Updated: Mar 21
Game: Avalon -> Download Page
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android
Genre: Visual Novel
Reviewed by: Soniram
Writing a review for Avalon has turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would when I first started up the game. Reading the descriptions and some other reviews, I was anticipating an emotional story that would have some choices, a few heart-bending moments, and an ending that could be bittersweet but which may turn out to be good.
EVERY TIME I ROLLED MY EYES, IT MADE ME SMILE A FEW MOMENTS LATER
To be fair to Lockheart, it's clear that a lot of work and love went into Avalon. I really, really wanted to enjoy it.
I held off playing until it was completed for the same reason I don't stream shows until at least the season is over -- when I get sucked into a game, I want to go through the whole thing in one sitting. Gluttony is a hell of a sin.
So yeah, I had expectations, and expectations are hard to live up to, but this has been a highly rated game for a long while, and it held up long enough to be completed. That's a rarity in this industry, and just by the two factors of having been finished and gotten a lot of praise, Avalon deserves to be played.
This is the fourth time I've tried to write the review for Avalon. Each time before this, I thought I knew how I was going to feel about the game, but I deleted it each time because right when it frustrated me, something happened to ease it. Every time I rolled my eyes, it made me smile a few moments later. We'll get to more of that further down when we talk about the story itself.
Going through the important visual aspects of Avalon, we have a rather unique main character with regards to physical representation. Simply put, the dude is massive. Just in the preview images, I noticed the gigantic hands on the man. The player-named main character reminds me of Zangief from Street Fighter II. Then, seeing the diminutive form of the female lead, and namesake of the story, I couldn't help but get the image of Ralph and Vanellope in my mind.
The model selection for the main character, and other characters, was done pretty well. The women won't be considered the most beautiful, but are definitely attractive and sexy. The men aren't just copied over and over. Different body types across both genders show some care and forethought was given to who these characters were and how they play visually.
Backgrounds and locations had some thought put into them as well, and they were utilized in the story believably, for the most part. Even a small bit of work on the characters, backgrounds, and set pieces can elevate a game from the morass of D-list games, and Lockheart went the extra mile to really catch the player's eye when they go looking for their next download.
A FIRE THAT BOTH WARMS AND CONSUMES
There are choices to be made in the game, allowing it to fall out of the realm of a kinetic novel. Some are game-altering, while others are merely used for differences in dialogue. Clearly laid out for the player, they make for good save points to go back to and try different things. Great design for this type of story-based game. They also occur to different characters, so while the male lead is the main character and who we mostly follow in the game, certain choices are centered around the female lead to give a unique perspective.
But the main part of Avalon is the story. I love a good story, and having one in an adult visual novel is a fire that both warms and consumes. It is what makes a good game with nice visuals and makes it great. Classic. Hugely successful. To be fair, the game, in my mind, was probably too hyped up. I went in expecting one thing and got something slightly different.
A major caveat here: the following has spoilers and it is going to sound like I'm railing against Lockheart and Avalon. So, before I begin that part of the review, let me say... you should give this game a try. It is good.
There are a lot of times I had to stop this game because I got so damned mad at it, especially at the main character. We come into his life in the middle without knowing anything about him or the history he has with other characters. Fair enough. He's got an adopted sister and niece, who is the female lead, and he uses a lot of what sometimes passes as humor to deflect his own mental hang-ups. Okay.
However, after the female lead, Avalon is picked up by the main character and brought to his home in a tense scene, he tries to give her a hug. She reacts extremely negatively, and the main character, rightly, thinks she might be a victim of some kind of abuse. Within a couple days, though, the main character is telling her he wants to ravish her and doesn't respect her wishes when he decides to hire a private detective to find the guy who raped her. Both moves make him seem like a creep that really doesn't have a care about what happened with his niece.
I get the game has to move fast. It has to tell a story, and there's a limited time the developer has to reel the player in. However, there was a real chance for Lockheart to craft a story around such a powerful and painful core idea of the story, and he tries... through having Avalon and the main character having sex, or trying to. It gets even more complicated when a second character shows up and begins to take over the needs of the main character that Avalon isn't able to yet.
I AM LIKE HIM
What follows after this point is a twisting tale which, to Lockheart's credit, wasn't too difficult to follow but also let enough of the backstory come out to make me start thinking there was more to this guy than just a creep of an uncle disregarding the rape of his niece to do and say whatever struck his fancy that particular moment of the day.
Several side characters are introduced along the way, though a few of them might elicit the occasional eye-roll. The bad black rapist and the good black cop. The quirky deus ex machina character does anything and everything without repercussions. The niece's best friend has always had a crush on the main character and is sexually aggressive to boot. The bungling henchmen are used for comedic effect.
There is a lot of player-teasing with the NSFW parts of the game before there is finally some release at the end. Avalon is much more focused on the story than the sex. Intimacy is built up over time, though the build-up seems as awkward as the main character's demeanor. If you're expecting this to be laden with a bunch of uncle-niece-friend fun times, you're going to be disappointed. While the sex scenes are well designed and beautiful, they are not the focus of the game, so don't expect them often.
The ending is reached, and as I had suspected, it was somewhat bittersweet. I smiled at the end because even though I grew frustrated at times, the story kept me playing... kept me intrigued. After the main character irked me more than a few times, I finally came to a realization that smacked me in the nose. I am like him. Awkward. Socially inept at times. Alone. Tragedy touched his life many times. However, he fights through it with the help of those around him, towards something he didn't even know he needed when he got woken up by his sister's phone call.
The alternate ending was a plus more than a minus. While it included quite a bit of NSFW content that some might feel was lacking in the main game, it highlighted a part of the story, indeed a part of everyone's life, which was brought up subtly before but hammered home now.
What if this had happened? What if that didn't happen? Lockheart uses the last chapter of Avalon to make two incredibly thought-provoking points. What if that one little thing, which we now know cascaded into a series of events that radically changed our lives forever, happened differently? The second one is even more staggering.
What are those little things we don't even know about?
[STORY]: Quirky at times, but endings make you think. 17/22.
[VISUALS]: Better than average, but not exceptional. 15/22.
[GAMEPLAY]: Easy and descriptive. There's better, but not much. 19/22.
[ADULT CONTENT]: Short on scenes, but it fits the story. 14/22.
[SONIRAM LIKEY?]: Mostly, though some parts rub me the wrong way. 7/12.
[VERDICT]: Play the different paths, then hang it up and remember the message of the game.