On its face, Dead Age sounds like a great idea. It’s a survival RPG game that uses turn-based combat in place of real-time combat. While this risk pays off well, there isn’t much else to praise in this title.
I’m going to start with the good: Dead Age shines with its story and turn-based combat.
As previously mentioned, the turn-based combat throws a bit of a wrench into the conventional zombie genre. Friendlies are on the left and the enemy — be it zombie or raider — stands on the right. Much like Pokemon, moves are chosen and the teams take turns swinging at each other. It’s a mechanic that isn’t commonly seen in a zombie apocalypse-themed game and it works pretty well.
This addition opens the door to new ways to strategize, because “just aim for the head” doesn’t really apply when there’s no option to aim. Planning and prioritizing are key as there are special zombie variants that will bring the player to a swift end if they don’t plan accordingly
With the thought of permadeath looming the wrong move is made, it’s advised to take a little time to step back and think about what might come of the next choice made.
Unfortunately, while the turn-based combat is fun and forces a change of approach, it gets horrendously repetitive. The combat is the only part of the game where it feels like something is being done. For the most part, the rest of the gameplay entails clicking around to assign jobs to survivors and managing what little there is to manage. The lack of hands-on interaction and world exploration makes it stale. If there were more animated gameplay, this could be glossed over. However, since this is the only part of the game where the player can be directed boredom can set in quickly.
The story of Dead Age has enough twists and turns to keep engagement at a high. A majority of scenarios have two outcomes: life or death.
Each time a new playthrough is started, the story will change. On multiple playthroughs, it is likely one might find the same scenario twice or thrice, but the timing of the scenario and available resources may changethe overall approach.
Although the story can be fun and engaging, for the most part, it falls flat in that it feels like a point and click adventure. Choosing one option of the many available, and then proceeding to read about the outcome with a photographic aid. This is a major undercut to the moments in Dead Age that would otherwise get the adrenaline pumping.
This could have been easily circumvented with novelized storytelling. It felt like this would be the route taken at the beginning of the game, but it dropped off quickly. In its current state, the writing doesn’t do justice to the intense parts of this game.
The graphics for Dead Age seem to have been inspired partly by “The Walking Dead” graphic novels. The art style used in both combat and cutscenes feels like it was taken from the critically acclaimed series. The art style is amusing in that it made this game feel like a non-canon addition to “The Walking Dead.” Of course, The Walking Dead didn’t feature special zombies like the “Zombie Cheerleader.”
This thought is cemented even further by this not-so-subtle nod to the franchise:
Dead Age feels like the kind of game that would appeal to a specific gamer. This is a story heavy game with a lot of decisions to be made.
Dead Age may not draw in every fan of resource management games as they are expecting. It’s hard, but not impossible, to get hooked on this game and waste away hours or days on it.