Dead Age is a turn based game set around the dawning of what seems to be some kind of viral outbreak. Like most zombie films/games, at no point do any of the characters acknowledge the fact that they are living amongst zombies and instead refer to enemies as ‘turned’ or ‘infected’.
You begin the game with a selection of characters, but for a first-time player, you are only allowed to pick one to begin. It seems that the rest will be unlocked later in the game. So to begin, you take the Student character or, Jack as you are referred to in the narrative. However, if you wish to change that name you have the freedom to do so.
The difficulty system is ranked by the occupation of your character before the apocalypse. This is starting from Student and progresses to Soldier then Medic, Bodyguard and finally Engineer. Why engineer is the top ranked profession for a post apocalyptic survivor, we will never know. All these characters or ‘difficulties’ that use the same pre-set character face of Jack, except he is wearing slightly different clothing for each, for example, the Soldier and Medic have hats!
I felt that the opening tutorial was very long winded and made the game feel quite slow paced. However, to be entirely fair, most game tutorials have that feel. The interface is very basic, you have a menu which is laid out like a worn diary, from this you can look at your inventory and equip weapons, clothing and items, etc. I found it strange that in order to use a medipack, you would have to go to the medipack inventory. Surely the inventory for weapons, clothes and ammo are the same.
The graphics for the game are very much as expected with a two dimensional third person view of the battle. The game’s designers have gone for quite an artistic approach for this battle view. The detail seems to look like it was created by water-colour or painted, and this art is quite reminiscent of a graphic novel, such as the TellTale series of The Walking Dead. Despite the background, having a lot of gore, the characters playing upon the canvas do not show any attack wounds, aside from their health bar depleting. The subtitled description is quite detailed and detail the world where the area is lacking, for those of you who enjoy the gory element of a classic epidemic game. From what we know so far the story is pretty straightforward and falls into most zombie game clichés: A man splits off from the rest of his group in an attempt to find his missing sister Lilly.
Another issue I found with the game is the lacking or variety in the enemies, but this was only for the first time I played it, whether or not there was a bug I wouldn’t know. For the first few battles you find yourself fronted with the likes of Unsteady Vagrants and Bitten Pedestrians which, in honesty, I couldn’t tell the difference between. When you later progress you come across the ridiculously cliché Undead Nurses and Zombie Cheerleaders, and this pair is the same duo you will find yourself battling for the next ten rounds, and that is not an exaggeration. Either this airy woods you stumbled upon had an influx of nurses and cheerleaders during the dawning of a zombie epidemic, or the games developers decided to give up on making any more enemies, and instead tried to win you over with the sex appeal. Once you die in this game you are completely dead too, which really allows for tactical playing, as most player’s hate having to re-do an entire mission, never mind the entire game. After my first death, I replayed the game and noticed that I was starting to get a bigger enemy variety and even found I was confronting the likes of Undead Wolves. Maybe the developers would consider fixing this bug because I found it quite off-putting.
Dead Age also has its upsides for those who love turn based gaming. Where the game lacks in variety for its enemies, it more than makes up for it in the weapon selection. There are many types of weapons ranging from melee, projectile and firearms. All these weapons you will come across during your travels, the first of which is a baseball bat and a handgun. For your artillery weapons and projectiles, you will need ammo, or in some cases you can craft. Crafting items are a certain must-have for post-apocalyptic game play as it just makes for a more realistic experience and sets that challenge the players need. Unfortunately for this game, the crafting element is not implemented so well. Due to it being a turn based game, there is very little free roaming available making looting for crafting materials very hard to find. The only looting you will do is from the occasional battle you have won, or if it is written in the narrative that ‘you stumble upon a suspicious container’, should you choose to open them, it is up to you. There are stores available in various ‘safe zones’ once you complete an area of the map in which you can sell your useless loot to buy ammo, crafting materials, medipacks etc.
Fortunately, the levelling up system works really well for this game as you are rewarded on a regular basis. There are two types of ways you can utilise these points and these are distinguished between Job Skills and Combat Skills. For your Job Skills, you can choose to upgrade Survival, Crafts, Medical and Cunning. These categories are basically anything which isn’t based on battling, as you would assume from the titles given to them. Craft and Medical are both very straightforward, by upgrading your crafting you are allowed to make more items from fewer materials and have a wider variety of things you can make. For Medical you can upgrade your health and effectiveness for healing. Survival and Cunning are slightly different as they allow for when the player is looting outside of battle. By upgrading these you have a better chance at getting loot when it comes to the option to hunt deer or open a large container. Combat Skills however, are simply upgrading different types of combat. These are listed as Melee, Shotgun, Handgun, Assault Rifle, Engineer (meaning projectiles) and Medic. As you might notice, Medic rests in this category also, this is because you will be upgrading this category in the combat screen, therefore allowing more options during battle e.g. you can heal more allies.
In all, Dead Age is simplistic with a few bugs. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but for those who enjoy turn based games, I would say it is ideal. It is very basic and not too complicated, it seems to almost take on the characteristics of a flash game or even possibly a phone app. As I have mentioned earlier, the game could do with a few improvements here and there, but in general it’s good for what it is. However, for those of you looking for a scare-your-pants-off, high octane, zombie game, this isn’t what you’re looking for.