Avencast: Rise of the Mage – If Harry Potter and Star Wars had a baby

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This is my first ever playthrough of Avencast: Rise of the Mage. Given that it is a standalone game, there’s nothing else to compare it to, but I might bring up genre-specific elements every now and then. Regardless, this will be a review understandable to everyone. The game was played with the expert camera control, and I recommend messing around with the different modes as it can get tough to get used to. The difficulty I played on was normal, but this difficulty can be changed at any given time in the game. Before I started writing the review, I made sure to beat the game at least once. Since this is a story-driven, mostly linear game, there isn’t much to worry about regarding completion.

Important to note is that I played this game exclusively with Soul Magic. While I doubt my experience would change much if I played with the other skill tree, some compliments- and complaints I may have regarding combat may not directly apply to the other skill tree. Unfortunately, changing skill trees isn’t that easy to do, which I will delve deeper into with the review.

Magic. Often the source for any fantasy-related story brought to our world. As someone who dreams to be transported to another world that resembles the fantasy games I play and the anime I watch, magic is something I often have to deal with. Surprisingly though… mages are not often a class I pick when I get the choice. Personally, I rather get up close and personal while slashing as if my life depends on it. Whenever an RPG–specifically the western ones–allows me to choose between different classes, mages are usually at the bottom. This is a shame because I enjoy everything about magic in stories. So… how to fix that?

In comes Avencast: Rise of the Mage, a game that has been in my Steam library for… way too long. I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere in my first 100 Steam games which, if you are familiar with my library, is very early. It feels like it has been ages since I’ve last played a western RPG–a genre I love yet somehow don’t experience that often, so I had to change that. While my choices were definitely broad as my library has a surprising amount of in them, I wanted something truly different. Given that Avencast is a game where the main gameplay revolves around magic, I felt it was the best choice for my next game to play. So join me today to see if this decision was worth it!

Avencast: Rise of the Mage was the first-ever game released by studio ClockStone, an Innsbruck-based company currently specialized in game development and mostly known for the ”Bridge Constructor” series. They also develop interactive applications for industrial purposes such as WebGL product configurations or 3D product presentations. The company was founded in 2006 by Michael Schiestl and Matthias Hike, who started work on Avencast as a hobby project, inspired by Diablo as well as other popular games at the time. The game took about four years to complete with a relatively small team, with the CEO writing the majority of the game engine himself. Avencast was eventually released in 2007 for PC, to an overall good reception. ClockStone has also released development tools for the game so fans can create- or modify their own content, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find much. Please, feel free to let me know if there exist any mods for the game!

Our story starts with our named hero, who cannot share the name with another save file in the exact same offline single-player game for whatever reason. So instead of our hero being Nepiki that I used for a test file, I was forced to play as Nepiki the Cool! Not that I mind of course, makes my character just that much cooler.

We are a student at the academy of Avencast, aiming to become a mage ourselves after we’ve been found as an orphan on the side of a river in a basket. Where have I heard this story before…? But school is boring so we just sleep through lessons like any cool kid. Who needs school anyway when we will become the strongest mage that will save the multiverse in about 15 hours anyway?

The paragraph above is not a spoiler by the way and instead merely me overexaggerating. That said, it does reflect the bullet-train-like pace that the game has. We are simply a student at the beginning, yet accomplish something no other mage could over the course of the game. I definitely think the game would have benefited from a slower pace, because a lot of story elements and plot twists that were supposed to be shocking ultimately fell flat. This is further exemplified by the imbalance in the pace of the game’s plot compared to the actual gameplay, but let’s take it one step at a time. Unlike Avencast. That’s 1-0 for me!

I definitely think the game would have benefited from a slower pace, because a lot of story elements and plot twists that were supposed to be shocking ultimately fell flat.

We gain control over our character very quickly after being called out on our laziness, laughed at by the fools who don’t realize our true power. This is one of those games that definitely shows its age as a 2000s PC game with how unusual the controls are compared to what we work with nowadays–particularly when it comes to camera control. Funnily enough, the so-called ”expert control mode” is the most similar to today’s control scheme as the camera keeps following the direction you walk in. Buttons are also easily remappable so Avencast is not as archaic as it might look on first try–even though remapping spells is not as obvious as it sounds. That said, I can understand people not trying something called ”expert” on their first try, just for it to work the best.

The academy we can walk around in now is filled with dozens of sidequests to take on for extra goodies, which is basically how every major area in the game is handled. This isn’t too outlandish considering Avencast falls into the Action RPG genre and is most comparable to the one, the only: Diablo. Calling this an over-the-shoulder Diablo-like but exclusively with magic wouldn’t actually be that farfetched, but let’s take it one step at a time. Unlike Avencast. That’s 2-0 for me!

There are two different magic skill trees to specialize in, but you can take from both as well if you so desire. It basically comes down to: if you want to get up and personal you choose Blood Magic, else you go for Soul Magic. Of course, I chose the latter as I want to be a mage in this game; there are hundreds of other games where I can poke enemies with a stick. I initially didn’t really know what the difference was between the two as it’s only told in an in-game manual that you aren’t forced to read. No biggy, but it is strange that this game doesn’t have a single method of refunding skill points that are used both to learn new spells but also to improve stats. I decided to focus exclusively on one skill tree because of that reason, trying to avoid experimentation out of fear that I would regret spending skill points.

That fear was unwarranted though, as Soul Magic especially makes this game a literal cakewalk. I can just stay at a distance, cast spells, and immediately win the game–especially since several also have pushback as an effect so enemies won’t even get close. And even if they somehow got close to me because some of them are pure damage sponges, my character can easily roll around or just… step aside to avoid taking damage. No-damage runs sound surprisingly appealing for this game.

