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Video Game / Siege of Avalon

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Siege of Avalon was a Western RPG released in 2000, and was also the first and only game developed by the Houston-based studio Digital Tome. It was published by Global Star Software, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive which later became 2K Play.

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 in 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.

Originally, the game was available for download online: the first chapter was free, the remaining 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. Based on an original story by R. Van Collinsnote , Siege was envisioned as the first part of a trilogy, to be followed by Pillars of Avalonnote  and Ashes of Avalon. However, due to its poor sales and to disagreements with the publisher, Digital Tome disbanded soon after its release, leaving the story unfinished. Some of the devs later came back together as Amazing Games, Ltd. to produce an obscure superhero game Hero X for the PC. The original game, meanwhile, was released as open source in June 2003 (now found on GitHub) at the insistence of project manager James Shiflett. In 2014, former lead programmer Steven Davis posted a noticenote  about discussing an online re-release of Siege, but deleted the page from his site in late 2017, as the discussions apparently fell through. Meanwhile, some German fans have managed to hack the open source code to implement a HD version of the game in absence of an official remaster.

In April of 2021, the game was officially re-released on Steam and GOG.

Tropes present in this work include:

  • 20 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?
  • 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.
  • Always Chaotic 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 undercover 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, a cadre of female warriors 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Beast Man: The Lizardmen, and the Naga Snake People.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: The Sha'ahoul are a mix of Sha'men (human barbarians) and Ahoul (orc barbarians).
  • 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, especially the Sha'Ahoul you talk to when you go undercover 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.
  • Concealed Customization: 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.
  • 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 too soon, 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 Kill (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 OHK everyone.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The Big Bad's body is 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 the game.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: One first-chapter sidequest involves finding a sapphire ring for a new acquaintance to give to the girl he loves. Helping them means they help you later.
  • 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.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: your inventory has several slots for leg cover, which includes your trousers (or kilt, if you like it better). There's nothing stopping you from replacing them e.g. with shin guards and going around showing all your... might to the enemies. After all, trousers give no armor bonus!
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Nanesi turns out to be a pivotal figure in the plot to have you executed for treason.
  • 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.
  • Implied Love Interest: After you help the kitchen maid Bonnie by getting rid of the rats in the cellar (and telling off the guards who didn't believe her), she becomes this. Any time you talk with her, there's a slight flirtation.
  • 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 out-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's 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.
  • 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. If you're of either of the other classes, 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.
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: if you traverse Avalon on foot you'll get a Loading Screen every time you go from one (small) section to the next. It becomes boring very quickly.
  • The Many Deaths of You/Non-Standard Game Over: 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. There's even 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. Each of these journal entries has an attached sketch depicting the events.
  • The Mole:
    • General Ovoron, until he defects.
    • Later in the game, you can go undercover in the enemy camp and meet a human who has passed himself off as a Sha'Ahoul, who will give you some useful information.
  • 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.
  • Never Found the Body: Of the Big Bad, no less.
  • 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.
  • Shop Fodder: 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?
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 warriors 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.
  • 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.