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понеделник, 2 ноември 2015 г.

Age of Decadence - "You are about to die and we salute you!"



Usually I start my reviews telling you what the game I will talk about, reminds me of. This time I have nothing to say. Age of Decadence is post-apocalyptic, Ancient Rome inspired RPG in which you try to survive and if Fate allows, reveal the mystery that torments all. 

The game is made by Iron Tower Studio, it was released in October 2015 and as many previous games that offer something different quickly grabbed the interest of many people.

Here you probably ask "Ok, what is so different about it? “ When you begin a new game there is message which starts with "Welcome, dear adventurer! You are about to die and we salute you!" and then it explains how the game works. The fact that this message exists and the developers have decided that the players will need it says enough about how different this game is. But let me give you more details. And even if what I'm about to tell you doesn't sound really unique to you by itself, imagine it with the other characteristics of the game. 



The first thing is that you are not a demigod killing machine in fact unless you choose some of the more fighting oriented classes like the mercenary or the Pretorian you will even try not to get in fight, because you will simply die. And even if you are a mercenary or battle oriented Pretorian you will still try not to get in fights against more than two enemies. 



Second thing which sets Age of Decadence apart is its decision making. There are a lot of games that try to use decisions and make them really important but sadly many fail. In AoD every word you speak matters it can mean the favour of the ruling House or your throat slit. Interesting here is that NPCs not only remember what you said to them but they can (as well as you) to lie or even betray you and they will if they see fit to. In this game in general promises words of honour, betrayal, lies and oaths are something serious and  you may get in serious trouble if you are not careful. Here NPCs are not some weaklings who only give you quests, no, they actually hold a lot more power than you do. And they are not your friends. In other words it simulates dealing with people frightfully accurate. 

Third thing is that the game is not linear...at all! There is no wrong way to do quests and progress through the story. There are easier ways and harder ones, but they all work. The freedom that the vast dialogue trees give you is mesmerizing. You can make crafty plots, trick people, organize assassinations, lie, betray, be loyal, honourable, peaceful, intimidating, knowledgeable and many more. And all those are ways in which you can play Age of Decadence. I have not tried it, but I believe that the game can be beaten without unsheathing your weapon at all. 

These are the key features of the game which charmed me and actually made me write this review. All those are done really well and click together in great way. If those does not sound like your cup of tea you may stop reading here, because there is no real point to continue as from here I will talk about the world of AoD and some other game mechanics like skills and types of skill points.



Let's start with the world. I tend to start my reviews with some lore but this time I deranged a little.
There has been war between the Empire and some mysterious race. Pressed against the wall the Empire used arcane arts to call for help... and such came. And although in the end the enemy was defeated the Empire fell, engulfing the whole world in chaos and darkness. Now few Houses and few Guilds try to hold what is left of this civilization while at the same time they try to rule all the others. Your role is to help those who now have power to find the answers of all unanswered questions about the destruction of the world. Who? Why? How? All those questions lie before you. 

The world is really well fleshed out. There is definitely the feeling of decay and darkness in the atmosphere. Every city has its own character, every House its own way of acting. There are a lot of characters to talk with, good amount of places to explore and visit. Also a lot if items to choose from to equip your character. Starting from daggers to spears and from cloaks and tunics to heavy armors and shields. What you will use depends only on your choice and your skills which lead us to the next interesting part of the game - skills and experience.

The skill variety in Age of Decadence is also great. You will be able to learn everything from how to smack people with all kind of sharp tools to how to disguise and present yourself as someone else or craft a complicated alchemical concoction. The more advanced your skills are the more experience you will need to level them up. And while there are no levels in the game you will get experience while progressing through the story. Depending on your actions you will get combat skill points, civil skill points or general skill points. The first two you can use only for your combat or civil skills and the third type you can use for both. This way of character development rewards focused builds and at the same time allows some variety to increase your chance of survival in the harsh world of AoD.



Something else that really impressed me and I do not remember to have seen it in other games is that when you choose one character you  can and will meet the others as NPCs in the starting town. For example if your choice is assassin your first task will be to kill a merchant, but you will have to go through his bodyguard. At the same time you can choose to start as this very same merchant or bodyguard and then you will have to deal with the assassin that comes for you.

Mentioning assassins and bodyguards may be its time to tell you more about the battle mechanics of the game.  Battles in Age of Decadence are turn-based and use action points where more powerful attacks and heavier weapons need more AP.  That of course is not all. In the battles there is as much detail as in everything else. When you attack you will have choice of what attack to perform. Based on where you aim - in the leg, head or the arm you you will be able to choose between attacks that can deal more damage, but have less accuracy and weaker but easier ones as well as disarming, whirlwinds, flurries, decreasing your opponents’ accuracy, mobility action points etc. Still battles will be the hardest way of solving matters on top of that optional fights will be even harder so think twice before jumping at someone.


Conclusion


Age of Decadence is RPG like no other. I remember playing its early versions and it impressed me even back then, now when I had more time and the full game it easily left me speechless. The atmosphere of uncertainty, the betrayal and death waiting behind every corner. The genuine feeling of a decaying Empire, falling apart while everybody with power fight to rule all that is left. And on top of that the games perfect mechanics. Everything starting from the vast dialogue trees to the skills to the decisions just clicks together making one perfect whole.



But despite seeing it as something great I can easily see why people may not like it. Age of Decadence does not look good - it is isometric and lacks any eye candies. There is very little action in the game and by action I mean fighting. It’s just not a game about killing people; it’s a game about deceiving them. There is a lot of reading in it. It actually reminds me of Pillars of Eternity, because if you don't read you will miss half of the game, not to mention that you will not know what to do. But at the same time AoD is very different game, because of the freedom it gives you. See praising it again, even when I try I cannot speak badly about it. I think this says enough.

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