A genre that has become pretty popular on the indie video game scene in recent years is what I would classify as the survival RTS. Made popular by games such as They Are Billions the basic concept is that you need to build up a base to defend against wave after wave of enemies that will converge on your base hoping to destroy it. Your goal is to try to hold them back. As I have always preferred building bases and playing defense over offense in RTS games, I have really liked this new genre of games. Today I am looking at Age of Darkness: Final Stand which is a game that enters Early Access tomorrow and is trying to bring its own take on the genre. Age of Darkness: Final Stand may not be the most original game in the genre at this point, but it is already a really enjoyable game that is on the right path to becoming a standout in the genre.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand takes place in a world filled with darkness. Creatures of darkness cover the lands. As the leader of a band of humans you must protect your people from the darkness by growing your city and taking territory back from the darkness. Beware nighttime though as the creatures of darkness become stronger and every few days will converge on your city in order to wipe out humanity forever. Will you be able to fight back the darkness and regain control over the land for your people?
If I were to sum up the gameplay of Age of Darkness: Final Stand in a sentence I would say that it plays a lot like They Are Billions and other similar games. Those who are familiar with that game or other similar games should be able to jump right into Age of Darkness: Final Stand.
For those not too familiar with the genre, the gameplay of Age of Darkness: Final Stand mostly comes down to two main elements. First there is a city/base building element. Basically you need to build up a base to gather resources as well as make the buildings required to supply troops, upgrades, and defenses to protect against the looming threat of the darkness. Gathering resources is pretty simple as you just place down resource gathering buildings and assign some of your population to work at them. The building will then periodically provide resources based on how many of the associated resources are in the building’s surrounding area. As your city grows you can purchase upgrades which unlock additional buildings, units and boosts to your units’ abilities.
You build up your base in order to create an army and defenses for your base to survive against the creatures of darkness. Scattered around the game world are pockets of enemy units to defeat. While these units usually stay in place and don’t bother you, you need to explore the world and defeat them in order to expand your base to give yourself more land to build on to gather more resources and become more powerful. While exploring you will also come upon locations which give you resources if you defeat all of the enemies in the area. There are also more powerful creatures which give you rare materials if you are able to defeat them. Enemy units are stronger during the night, but also give your units more experience so you need to decide what time is best to explore.
The base building and exploration mechanics are required to prepare your base for the Death Nights which occur every couple days (you know ahead of time when one of these will occur). What is unique about Death Nights is that hundreds to thousands of units will spawn at one location and they will head straight towards your keep. The ultimate goal of the game is to protect your keep at all costs since if it falls you will immediately lose the game. You can use the units you were using to explore to fight back the enemies. You can also build walls and a number of different towers to fight against the horde that is quickly descending on your base. Basically you need to try whatever you can to hold back/defeat all of the enemies that begin to swarm your base. Should you survive the Death Night the game continues as you get a few more days to prepare for the next Death Night.
I mentioned earlier that Age of Darkness: Final Stand shares a lot in common with They Are Billions. While there are differences, it is hard to deny the connection because the basic gameplay is very similar. Basically in both games and all games from this genre you build a base to gather resources which you then use to add defenses and units to help fight back enemy units. Because of the similarities I will say that your feelings towards this genre in general are likely to apply to Age of Darkness: Final Stand as well. If you have tried similar games before and didn’t like them, I don’t see that changing with Age of Darkness: Final Stand. Fans of the genre though should really enjoy what the game has to offer so far.
As a big fan of this genre of games, I have really enjoyed what I have played of Age of Darkness: Final Stand so far. I have mentioned this in a number of reviews before but probably my favorite aspect of RTS games is to gather resources and build a well run base. This genre of games is built around this idea as while you have to explore to expand your territory, the main goal of the game is to build a defense that can survive an onslaught of enemy units. The game basically gives you a couple days to gather resources and build up a defense. It then tests that defense by sending a large wave of enemies at it. If you survive you get another couple days to improve your defense even more to face off against an even larger force. It is exciting watching to see if your defense is going to hold as you mow down enemies.
In a lot of ways I would say that Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a game of figuring out how to best utilize your time. Building up your base as well as exploring and expanding your base are both really important to your success as you can’t really ignore either aspect. You need to keep building your resource gathering operations in order to gain access to better technologies, build stronger defenses, and train more units to fight for you. This has to be balanced with exploring as you need to have control over more land in order to maximize your resource gathering. If you don’t balance both of these elements well your progress will slow down which will be felt when the next Death Night approaches and you get destroyed. Figuring out how to prioritize both aspects is key to improving in the game and surviving more Death Nights.
