Avadon 2 very much takes the "more of the same" approach to sequel writing. It has everything the first game had, only bigger areas, more side quests, new classes, and more companions. Unfortunately, I've never really liked the Avadons as much as I have some of Spiderweb's other games and I think I've finally worked out why: they are games about politics where there's really not a whole lot at stake that's interesting. This point sticks out more than it otherwise might given that Spiderweb has already done politics heavy RPGs so superbly in the Geneforge games. In the Geneforges, each political faction was modeled around answers to central ethical and philosophical questions about the nature of personhood, human rights, eugenics, and power. This makes each of the factions not only easily identifiable, but immediately engaging as the issues at stake are so emotionally charged and relevant to our own world. The brilliant thing about the Geneforges is that they use their faction systems to rigorously dissect these issues from a variety of different angles, continually muddying and graying them so that you often find yourself taking ethical positions that you'd never thought you'd take a few hours (or games) earlier.
In contrast to the Geneforges, though, Avadon's political squabbles tend to be over much more dry and mundane things like land and political rule and the moral and ethical stakes are never as clear or well defined. While the games do delve into the question of how much freedom citizens should be willing to give up in exchange for safety, the issue is never really tackled with much rigor or emotional resonance. Likewise, the various political groups themselves are not as philosophically distinct and tend to blur together as a consequence. Which ultimately makes it hard to choose sides, not because of the presence of any moral ambiguity, but because of the absence of any reason to care. It's very hard to get invested in a plot that is, ultimately, about nothing more than squabbles over who gets to control digital land in a digital fantasy world.
All that said, when it comes to being not as good as the Geneforge series, many, many, RPGs fall short. So I don't mean to suggest that Avadon 2 is a bad game. I enjoyed it a great deal and if you like turn based, party focused, RPGs you probably will too. It's just disappointing as I know Spiderweb is capable of doing way better.
Posted: November 23rd, 2013