Siege of Avalon
Played any good books lately?
The Siege of Avalon was the first and only game produced by Digital Tome. It was published by Global Star Software, which later became 2K Play, and when problems arose between them, Digital Tome disbanded. Originally, the game was available for download online. The first chapter was free; the other five were not. It was later released in an anthology on a CD, which can still be found either online or in some brick-and-mortar stores that don't move their video game inventory very quickly. A sequel called the Pillars of Avalon was planned, but never produced.
The backdrop of the game is a massive war. The nomadic Sha'Ahoul from the east have been slowly forcing back the defenders of the Seven Kingdoms of Eurale, and the defenders have retreated to their last bastion: the citadel of Avalon.
As the game begins, you have just arrived at the castle Avalon looking for your war hero brother, Corvus, in order to inform him that your father has died and that he is now a lord. After doing so, you join in the defense of the castle. Everything goes downhill from there. War, intrigue, political maneuvering, treason, and the slaughter of countless Mooks later, the siege of the castle is finally broken...by the attacking Sha'Ahoul horde breaching the defenses, leading to a showdown between you and the Big Bad, Mithras, in the castle courtyard.
Tropes present in this work
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Supposedly averted, from the way the characters talk about commerce, but really played fairly straight. Yes, steel is more valuable than gold in a castle under siege, but shouldn't the merchants give discounts to the biggest hero in town's younger brother, who has been around for only a few days and already put his brother to shame? (However, with enough skill points in the right place, you can get them to lower their prices...slightly.)
- All Myths Are True: If you go digging through the massive number of books (enough to rival The Elder Scrolls), you can read about an ancient city that was supposedly blessed by its goddess, which was destroyed when her temple was profaned and she sunk it underground and cursed the inhabitants. Then you can go into the caves under the castle and talk to the horribly mutated, apparently immortal survivors, who have been trapped there for centuries. And even later, you can meet their goddess herself, the Astral Guardian. You can even get them changed back, if you bother to follow that (optional) storyline.
- Exclusively Evil: It starts out seeming like this is the case, but when you meet a friendly undead character, Bones (who later converts most of the other undead characters into friendly units), and when you go under cover in the Sha'Ahoul camp and the Sha'Ahoul there start getting some Character Development, you begin to realize that this simply isn't the case.
- Amazon Brigade: The Blood Roses who appear in the last chapter.
- Annoying Arrows: They do about the same amount of damage as a sword swing. And considering that the enemies can only attack while they're on the screen, they rarely get off more than two or three before you get close enough to gut them. Then again, Sword Blows Are Also Annoying...unless you're surrounded and being pummeled by several foes at once.
- Sort of averted, because of stealth mechanics, arrows fired from sufficiently long distances (beyond a character unspecified perception range) are lethal.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can take two people with you on most of your missions. Even when those missions involve charging a horde of Sha'Ahoul head on, in order to take back the castle's outer wall during the final battle.
- Armor Is Useless: Armor does help at the beginning of the game, but as you progress, the armor you pick up starts to become more useful for whatever enchantments are on it than for its protective qualities. What really determined your survival is your total number of hit points combined with your healing rate and any healing magic you use.
- Artificial Stupidity: The AI in the game is remarkably stupid. Your party members will run into the wall beside the door you just walked through...then run into the wall on the other side of the door before actually going through it. Then again, it was designed to run on Windows 98....
- Artifact of Doom: Don't remove sacred objects from your goddess's temple unless you want your city to sink below the ground. If you decide to build a castle over a place where this has happened, don't let the enemy put the sacred object back unless you want an ancient city to suddenly spring up from the ground, destroying your castle in the process.
- Character Development: Many characters in the castle get developed into full people. Some of them are likable. Some of them are not so much. Some of them won't respect you until you earn it. Some of the royals present treat you surprisingly well; others treat you like dirt. But all of them have good reasons for what they do,
evenespecially the Sha'Ahoul you talk to when you go under cover in their camp.
- Character Level: NOT! For each enemy you kill, you get one Skill Point. You can spend these points to increase your skills, or trade them for advanced training.
- Class and Level System: As previously mentioned, there are no levels. However, there are classes: Fighter, Scout, and Mage. It makes absolutely no difference to gameplay which one you pick—each class can use the objects and abilities typically associated with any of the three, or even a mix of them—but each one gets a special quest and Prestige Class later in the game.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Some enemies can detect you, despite shadow spell and high stealth. They can also see and attack player character from distance greater than player's unscrollable screen.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: At lower skill levels, you're only just barely superior to the individual enemy scouts you come across, but as your skill level increases you start going up against multiple foes at once, until the enemies come in groups no smaller than fifteen. Skill doesn't kill you. Numbers do.
