Of course, everyone’s been waiting for me to get around to this one ;) So I downloaded the “demo” the other day and have taken my first steps into the game.

No surprise, it looks much like Geneforge 4, at least so far. Jeff is obviously conserving the graphics. That, naturally, is no problem for me.

This being Avernum, I have a happy party of four. Nice to be running a group again. The initial party is pre-created, three humans and a lizard. You can diddle with them, or delete and start from scratch.

The difference between the two is: diddling around doesn’t change the stats. Starting from scratch does. As the starting group looked reasonably decent, I kept them, except for changing the lizard to a kitty.

You do get 8 skill points to distribute to customize the pre-gens; naturally, there would be more if you were starting from scratch. There are the familiar stats of strength, dexterity, intelligence and endurance. The higher they are, the more points required to boost them.

Then there are the weapon skills, magic skills, and what we could call the “miscellaneous” ones. So there’s a lot to consider when you level up, at which time you receive 5 points. These can be held over.

Only three races: human, Slithzerikai (lizard), and Nephilim (feline). Ten character classes. I stayed with the default: Soldier, Scout, Priest, Mage. The usual susp..err, classes. Scout is something like a ranger, but no spells.

The story here is that, after many a bloody struggle, the Empire on the surface and the Avernum dwellers below have reached an uneasy modus vivendi. Of course, then someone tries to assassinate the Empress, fails, and takes off for Avernum.

Your merry band is one of several soldier groups sent below by magic portal to hunt down and kill the would-be assassin. So I’m coming in on the Empire side here. But in a good cause. I hope.

Anyway, the assassin isn’t alone (I forgot to write down his name; oops). He’s apparently the head of a group called the Dark Loyalists, who don’t like the Empire being on good terms with Avernum or the non-human races.

So naturally, the first thing we run into after reaching the underground is one the of Loyalists. He did his best to see we had no decent equipment to pick up, but we did manage to find a few things.

After several combats with undead (not too bad), we chased him down and killed him. That opened the way to the outpost above. There we received the first mainline quest, to visit a nearby town.

One thing that startled me was how fast the party moves. I mean, really fast. They just Zip! along; their feet don’t even move. Outside of combat, everyone moves at once, in pretty much a straight line (depending on terrain).

During fights – which are turn-based, of course – each character moves individually (though just as fast), based on initiative. So it’s entirely possible that some or all of the enemies can attack before some or all of the party members.

Oh yeah, I should mention the traits. At the start, you can choose one or two traits for each character. Some are good, some are bad. The good ones penalize experience, while the bad ones give a bonus.

I decided the bad ones were just too bad, and didn’t take any of them. However, I did choose good traits for the characters. So everyone is at a disadvantage in the xp department, especially Mwerin the kitty. Nephilim come with some special bonuses by virtue of race, so even without traits, they’re stuck with a 10% penalty to start.

An interesting feature is the job board. Reminds me of the one in (if I recall correctly) Pool Of Radiance. These are side jobs you can pick up if you want to. That’s besides the ones you may get from talking to people.

Anyway, I’ve made it safely to the town of New Harston. As expected, before I can get what I want from the mayor, I have to do a little job. As that means tracing down a nasty mage, I’m gonna take time off and do some “odd jobs” first and build up the party. Stay tuned, sports fans!