There probably isn’t a single gamer among our readership who hasn’t played at least one Final Fantasy title (if it was Final Fantasy XIII then I feel so sorry for you and you probably never touched the franchise again, trust me you’re missing out). With that in mind I wanted to space out reviews for role playing’s flagship brand between other less well known or revered titles. Final Fantasy IV is the starting point for all things Final Fantasy on this site because it holds a special connection to both myself and my younger brother and we played it through together, me invested in the story of Cecil the Dark Knight who had to become a Paladin, whilst he was totally behind Kain, the Dragoon who he felt should have got the girl. Neither of us came away disappointed. Today you can purchase Final Fantasy IV on almost any game device in multiple ports and I’m going to briefly touch on the After Years in this review too since I’m going to review it from a modern standpoint.
Book of Heroes is a new wave of RPGs that have been coining the term ‘Social RPGs’. Essentially they are MMOs that function in a manner similarly to Facebook in that they are a single player experience that can be enjoyed and evolved with the addition of friends without having to form parties and being stuck out in the cold for content like a traditional MMO if you can’t get a group together. They’re lighter fare than most RPGs and have less of a focus on story, but dilute the fighting, questing, leveling and world saving down into a comfortably fun package that you can play casually. That’s not a dirty word by the way, casual gamers make up a huge portion of the market now and RPGs fit in wonderfully to that gimmick of pick up and put down gaming because the grind lends itself to exactly that kind of play.
There is a moment about an hour into Avadon that you realize that you’ve been taking it all a little too seriously. Up until this point you’ve been suckered in by the grim and gritty ascetic of the game and the impression that your character is a hard man living a hard life in a fantasy world where moral choices are never as easy as black and white, and instead immersed in the gray where you could discover you’re actually the bad guy in a lot of people’s eyes. And it is, don’t get me wrong, there’s a seriousness to playing Avadon that gives a real weight to the experience. Then you go to meet with a great dragon and encounter him bickering with his secretary, a put upon sort who’s bookish and can be quite sharp when pushed, and you realize that this game has a lighter side to it. In fact when it wants to be the humor can shift from satire to laugh out loud funny.