- Crapsack World: It takes place in a castle under siege. What did you expect?
- Cursed with Awesome: The Cave Lurkers are the people who once lived where the castle now stands. When their city was sunk below ground, they were horribly mutated...and apparently made immortal, since some of them claim to be hundreds of years old.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: If you attract the attention of the Sha'Ahoul Dreamwalkers before you're supposed to, or the Big Bad and his bodyguards, you're in for a world of hurt. And one mission involves killing a traitor, who just happens to be hanging out in the middle of the enemy camp with several of said bodyguards nearby.
- Dump Stat: Stealth is pretty much useless. Even with a spell to boost it by 50 points for a short time, you can't sneak attack anyone (not like you'd get a combat bonus if you did).
- You actually can sneak attack, and, except for the boss it is a one hit k.o. (and still, 2 hit k.o for him). At low levels of stealth your sneak radius is pretty small and you can only sneak attack with ranged weapons, but if you put enough points in stealth, you are, for all practical purposes, invisible (except for some scripted enemies who always see you, regardless of your stealth), so, you can just OKHO everyone.
- The End - or Is It?: The Big Bad's body was removed from the battlefield. No one's entirely sure he's actually dead. This may have led into the planned sequel, if it had ever been produced.
- With further research comes more tropes. He not only didn't die, but he ended up ascending to demigodhood. The sequel would have focused on ending his reign of terror, some 400 years after it began.
- Elves vs. Dwarves: The Elves aren't really friendly with anybody, though they do help the human defenders of Avalon because they know that if Avalon falls, they're next. Dwarves are mentioned in several in-game books as having helped build the Citadel of Avalon, but none show up in-game.
- Fantastic Racism: The Sha'Ahoul are on a religious rampage against the humans, which they call "dirt-men."
- Fantasy Gun Control: Why develop the gun when you can learn to throw fireballs in only a couple of hours?
- Fictional Document: Enough to rival The Elder Scrolls. No, really. And they're the only way to get the backstory of the war in which you're involved.
- Fridge Logic: You can ask an undead skeleton to use the Chalice of Life to purify an area of dark magic. He can't use it, or he'll be destroyed. Lampshade Hanging ensues:
Bones: It's the Chalice of Life, not the Chalice of Undeath!
- Goddamn Bats: The insane cave lurkers that wander the tunnels are not very dangerous, but they're in the area you have to pass through quite a few times, and there are dozens of them. The undead skeletons in the crypt are only slightly more dangerous (except for the ones that use magic), but they're far more numerous. Fortunately they stay dead once you kill them.
- Grid Inventory: Everywhere! Your backpack, your allies' backpacks, treasure chests, dead bodies, dead skeletons, and even people you are not supposed to be looting from, like your superior officers (if you can manage to kill them).
- Guardian of the Multiverse: The Astral Guardian lives in the Nexus and regulates travel between planes of existence. When she's captured by Sha'Ahoul Dreamwalkers, all kinds of nasty things start to happen.
- Guest Star Party Member: Toward the end of the game, you can have your brother Corvus (the famous war hero) join your party. By that point, you're massively stronger than him, though that's mostly because the computer is an idiot.
- Hide Your Children: It's a castle under siege. Did you expect to find kids here? You did? Okay, then go up to the top of that wall and look into the Peasants' Bailey. You can't go there, but if you look closely, you can see a very few children in the muddy, half-starved, plague-ridden crowd within. You never get to see one up close, and there probably isn't a model for them anyway.
- Inaction Sequence: Your health is low? Your healing rate is low? You're out of Mana? You didn't bring any party members who know healing magic? Stand around and wait for your mana to regenerate, then use it to heal yourself. Then wait more so you have some magic to throw around in battle. And make sure you're in a nice sout-of-the-way place, so you don't get attacked. There are no potions of any kind in the game (that you can use, anyway), and only one person (besides your party members) who will use magic to heal you and restore your mana—and he's inside the castle, which you certainly aren't when you need him.
- Inventory Management Puzzle: The aforementioned Grid Inventory. It's really the only reason you should take anyone with you on your missions—for the backpack space. Well, that and the healing magic.
- It's Probably Nothing: Averted. If the Sha'Ahoul guards see you, hear you, or notice that one of their friends is moving, they will not stop chasing you until either you or they are dead.
