Aveyond: Gates of Night is the direct follow-up to Aveyond: Lord of Twilight, and the second episode in the new format since Amaranth Games decided to go episodic with its popular casual role-playing game series instead of releasing one giant 50-hour epic. Offering about 10 hours of gameplay, Gates of Night feels more solid and fleshed out than its predecessor and makes for an even more enjoyable adventure.

Gates of Night continues the story of Mel, a young thief whose unique position as a descendent of the person who created the powerful Orb of Twilight puts her at odds with an evil vampire named Gyendal, who plans to use her to plunge the world into eternal darkness. During the events of Aveyond: Lord of Twilight, Mel studies to be a spy at the School of War and Magic, meets several companions, and begins a search for another of her ancestor’s powerful artifacts – the Orb of Light – which might be able to defeat Gyendal. In Gates of Night Mel and her companions search for four quarter keys to unlock the next portion of the journey.

Although you’ll get a richer experience if you complete Lord of Twilight first, it’s not a requirement. The new episode does a great job of easing a new player into the world gently, filling in character information and backstory as needed. Newbies will soon get up to speed, however those who have completed the first game can load their save file into the new game and bring their characters, experience points, armor and items with them.

At first I was afraid that the second episode would involve a lot of backtracking through the same areas that I had already explored in Gates of Night. Fortunately, I was wrong. A nifty new mode of transportation that you receive early on (and that I won’t reveal for fear of spoilers), greatly expands the world map with interesting new places to explore – and for all intents and purposes eliminates backtracking once and for all.

With introductions out of the way, this episode focuses more on developing relationships between the characters now that the core party is firmly established (although, a couple of new characters do fill out the roster as well). The love/hate relationship between the vampress Te’ijal and her human husband Galahad, and the Crown Prince Edward’s efforts to woo a wife are two particularly interesting sub-plots.

Gameplay and graphics are exactly the same as the first game, and players still have the option of using either the keyboard or the mouse, adjusting the difficulty level, and saving and loading at any time. I continue to be impressed by Aveyond‘s music, which remains catchy, well-orchestrated and perfectly suited to the settings.

The world map is still too vague to actually be useful in figuring out how to get to certain areas, and I still wish there were detailed maps within the game itself instead of having to consult walkthroughs or messageboard. But that’s the only gripe worth mentioning.

Lord of Twilight was a decent introduction to the episodic format, but with Gates of Night the series really feels like it’s hit its stride. There were some lose ends in Lord of Twilight, like quests that couldn’t be complete, and areas that were visible but couldn’t be accessed, that Gates of Night takes care of. The result is a more satisfying and full experience.

For similar games, try Aveyond, Aveyond 2, Aveyond: Lord of Twilight, and Eternal Eden.