Jeff Vogel Revisits Avernum in 'Escape From The Pit'

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Bored with modern roleplaying games? Who isn't. After the mess BioWare made of Dragon Age II, which ranks right up there beside Neverwinter Nights 2 for genre-definitive sub-mediocrity, you almost wish someone would give Richard Garriott a call (or a couple million bucks) and convince him to make an Ultima IV or Ultima Underworld knockoff.

Or you could just download a game from Spiderweb Software, say something Nethergate or Exile flavored, or if you want the latest, greatest retro-RPG, maybe Avadon: The Black Fortress. Then there's the Avernum series—originally an isometric Exile reboot—that's gone on to more or less define indie developer Jeff Vogel's demo-ware micro-empire.

And now it's getting another reboot, dubbed Avernum: Escape From the Pit (because that's what your party of four did in the original adventure).

"We are recreating the first Avernum trilogy, rewriting everything from the ground up to make a new epic adventure for a new century!" reads a note on Spiderweb Software's Avernum main page. So no, full disclaimer, it's not a new game, but rather a makeover using what appears to be (I'm judging from the screenshots) a mingling of Avadon and Avernum 6's aesthetics. (This may also partly explain the note on Spiderweb Software's general game compatibility page warning that Avernums 1 through 3 are "not compatible with Macintosh OS X 10.7 (Lion) and later.")

"Spiderweb Software returns to its epic creation, to tell a story of imprisonment, rebellion, and the struggle for freedom against overwhelming odds," reads the game overview, which sounds more or less like the original's: "You have been cast down into the dark, volcanic pits of Avernum, filled with foul monsters, constant warfare, and thousands and thousands of your fellow prisoners."

And it sounds like Vogel's planning to revisit subsequent games in the series, too: "Avernum: Escape From the Pit is the first chapter in an Indie fantasy role-playing saga, the tale of desperate exiles and their battle for survival and a land to call their own."

Spiderweb says the remake will include 80 towns and dungeons, three unique "game-winning quests," dozens of side quests, hundreds of magical items, and "over 50 spells and battle disciplines and a multitude of beneficial character traits to choose from."

And the story: "You have been banished to the underworld, never to see the light of day again."

"The surface is ruled by the cruel Emperor Hawthorne, master of the Empire. All of the known lands are subject to his brutal command. Everyone who speaks out, who misbehaves, who doesn’t fit in is cast into the dark, volcanic pits of Avernum, far below the surface. There, you are expected to die, a victim of starvation, horrible monsters, or simple despair."

"But not all of the Avernites have surrendered. With magic and steel, they are forging a new nation deep underground. You can join them and fight for safety. Or freedom. Or even, if you dare, revenge on the surface-worlders who tried to destroy you."

But wait, you're saying, I already played these. Why pay full price to play them again? In short, you won't. According to Spiderweb, "Avernum: Escape From the Pit for Macintosh and Windows will be available at a considerable discount for anyone who has purchased Exile: Escape From the Pit or Avernum from us in any form (including on compilation CDs)."

When? For Macs before the end of 2011, and both PCs and iPads Q1 2012.

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