Avernum: Escape From the Pit Review

RPGamer is offering a review for Spiderweb Software's remake of the original Avernum (which in turn was a remake of Exile: Escape From the Pit). They award the title a 3.5/5 and praise the exploration and combat aspects of the game, but thought that the presentation was poor and the dungeons not perfectly balanced. Here's a snip:
The game's balance can be rather peculiar at times. For the most part, it provides an excellent level of challenge, assuming the party is at the appropriate level for a fight. In such cases, fights are fun without being either punishingly hard or disappointingly easy. Many encounters against major foes have a variety of tricks or gimmicks to them in order to spice things up. A major problem, though, is that it can be hard to find enemies who are of the appropriate level for the party to fight, especially early on. There are far more mid-to-high level enemies than low-level enemies in the game, so players will stumble into unwinnable battles quite often. This issue is aggravated a bit by the strange design of many dungeons, in which a player may be able to easily dispatch the enemies in the early part of a dungeon and yet find the bosses of the dungeon to be nearly impossible foes. This balance improves significantly by the second half of the game, but it can be frustratingly slow progress until then unless players know the best route beforehand.

I nearly gave up on the game halfway through because I was stuck in a situation where it felt like everything left for me to do was above my level. I'm glad I found my way past that point, though, since the second half was very enjoyable. It is easy to lose your way in the caves of Avernum, but at the same time those caves are great places to wander aimlessly and just have fun seeing the sights and meeting the locals. For anyone who enjoys that kind of experience, I'd happily recommend Avernum.