I will say that Age of Darkness: Final Stand is not an easy game. The game has a number of different difficulties but even the easier difficulties can be pretty hard until you get a good grasp of the gameplay. Those familiar with the genre should be able to pick up the game quickly, but those who have never played one of these type of games before may have some troubles as it takes some time to adjust to. The game doesn’t really have a tutorial as the only explanation for how to play the game appears in boxes that show up on the side of the screen when you unlock/build a new building. Even after you have figured out how to play the game, the game will still not be easy. These type of games are built around learning from your failures as you learn to grow your city quicker and create stronger defenses. You will fail, the question is how long you will be able to survive. As long as you learn from your failures you should be able to do better on future runs as you change things to fix problems with your last attempt.
As soon as I started playing Age of Darkness: Final Stand I could tell that the developers are being ambitious with the game. For a game that just entered Early Access and is planning on spending at least a year in the process, I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the game’s current state. The basic gameplay is already in place as you can play through an entire game and not hit anything that feels like it is missing due to the game still being worked on. I will say that the game could probably use some more buildings/units/etc, but in many ways the game already feels like a complete game. So far the game only has the survival mode, but a full campaign is planned to be added at a future date. I was impressed with where the game is right now, and I can’t wait to see where the game goes with future updates.
At this point the biggest issue that I had with Age of Darkness: Final Stand is that it does feel a lot like other games from this genre. The game does have two somewhat unique elements which I haven’t talked about yet. First as each Death Night approaches a fog, called The Veil, descends upon the land. Basically any part of the world where you don’t have a building nearby will be covered in The Veil. This blocks your view so you can’t see where enemies are coming from. Any units that walk through the Veil will start taking damage which can quickly kill off units. To protect against this you need to build light/fire towers throughout your base and make sure buildings are evenly spread throughout your base as the Veil can really hurt you if you don’t prepare for it. The other tweak is that during each Death Night a curse is inflicted on your people. This gives some sort of negative impact which will hurt your chances of surviving. If you survive a Death Night though you will get to pick a blessing which gives you a boost for the rest of the game.
These two additions are nice, but I hope the game finds a few more ways to differentiate itself from the other games in this genre. While the game is great on its own, I could see players comparing it to a game like They Are Billions and coming away with the game not being all that different. If you have never played one of these other games this shouldn’t be a problem as Age of Darkness: Final Stand looks like it will be a great game in the genre. I could see some people being a little disappointed though if they played a bunch of They Are Billions and were hoping for something a little different. If you like the general gameplay though, I think you will still enjoy the game.
As for the amount of content in Age of Darkness: Final Stand at this point, I will say that you should get quite a bit of time out of the game. The game only has the survival mode at this point, but it has quite a bit of replay value. Each map is randomly generated which means no two games will ever play the same. I will say this does add some luck to the game as the layout of the map could play a big role in how well you will do. Generally speaking you are probably better off getting a map which limits the the number of ways that the enemies can approach your keep as this allows you to concentrate your defenses more. The randomization does keep the game fresh through. Between that and the trial and error approach of the game, you will want to play the game over after a failure to hopefully do better on your next attempt.
Being a fan of the survival RTS I was intrigued when I first saw Age of Darkness: Final Stand. For a game that just entered Early Access and intends to spend at least a year in the process, I have to say that I came away impressed by the game. The game is already surprisingly polished and is already really fun. I could see adding some more units/buildings, but the gameplay is already quite robust. Balancing between building your base and exploring/preparing your defenses is a key component of the game. It can be quite tense to see if your defenses will hold out against the horde of enemies quickly approaching. The game can be quite difficult and does rely on some trial and error as you try to figure out what went wrong to improve your next attempt. Honestly the biggest issue I had with Age of Darkness: Final Stand so far is that I think it needs to do a little more in order to distinguish itself from other similar games in the genre. Otherwise I was impressed with the game and can’t wait to see where it goes.
If you have tried games like They Are Billions and didn’t really care for them, I don’t think Age of Darkness: Final Stand will be for you. Fans of this genre though should really enjoy Age of Darkness: Final Stand and should seriously consider picking it up.
Buy Age of Darkness: Final Stand online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank PlaySide and Team17 for the review copy of Age of Darkness: Final Stand used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.