Age of Darkness can definitely unlock sweet memories, especially to old players. Anyone who has played even one of the games listed above, in addition to having had a good childhood, certainly has a vivid memory of that type of game.
Manage units, resources in real time and build ever stronger buildings and machinery. At the same time think about organizing defenses against the opponent. All in real time!
In addition to the game mechanics, we also remember the characters who have become iconic and their stories. These heroes, at the head of their armies, crossed their weapons and their lives.
Age of Darkness seems to want to follow the same path. Let’s go slowly and try to discover all the game features.
Core Gameplay Elements
Like every old school RTS game, in Age of Darkness you’ll start on a dark map with a keep and some dwellings. These last are the huts used to increase villager’s population and over time money effort.
Money and villagers are not the only things you’ll need. Wood, stone, iron and food are fundamental to empower and expand your foundation.
Once built these constructions you need one important thing to do: defend what you’ve built.
Train soldiers, build walls, defense towers and siege machines is the way to protect your keep. Indeed if your keep is destroyed, especially in the survival mode, your game is lost!
Don’t forget to explore! Only with exploration and with your hero can you gradually discover the map and find loot or maybe death.
The Importance of Being a Hero
Like the old Blizzard’s RTS games like Warcraft 3 or Starcraft, we have control of the hero.
A special character that is stronger than single units and has special and unique abilities.
In campaign mode we can’t choose our hero because everything is bound to the flow of events. In survival mode we can choose between three factions for a total of five heroes.
Heroes have stats like hit points, melee/ranged attack power and speed, armor defense, movement speed, vision and costs. They can improve some of these stats by leveling up. To level up they need to kill mobs and enemies. All of them have four special skills: the first is a passive useful for buffing themselves and the close units. The others can be unlocked every two levels and are active ones. Depending on the hero the skills can be ranged, single target, in a cone of effect or AOE.
The currently usable heroes in survival mode are Edwin and Merek from The Order, Aelis and Cyrus from The Rebellion and Vizargo from the Volatists.
As said before every faction has different fighting styles and skills going from defensive, tactical and aggressive ones.
A Nice Surprise
Playing campaign mode was surprising and a jump into the past. For now we can only play the prologue and the first two acts. But what I saw in these few acts was really promising for future updates of campaign mode.
The main protagonists are the crystals. Humanity was proved by a bloody war against creatures under the influence of the crystals. Now different factions are at war with each other as they seek to recover from the past conflicts. But the crystals are still active and hordes of nightmares are born from them, threatening all of humanity.
The story seems to be mature and quite dark, characters seem to be well characterized with well-defined personalities and personal conflicts.
We have in-game cutscenes made with the game engine in real time. Another reference to old school RTS games.
Furthermore, missions are divided into main and optional objectives. We discover these objectives as the adventure progresses and it’s up to us to decide whether to complete all the missions. There are some core conditions to respect for not failing: the keep and our heroes must survive.
It’s Not an Easy Game
This phrase is what the developers say to us at the beginning of the game. Especially in survival mode we experience a spike of difficulty. With this mode we can talk in depth about gameplay mechanics and combat system.
Finding resources is very important. Lumber mills and quarries can be placed near the primary resources. Depending on the amount of raw material, we will have a judgment about the amount and quality of the production. Another way is to find points of interest around the map and collect rare materials. Useful because you need resources to level up, but at the same time dangerous because these points are full of nightmares and elite nightmares. I don’t have to tell you that they are very dangerous enemies
At the same time you need to build research structures to improve the buildings and build other facilities and new troops.
Yes, soldiers are important too. We have many troops to train: soldiers, archers, pikemens, sentinels and arbalests. Each of them has peculiar skills.
Siege machines and defense structures are the way in this modality. Boost these lasts and the walls are necessary to survive. Every wave is harder than the others, and when a timer expires a veil covers all the map and nightmares and a Death Knight will spawn. The only thing to do is wait and prepare your defenses.
Something Old, Something New, Something Bad
The game has all the quality of life features of RTS. Quick selection shortcuts of units and structures. Shortcuts for building various structures at the same time and to give specific combat or patrolling orders to units. This helps especially in the most chaotic moments.
Nice the selection of the unit’s spawning point.
Age of Darkness pays a great tribute to old school, but adds some interesting features.
The night and day cycle. It’s not surprising news, but adds depth to gameplay, because night affects the nightmare creatures.
Crossroads and Blessings. After beating a wave or fulfilling some conditions you have to choose between some blessings or between some options. Choose wisely because our choice can turn the tide of the game.
Emboldened and Horrified. Units can become emboldened after defeating a nightmare’s wave, gaining health and damage bonuses. Some special enemy troops can horrified units, giving serious debuffs on the same stats.
Dark crystals. With these crystals dropped by elite nightmares, you can increase troops’ abilities too, increase their stats or give them passive skills.
Swarmtech. It’s an internally developed technology used for rendering up to 70.000 of enemy units at the same time.
There is also bad news. The game is still in early access, and developers need to work especially on technical aspects. Character design and settings are good, but there are micro-freezes and some stuttering and frame drops, especially in map scrolling.
More worrying is the audio compart. Music stops frequently, sometimes audio glitches start to cut and loop little audio section continuously. It’s the most urgent thing to patch.
Furthermore we have some pathing issues especially in closed areas. This affects A.I. leading to stop attacking or giving no response to player’s orders. Even A.I. of elite nightmares can easily be cheesed by resetting aggro, if they are alone.
My Two Cents
Age of Darkness: final stand is surely a good surprise and a real deal, especially for old school RTS lovers. Campaign mode is very promising and got on the right way. In survival mode there are interesting ideas that can entertain those who love challenges and give them many hours of fun. I can’t give it the rating it deserves, since we only have two acts. Furthermore the numerous technical issues weigh heavily on the gameplay experience.
I’m equally sure that the developers will be able to solve it and give us a thrilling story with memorable characters!
Brace yourselves against nightmares!
Age of Darkness: Final Stand
- Good characters and world design
- Good shortcut and quality of life mechanics
- New interesting features in old RTS structure
- Good campaign mode incipit
- Technical issues
- Pathing and A.I. issues in closed zones
- Severe audio glitches