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 I mentioned before, the turn-based combat throws a bit of a wrench into the conventional zombie genre. You stand on the left and the enemy, be it zombie or raider, stands on the right, and you take turns swinging at each other. It’s a mechanic that I have never seen before 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. You will have to plan your attack accordingly as there are special zombie variants that you’ll want to prioritize in order to survive.
With the thought of permadeath looming over you if you make the wrong move, you might find yourself taking some more time to plan out your method of attack.
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 you’re actually doing something. For the most part, the rest of the gameplay entails clicking around to assign jobs to survivors and managing what little you have. While I have no issue with resource management, the lack of hands-on interaction makes it stale.
If there were more animated gameplay, I would be able to look past this. However, since this is the only part of the game where you can direct your character in any way, I can’t help but get bored.
The story of Dead Age has enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Without spoiling anything, you will find that most scenarios can have a life or death consequence.
Each time you start a new playthrough, your story will change. You will likely run into the same scenario on multiple playthroughs, but the timing of the scenario and your available resources may change your 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. You choose the option you want to go with, then you 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 appear to have been inspired partially by “The Walking Dead” graphic novels. The art style used in both combat and cut scenes feels like it was taken from the critically acclaimed series. As a fan of the graphic novels, I was amused by the art style that 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.
While I am a fan of games that require resource management and life or death decisions, I was not drawn into this game like I expected to be. I can absolutely understand why someone would be a fan of Dead Age. I’m not saying that I’m not a fan, I just simply couldn’t get hooked to it no matter how hard I tried.
Dead Age is available on Steam for $14.99.
The product, Dead Age, was given to us for free by publisher Headup Games. It is important for us to make it known that this does not impact our opinion of the game as a whole.
Windows, Mac OS X, SteamOS + Linux
"Dead Age" is a title for a specific palate. It adds a much-needed twist to the zombie genre with its turn-based combat. However, outside of combat, everything is pretty much a point and click adventure with some resource management thrown into the mix.