- Killed Off for Real: Every death is final—both in your party and among the enemies. The only characters Back from the Dead are a lich, a zombie, and a number of animated skeleton enemies, of which only the lich is not mindless. There's also Bones, but he was specifically stated to have developed his personality after being reanimated as a mindless skeleton thanks to some advanced spells placed on him when he was created.
- Money Spider: Averted and played straight at the same time—the only enemies with money are the ones who have been looting the ruined town for the past few months, but they tend to have gear that you can haul back to the castle and sell to the merchants there...if you can fit it in your Grid Inventory.
- Last of His Kind: If you play Fighter, you can get training from the spirit of the last surviving holy knight of the ancient city that was sunk into the ground centuries ago. Otherwise, he won't have much to do with you. His name is Xander.
- Level Grinding: There are no levels, but don't assume that means there is no grinding. You will want all the Skill Points you can get.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Every NPC in the castle has a name. You can have brief conversations with them. Several dozen are fleshed out into three-dimensional characters with skills, motivations, friends, and sometimes petty rivalries.
- Lizard Folk: The aptly named Lizardmen are found in some of the caves in the forest. They keep humans as slaves, and then eat them.
- The Many Deaths of You: When you die, you get to read a journal entry about how your character's failure to complete whatever quest he was on at the time led to the fall of the castle. Including one written by the hero, who wakes up in a hospital bed and describes how the enemy have attacked the walls...which cuts off mid-word, with a bloodstain at the bottom of the page.
- The Mole: General Ovoron, until he defects. Later in the game, you can go under cover in the enemy camp and meet a human who has passed himself off as a Sha'Ahoul, and who will give you some useful information.
- Never Found the Body: Of the Big Bad, no less.
- Only Six Helmets: You get to choose your hair color, hairstyle, and whether you have a beard. All the helmets and hoods and most of the hats render this invisible.
- Petting Zoo People: The aforementioned Lizardmen, and the Naga Snake People.
- Prestige Class: As a reward for completing the class-specific quests.
- Reckless Sidekick: If your party members see an enemy, they will attack immediately. Every time.
- Run, Don't Walk: Your character runs everywhere. When questioned how he can keep it up, he basically says that he's full of energy because his cause is just and pure.
- Scenery Porn: For an isometric-view game, it has an incredible amount of detail, up to and including a believable flame effect on the wall sconces and campfires.
- So Long and Thanks For All the Gear: Averted. What a party member starts out with, you can't unequip (with a few exceptions). Generally, it's rare but not particularly good colored versions of the basic armor. Unfortunately, this also means you can't upgrade their equipment at any point in the game, even though you will certainly want to. On the other hand, sometimes they're wearing a piece of armor where it can't normally be equipped, allowing you to equip another identical piece along with it.
- Soul Jar: You have to kill a lich. The only way to do so is to find and destroy his soul jar, which is a stone that is kept in his temple.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Averted—when someone starts talking to you during a battle scene, the battle keeps going in the background (oh, sure, the video may freeze, but the audio makes it clear that fighting is still going on).
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: If you carry one in battle, it affects your stats and abilities, including some that allow you to use very powerful combat magic only while they are equipped.
- Twenty Bear Asses: Why, exactly, are you sending the newest hero of your castle to collect a bunch of paperwork from a bunch of Obstructive Bureaucrat old guys? Shouldn't he be, you know, contributing to the war effort?
- The Undead: The lich, the animated skeletons, and the zombie. And Bones, who was reanimated with a specially modified spell that allowed him to develop his own unique personality.
- Unusable Enemy Equipment: Averted hard. If an enemy has an item, you can take it off his corpse. Yes, even the lich's zombie servant's mace made out of human bones. And the ogre's loincloth. The only items you can't pick up are the clothing that the nonhumans and women are wearing (which you wouldn't be able to use anyway) and the ones on the magically-conjured masses of mindless Sha'Ahoul wariors that start disintegrating as soon as you kill them. And the clothing and shields used by the walking skeletons you fight at one point, but they're rotten anyway.
- Vendor Trash: If you're willing to drag it back to the castle merchants. You'll need to make five trips. Still want to sell that dead guy's worthless armor? And all his buddies' too?
- Wall of Text: There is no voice-acting in the game outside of the opening video. All conversation takes place as text. And that's to say nothing of the Fictional Documents and the weapon, armor, and object descriptions.
- Warp Whistle: You can't actually warp, per se, but within the castle, moving from one area into another will bring up a map of the castle. Clicking on the regions of the castle will bring up a list of areas within those regions, and you can jump from any location in the castle to any other by choosing one. Notably, though, it only works when you would otherwise hit a loading screen anyway, and only within the castle—outside, you have to go everywhere manually.