I don’t want to bring up the argument of ”haha easy game brr” and move on because I don’t necessarily feel that’s the case… even though it’s also not far from the truth. The main problem with combat is that the roll is overpowered with enemies themselves not really posing much of a challenge due to their very limited movements. And even if they do hit you, hitpoints recover over time so there’s that. Frankly, the only time I truly had issues with surviving was in one of the last levels that was filled with traps like spike floors, of which some are extremely hard to notice. Furthermore, they are unable to be deactivated, ruining the purpose of what traps should be. Suffice to say, they were a bad addition and made me quite pissed off at times.

And now that I’m mentioning the levels themselves, I feel it’s a good time to bring them up because boy, did I not like them. This is solely because all of the levels are massive, but also empty. There simply isn’t anything to do in them aside from constant enemy encounters that, as stated before, aren’t really that engaging, and a few chests every now and then. Very often, I just walked into a room expecting nothing and still ending up disappointed. And I should state again that they truly are massive, which brings me to the issue I mentioned earlier: the plot going at a high pace, but the game itself at a complete opposite pace. I have spent about four hours just in the overrun academy–a level in the middle of the game–and not even 25% of it had an actual purpose.

All of the levels are massive, but also empty.

Now, finding new gear would usually be enough reason to explore otherwise pointless areas and I wholeheartedly agree! But I was probably unlucky (or lucky depending on how you look at it), as gear in this game just never got me excited. This is partially due to the enemies offering no challenge for me to desire switching of course, but also because I never truly found gear that exceeded previous equipment due to numbers never becoming that high compared to the beginning of the game. This may sound like a joke but no, I was running around in early-game gear in the final area just because I never got anything that felt like an actual good replacement. It was even more insulting that most sidequests–specifically the ones involving the gnome–gave me the absolute worst gear I had seen in the game up till that point.

Areas being massive but empty, combat not offering much and often taking longer due to damage sponges, not feeling rewarded for my efforts; all of these issues combined result in Avencast being, for a lack of better words, a slow chore to go through. This is a shame because I did not dislike my experience with the game, nor do I have any desire to dislike it. After all, I played all the way to the end because I genuinely wanted to beat it. I guess you could say the story helped with that? By no means is it an outstanding story, but I enjoy how ”cliche” it is on some fronts. I jokingly named the game ”Star Potter” on multiple occasions and ignoring the demon enemies that got thrown in, I honestly feel like that description is dangerously accurate. Still, due to the pace and weak selection of characters, it was not a story I cared for but at least one that I could laugh about–with a complimentary voice acting to boot!

Avencast-Story

And although I do genuinely think the massive size of areas with nothing to do is definitely a fault that doesn’t work in the game’s favour, it doesn’t mean that the dungeons themselves were completely terrible as a result. I mentioned the traps earlier that my opinion won’t change on, but the first true dungeon is one that I did actually enjoy going through. This was also partially due to me not knowing yet that gear wouldn’t really improve by that much, but also because every dungeon has its own set of puzzles. The catacombs had a lot of puzzle rooms that I consider to be pretty fun challenges, like the one where you had to make your way through a path of multiple symbols that you can only find out by finding what mage is buried in that specific chamber. The overrun academy also had some puzzles, but I ironically think the first true dungeon is also the best one Avencast has to offer. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave up to you.

The area where Avencast suffers the most is an inconsistent pace–the story goes by like a bullet train, but the gameplay feels like a slow chore. Personally, I think a slower pace to give more attention to world-building and the characters would definitely help in that regard, but that would only solve one problem. Areas are massive, but not in a good way. They are often empty, with rewards for exploration often feeling disappointing due to gear never feeling like that much of an improvement–if they are an improvement to begin with. What also doesn’t help is that some enemies can feel like genuine damage sponges, with a combat system that can potentially be uninteresting as I never had to worry about dying when casting spells from a distance as that was the magic school I specialized in. Changing skilltrees is possible for sure, but points spent are in no way able to be refunded so experimentation comes with a risk. That said, I definitely don’t think Avencast is a bad game at its core. While areas are massive, they did often have fun puzzles to offer for the invested gamers checking every nook and cranny. And while it wasn’t a story that deserves an oscar, it was one I could laugh at due to how cliché it is.

6.0

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
6.0
Fun Score
6.0
Positives
  • Two completely different styles of magic, both for long- and close distance.
  • Dungeons had fun puzzles.
Negatives
  • Areas are massive and mostly empty.
  • Gear barely improves due to a low difference in numbers.
  • Combat becomes mundane quickly.

Thank you for reading! This review was surprisingly easy for me to write, as both my compliments- and complaints were clear right away. It is a shame that despite me not disliking the game, I ended up being surprisingly critical. I will say though: when I started up the game, I was blasted with that feeling of a true 2000s PC game with the loading screens and the UI. I didn’t really mention that in the review as that isn’t really anything anyone will experience, nor something that makes the game better or worse. Regardless, I wanted to mention it as it truly shows what era Avencast comes from.

I’m still busy with updating my site a bit so next time I’ll be back with an update, but I have more reviews in the work as well as a list, so stay tuned!

In Diablo-like games, what do you prioritize first: upgrading your stats, or unlocking new spells/skills and upgrading them?

For me, I always tend to prioritize stats over anything. I just like my big numbers!


Does this genre interest you? If so, I have multiple other Action and RPG reviews ready for you!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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[…] it funny how I talked about never being a mage in games in the last review, yet here we are again? Well to be fair, any genre that isn’t an RPG usually doesn’t […]

Aether

A game inspired by Diablo, but with no real gear progression and large stretches of time without enemies rushing at you? Sounds like something about the concept got lost in transition.