Dead Age (PC) Review

By Athanasios 09.11.2016

Review for Dead Age on PC

From Richard Matheson's I Am Legend to today's The Walking Dead, zombie post-apocalypses have always fascinated a great deal of the geek world, and how could they not, as it is a concept that can be used in multiple ways - from a metaphor of humanity's fear of death or a thought-experiment about how people would react to such a phenomenon, to just a reason to have some good ol' plain horror movie or video game fun. In the realm of the latter, the undead have entered almost all genres, and Dead Age has managed to mix two of them together, probably for the first time. Combining rogue-lite, survival elements, with the turn-based combat of classic RPGs, does Silent Dreams' creation hit the spot?

Jack sets out to find his sister in a world plagued by zombies. Milliseconds later, he finds out that she has become one herself, and shoots her down - a few milliseconds more and she will be forgotten. Let this set the tone about how Dead Age handles its storytelling. The cast consists of characterless Jennifers, Bills, and Johns that no one will really care about, because the writing, while decent, is somewhat lifeless: "Oh, I feel so desperate! I will commit suicide!" "No, man, don't do that, there's still hope," "Yes, you're right. Thank you, mate," and so on…

Strangely enough, the zombies are actually more interesting here, since they range from simple civilians, to more… specialised units like Silent Hill-esque "sexy" nurses, cheerleaders, flaming cadavers, and even undead wolves. While seeing such creatures healing/buffing each other or performing roundhouse kicks(!) might seem strange, the turn-based battle system requires the existence of different zombie types to keep things interesting, or else battles would feel the same from start to finish.

Screenshot for Dead Age on PC

Ironically enough, battles do become tedious after a short while. For starters, they are the bulk of what this title has to give. While it's possible to perform various tasks in the main camp, it only takes a few minutes before going back to the fray and experience monotony. Why? Mainly because nothing ever changes. The characters can enhance their abilities and unlock better melee/ranged/healing skills, but the vast majority of battles are all about choosing the same few moves, and watching it all slowly unfold on screen.

Moreover, while this title has recently left the Early Access state, it's still in dire need of some balancing. Most will find that simple melee attacks are the way to go, since gunplay, while effective for those characters who are skilled enough in that department, are not as effective as expected in terms of cost. Ranged weaponry needs bullets, bullets need to be crafted or bought, and that's not exactly the easiest thing to do in this world; therefore, it's kind of depressing when a wooden bat deals pretty much the same damage as an Uzi.

Screenshot for Dead Age on PC

The camp section is much more interesting, albeit still far from perfect. This is where Jack must decide how to spend the few resources available, as well as prepare for any treks towards hostile territory; spend acquired skill points to "upgrade" his crew and arsenal, task people with various jobs ranging from hunting for rations or defending the base, to crafting all sorts of items from collected components, do a little bit of selling/buying, check on the available missions, and so on.

While fun, this also gets repetitive after a few 'days' (the game's turns), and for multiple reasons. Firstly, like with the battles, this is another field where the numbers need some tweaking. Secondly, after getting the hang of what needs to be done, it's easy to realise that this is not the tough survival rogue-like it's supposed to be. Finally, and most importantly, it feels the same from start to finish. Assign jobs, improve stats, buy/sell/craft, and battle with zombies and scavengers. In other words, you never feel that you actually progress, or at least struggle to survive.

Screenshot for Dead Age on PC

Being a survival rogue-like, there's a great deal of randomisation here. Each playthrough has the main hero finding characters at totally different times, each time he braves a location he may or may not find abandoned gear to loot, living enemies to kill, places to rest, or people to save, but, apart from the time limit that many missions have, few events ever manage to ignite any interest or create a little bit of survival horror-esque anxiety. It's just like rolling a simple pair of dice: somewhat unpredictable, but not as much to keep the adrenaline rising… unless addicted to gambling that is.

After dying/winning you can use medals (from completed achievements) to make the next try easier, but this won't be enough to keep people coming back. Overall, this isn't a bad experience. In fact, this is a charming labour of love from a team that certainly shows promise, but just "isn't there yet." From the amateurish artwork that decorates the notebook-like UI, and the very-rough-around-the-edges 3D design of the actual battles, to the central gameplay concepts, this is undoubtedly on the right track of becoming something much better, if Dead Age II: The Return (copywrite Cubed3 2016) ever becomes a reality.

Screenshot for Dead Age on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

RPG turned-based combat, base management, a zombie apocalypse, survival horror premise, plus the typical randomisation that rogue-lites tend to offer. Sounds like a dream? Unfortunately, while Dead Age definitely shows promise, and is somewhat fun for a playthrough or two, it soon gets insanely repetitive, way too easy for the sub-genre it belongs to, and a bit too predictable for it to remain enjoyable in the long run.

Developer

Silent Dreams

Publisher

Headup

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Flynnie, RudyC3

There are 2 members online at the moment.