IntroductionReal Time Strategy (RTS) games are becoming more and more frequent. With indie developers and triple-A developers looking to take advantage of the ever-growing popularity of the genre. Animus Interactive, have created one such game that promises to soar to new heights. Fans of the RTS genre will feel right at home with the title, but, newcomers might have a tough time adjusting to the strenuous demands of all the features at the players disposal. Avalon Lords is a Real Time Strategy game that combines the classic RTS elements fans know and love with more modern, fast-paced combat and epic multiplayer features. It is currently in the Early Access stage and is available on Steam as a free to play title.
GameplayAt the start, players are given the choice of different houses to side with, each offering a unique passive perk to take advantage of. These passive perks offer varying abilities such as a bonus to defensive buildings or to different units found in the game. Newcomers to the genre will, unfortunately, be put off by the lack of in-game tutorials provided. Instantly, this is a turn off to the title as things can get very confusing for the uninitiated regarding controls and how to start building structures. There are, however, tutorial videos that shed some light on the situation, but the fact that it is located in the game menu and then redirects to the YouTube page is a big no when it comes to video game development as this breaks away from the total immersion of the game. The sheer amount of power players have at their fingertips, at first, can be quite intimidating especially when competing against other people that know what they are doing. The tutorial videos do help to explain the ins and outs of the title, but, having to exit out of the game to view them, makes for poor game mechanics.
The fundamental building blocks of the title are to build a kingdom, raise an army and eventually, find and destroy the enemy stronghold to win the match. When beginning a game, the choice between multiplayer or single player can be chosen, the only difference between them is the chance to play against real people or CPU bots. Due to the fact that there is no single player campaign to play, only multiplayer matches, casual gamer's will be deterred from playing and will most likely search out something that is more appealing in the storyline category. The Early Access stage is currently underway and a single player campaign is in the works, so hope is not lost yet.
As with most titles, indie or not, of the genre, gathering resources plays a big part. The same can be said about Avalon. To be able to gather resources and start building, the player needs peasants who act as the main workforce of the army. With them, structures can be built and resources can be gathered and added to the stockpile of the kingdom. These resources include population, food, wood and various metals. All of which, are used to create structures and train different fighting units. What's really interesting is the level of depth that needs to be gone through for the village to develop and flourish. Different buildings need to be acquired in order to achieve different goals and in turn, grants access to new fighting units and upgrade paths for each individual workstation.
There is a multitude of workstations available for creation, from blacksmiths to farming steads. Each of these can be upgraded to increase passive abilities relating to the station. For example, the blacksmith related upgrade perks affect the army units' weapon damage as well as the armour stats that are present. It really feels like the hard work that is being put into the game is actually producing rewards that the player can take advantage of. As time goes on, more will be learnt about how the game plays out, but it is all dependant on what type of opponent will be faced and the tactics they will employ.
The game world or arena is a massive area, filled with open stretches and rocky outcrops to multi-terrain forests and mountains. It truly feels like a realistic battlefield. When players start the match, they will be randomly placed somewhere on the map and away from each other. The game map is darkened, so the only way to find one another is through exploration. Game matches can last anywhere from one to three hours long depending on the time that is set. This may seem a long time, but, with the vast amount of preparation that needs to be done to acquire a huge army, time seems to flutter away.
There will come a time where players will meet each other in the game world for battle. This is where Avalon really starts opening up and demonstrating what it can do. Two massive armies clashing in a flurry of sword shattering, heart pounding action that leaves players on the edge of their seats at all times, commanding and ensuring their army is victorious. Every move needs to be a strategic one, archer units on higher ground will have an open advantage over the enemy. The terrain can be used as a defensive weapon as well. The all out scale of these battles is breathtaking, to say the least. In order to experience this colossal standoff of military wit, players will need to spend the time to carefully and meaningfully construct every bit of their kingdom, which can get very tedious and stressful for noncausal RTS gamers.
The main problem is that there is so much to do and no real learning curve with the title. It throws players into the deep end and expects them to know the basic controls and methods that are practised in the game. Avalon doesn't really deliver anything new, in terms of gameplay. It is still the same concept and implementation, but it is so frustratingly addictive that it manages to suck in players and keep them enthralled for hours on end.
The combat units in-game consist of archers, siege forces, and melee specialists. There are different varieties of these units that can be unlocked after certain structures have been built. Crossbowman and veteran swordsman are just a few to be named, but there are also defenders and pikemen who wield long spears and have a reach advantage. Siege towers can also be built that acts as a stationary point of defense for the players kingdom until destroyed.
Graphics and soundsRight off the bat, Avalon is not an absolutely stunning game, but there is something there that is attractive and appalling about it. The environments are realistic and have a gritty feel and atmosphere of untamed wildlands to them. The building models are superbly designed and look historically accurate enough not to raise any questions, the character models, on the other hand, are of a lesser quality, but due to a number of characters on screen at one time, it is understandable that every individual doesn't have breathtaking features to be adored and admired. The level of detail that has gone into the world itself deserves a mention on its own. The different terrains seamlessly merging into one another can be described as nothing short of fantastically well done.
The sounds of the environment are very appealing and adds to the overall aesthetics of the title, the way the wind will blow through the trees and effect and manipulate the branches is astonishing. What really shines through, however, is the gritty realism of the battles that take place. The clashing of steel, the war cries of the soldiers laying down their lives will leave the player feeling memorized and gripped from beginning to end.
The UIThe UI can be best described as the run of the mill in terms of RTS games. Gamers familiar with the genre will instantly recognise the recurring efforts made by game developers with each and every second. Each structure or NPC will have its own menu, consisting of information on the building and an upgrade button that lists the changes the upgrade will make on the specified target. At first, the scheme and overall layout can be confusing but with time, the user interface will start to make sense and become pretty simplistic.
The map of the area is displayed in the top right of the screen will friendly units in green and enemy units in red, or whichever color the enemy has chosen. At the top right of the screen, the total populations of the village and the amount of resources gathered are displayed. The bottom left contains the chat box, in which players can communicate with one another and conspire against the enemy if playing against multiple gamers.
ConclusionOverall Avalon Lords is a good game with a good concept and grasp of what it is doing. The indie title won't achieve game of the year status due to the unrelenting familiarity it shares with other games of the same genre. The game doesn't do anything different from its predecessors, the graphics are not groundbreaking and the gameplay is reminiscent of previous titles but it does enough to keep players interested and with the free to play price tag, is definitely one to pick up if newcomers and hardcore gamers alike want to experience the thrill of RTS action, even if it is only just one time.
| + Decent graphics|| - Nothing new or groundbreaking|
| + Epic battles|| - No in-game tutorials|
| + Variety of units, structures and upgrade options|| - Tedious gameplay|
| - No single player campaign|