-playing experience we've seen since Diablo. You wander around in a top-down perspective, click everything to death and occasionally drink a potion to remain alive.

"Oh, but Avencast is different," some might say. In addition to bashing everything and swilling restoratives, you also execute Street Fighter-like button combinations to pull of powerful spells. You see, this game doesn't give you multiple classes like fighter or cleric or ninja or some anime-inspired archetype. Your options consists of short-range mage, long range-mage or mage who excels in either of the two, but also summons monsters occasionally. No matter how you build your warrior, you will rely on magic throughout this campaign. Nonetheless, you still perform a lot of "clicking and drinking," except with extra key strokes.

Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) image

Out of the gate, this adventure is both pleasant and unimpressive. It's remarkably playable and handles very smoothly. You can dance around the battlefield with ease, as the game's mechanics allow you to slowly strafe or execute quick side steps when needed. Mostly, though, you'll learn to pull off that old Dark Souls maneuver, where you roll all over the place to avoid damage. However, none of the early campaign's content stands out as a strong segment or a breakout moment.

Until you clear the aforementioned "cave of trials..."

Our hero graduates and so does Avencast. As you leave the aforementioned cave, you enter a bleaker world overrun by demons and possessed magicians. The school is now in ruins and your future doesn't look so bright. Winged harpy-like monsters flap towards you from every direction, joined by spell-slinging monsters and pouncing beasts. Giant versions of these demons also serve as mini-bosses, who drop ridiculous amounts of gold or even useful new equipment when defeated. Meanwhile, a group of survivors hole up in a library and offer you quests to resolve as you wander the tainted halls of the academy.

You don't merely crawl from one locale to another, pressing switches and easily slaying everything that comes towards you. Rather, the game overwhelms you with foes, as melee attackers swarm you while others hang out in the back and throw projectiles. Meanwhile, some demons heal others, making it tough for you to keep their numbers down. So what do you do, except abandon the old Diablo standard of clicking everything to death so you can consider your movements and your build before fighting? You roll in and out of frays, firing tiny projectiles now and then, swiping occasionally with your staff, but mostly utilizing your wonderful array of spells to annihilate your adversaries. Some spells fire in a straight line, freezing anything they touch. After a few upgrades, they even fly through targets and freeze everyone in your line of fire. Other spells boost your combat capabilities and make hand-to-hand combat easier. My favorites, though, involve creating a magical circle that pulverized surrounding creatures and a huge beam akin to something from "Dragon Ball Z."

Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) image

The point is that mindless fighting will get you nowhere in Avencast. You need to be thoughtful about your moves and your mana utilization. You need to know when to hold off on spells so you can let your magic points replenish, while keeping an eye on your hit points. Meanwhile, the campaign consistently grows tougher. Later on, the previous discussed creatures take a bench and let sturdier opponents take the field. Winged maggots spawn blinding scarabs, sword-wielding anthropomorphs rush into the fray to carve you up and vicious torturers armed with chain whips tear massive portions out of your hit points. By the final dungeon, you'll regularly meet enemies that are basically bosses and require a lot of effort to take out. The final run is a trudge, yet it remains engaging and exciting.

The dead don't respawn, so you can venture through your current location and kill everything until the coast is clear. All that remains when the bodies pile up is a handful of puzzles for you to solve and challenges to fulfill. You'll create bombs using alchemy ingredients, rearrange runes on a magical machine or mosey your way through a labyrinth guarded by instant-kill automatons. Once you've accomplished those tasks, your odyssey sends you into another portion of the academy or beyond, where you face even stronger hordes and tougher riddles.

Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) image

Leveling up kept me going the most. I was excited to receive new skill points that allowed me to either increase my power or learn new spells. I dug trying out different magics to see how they function and whether or not they were useful. Best of all, Avencast allows save scumming, so if you're not impressed with a spell, you can always reload and reallocate your skill points.

By the time I reached the end of Avencast: Rise of the Mage, I had forgotten about Harry Potter, Diablo and Street Fighter. Inspired work should aim to stand on its own, and this RPG accomplishes that feat by presenting you with boatloads of tricky combat. Its story may not be original, but it proves to be no slouch, either. It sports a few twists and neat concepts that keep you entertained without taking over too much of the spotlight. At a glance, Avencast appears to be yet another forgettable RPG offered in a marketplace brimming with such titles. That's a shame, because that mis-impression might cause players to miss out on a fine addition to their collections.

4/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (August 10, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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