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The age of darkness: final stand release date is a review for the new game, Age of Darkness Final Stand. The game has been in Early Access since April 2018.
The base-builder RTS genre, popularized in the 1990s by games like Starcraft and the Warcraft series, was once one of PC gaming’s most enduring genres. That was before, about the time Empire Earth 3 flopped in 2007, the world plunged into a dark era. The third Age of Empires, released in 2005, may have been the final true success in the classic format.
However, the genre has risen from the dead in the age of the reboot, as has so much old pop culture, and developer PlaySide Studios and publisher Team17 are attempting to put an end to the age of darkness with… Age of Darkness: Final Stand, a grimdark RTS similar in style and execution to 2019’s They Are Billions, with a heavy-handed nod to those old Blizzard games from 20 years ago.
Early Access Review for Age of Darkness: Final Stand
Because it’s under Early Access, the game is very stripped-down and more akin to a demo than a full-fledged game. There’s just one game mode, dubbed “Survival” by the creators, and it’s identical to the one-off rapid combat singleplayer variants seen in every RTS game before it. A campaign is supposedly on the way, but for the time being, it’s one-off fights and one-off battles alone.
Heroes, those super-powered general units who, whether modeled on historical characters like in Age of Empires or fantasy archetypes like in Warcraft, provide bonuses to soldiers while giving appropriately inspirational one-liners whenever you order them to assault anything, are also in the works.
For the time being, though, Age of Darkness only provides one: Edwin, a man with a blazing sword and the demeanor of a wet noodle. In a game like this, a true hero character should feel suitably heroic. A hero’s narrative isn’t made up of canned lines of clichéd dialogue and one helpful line of background — “a veteran of many excursions beneath the Veil” — in the menu.
Right now, hero characters aren’t much more than enhanced mooks in terms of gameplay, and there’s no need to strive to keep them alive – if they die in battle, they just respawn back at base, making them just as disposable as, say, the Patriot heroes in 2003’s Rise of Nations.
The Nightmares, who may as well simply yell “zerg rush kekekeke” in a reference to old Internet memes, are the opponents in this version of RTS home run derby; if you’ve played Starcraft, you’ve seen this a million times.
Rank and file here are buglike swarmers that die by the thousands and whose primary ability is to simply overcome fortifications by sheer numbers. In They Are Billions, it was zombies; in The Witcher 3, it’s scurrying four-legged creatures who seem like long-lost relatives of the ghouls.
The adversary possesses boss-like troops as well, although they are limited in number and aren’t mentioned in the game’s narrative. They’re just more cannon fodder that absorb a few more hits from ordinary troops but perish just as quickly from anything improved.
This leads us to the “base-builder RTS” portion of the title. Everything is exactly how you’d expect from the genre; there are no surprises. The primary goal is to keep the enemy at bay at all costs. If the keep falls, the game is over. Barracks are used to make troops, towers are used to protect fixed assets (such as the keep), farms and loggers are used to collect the game’s resources, and quarries are used to gather the game’s resources.
The game encourages you to develop fast, which appears to be the trend in today’s resurrected RTS world. Every few in-game days, a mechanism called “Death Night” is activated. Enemies appear out of nowhere at breakneck speed, and the game isn’t finished until you’ve destroyed every single one of them, like a twisted version of multiball mode on a pinball machine with your armies acting as the flippers and zerg stand-ins acting as the balls.
During the mode, your base is subjected to a random malus that may, for example, prevent your troops from healing, increase their maintenance costs, causing your economy to collapse while battling the enemy, or do other nefarious deeds.
The advantage is that if you win the Death Night, daylight will come and you will be able to pick a permanent perk that will typically improve one of your hero, army, or base.
The issue isn’t that Age of Darkness is a poor game. It’s not great, but it’s adequate. A report card with a lot of B and C ratings on it. It’s excellent enough to graduate, but not good enough to make the honor roll. It’s based on the RTS base-builder design document, but it lacks personality, spirit, and a distinguishing “Hey, this is worth it” characteristic to set it apart from what has become a resurrected genre after years in the wilderness.
Yes, that’s precisely what gamers are searching for at times. And, sure, it’s the first of the Early Access releases. Age of Darkness may improve as it nears release, whenever that may be – heaven knows there have been plenty of games released in Early Access and never completed.
Is it, however, a suggestion? No, no, and no. Not when you could play They Are Billions, a full experience, or wait a few weeks for Age of Empires 4, or even track down an old copy of Warcraft 3 or StarCraft, which are still excellent games 20 years later.
In its present form, Age of Darkness: Final Stand is just not ready for prime time. There is still much work to be done. Of course, we’ll check back in a few days to see how it’s progressed, and who knows, maybe it’ll discover that one improvement it needs to make it through the night.
[Note: The copy of Age of Darkness: Final Stand utilized for this Early Access review was given by Team 17.]
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