The Curious Case of AVARIAvs

AVARIAvs is a unique competitive, turn-based RPG battle game. Touting its “ultrafast, turn-based combat” as its main draw, indie developer Juncture Media has here the skeleton of what could be a strong series going forward. Unfortunately, it is hamstrung by budgetary needs.

Part of this story is, admittedly, already known. Juncture Media has had a strong presence at indie game festivals such as Play NYC for a few years now. Lead developer Andrew Linde, who founded Juncture Media in 2013, had ambitions to make their own episodic turn-based RPG, complete with party members, powerups, and of course their narrative set in a unique world. Unfortunately, Linde was unable to get the funding for his dream project, so he instead focused some of what he loved about turn-based RPGs into a different style of gameplay, competitive play.

The goal is to use the competitive version of AVARIAvs to push for further updates to the game and eventually, a single-player RPG. The goals by Linde are lofty but commendable, though it is still unclear how impactful or popular AVARIAvs will be beyond the showcase floors of indie expos. 

AVARIAvs Screenshot 2
Choosing a team that compliments your skills makes a potent combination in battle.

AVARIAvs squeaked by as a Kickstarter project in 2018, but the result is a highly polished game that can combine role-playing and competitive battling. Players can pick and choose between sixteen different characters, each equipped with two different archetypes to play around with. Your team of three then does battle against an opposing team, and you must strategically use the abilities of your characters to defend and heal yourself while attacking and debuffing the enemy. 

In concept, AVARIAvs is simple. In terms of customization, Juncture Media touts over 2,000 different combinations of powers, with this mostly true thanks to the game’s level-up system. As fights drag out in AVARIAvs, players can level up their team individually, increasing the power or effectiveness of their abilities. This is also a surprisingly strategic choice players must make in the moment; do you sacrifice killing power for a defensive option, or do you focus on high DPS to whittle down stronger enemies?

These choices play out in real-time as the match against opponents continues, leading to some interesting choices and combinations that give your team options to overwhelm your opponent. Special abilities can also cause havoc against an enemy team, going beyond the effects on-screen and offering a more tactile experience, such as inverting the opponent’s controls or scrambling their menus. Little touches such as that make AVARIAvs special and especially crowd-pleasing.

AVARIAvs Screenshot 3
The interface is slick and easy to understand, making battles fast and frantic.

Honestly, the biggest problem with AVARIAvs is the fact that it’s in unfriendly ecosystem; online play. Where the game shines are through its offline split-screen multiplayer, with online play for a niche, indie title an incredibly hard sell. Part of the reason for this is the very competitive nature of the matchups which feel more impressive in person. It is also due to two major problems that a game like AVARIAvs faces; the lack of players online and the lack of features to compete with other online games. 

The community online on sites such as Steam is just too small, leading to little incentive to even play AVARIAvs in the first place. Juncture Media did give the option for offline play against an AI, which does track wins and even levels up the player so they can unlock bits of art and titles like most online games today. Still, the challenge is sometimes lost when facing the AI, and players will rely heavily on it due to the lack of players online. 

The second problem is perhaps worse though, as the game is a one-trick pony. In small bursts, AVARIAvs is a cool little combat game that can blend turn-based RPG mechanics into a competitive mode. For longer periods, however, the mechanics wear thin and all you are left with is a pretty interesting, high-grade demo for Juncture Media’s portfolio.

AVARIAvs Screenshot 4
The game really shines with multiplayer, but local play trumps online easily. 

It is strange because AVARIAvs is one of the major games to always garner attention at expos like PlayNYC. It is a competently made game with a neat idea, that draws in the competitive spirit this side of an EVO championship in players attending the show floors. AVARIAvs shines here, where the shallowness of the overall experience is shielded and positive word of mouth can spread.

Linde is hoping to still get his turn-based RPG set in the AVARIA world off the ground. If AVARIAvs is any indication, he is on the right track. Despite its lack of features and sparse online content, the mechanics are excellent, the game is visually striking, and there are hints of lore that is waiting to be fleshed out further. AVARIAvs may not be the deepest game out there, but it is a game worth experiencing, as Juncture Media moves on to bigger projects going forward.

TechRaptor played AVARIAvs on PC using a copy provided by the developer.

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