Welcome to the post-post-apocalypse where you’ve been elected to lead a group of survivors during a second massive uprising of the dead.
Developer: Silent Dreams
Release date: 16 July, 2020
Although they’ve certainly oversaturated the market in recent years, I have a soft spot for zombies when they’re well done. Back when I was still a frequent flier of the shooter genre, I sank a crazy number of hours into Left 4 Dead 2. After having the hype built up for me by the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead, several others clicked for me as well. I got a kick out of Dead Island and have even returned to it and played it recently with a few friends that were roped in. It’s admittedly superior successor Dying Light is next on my recent zombie stand-outs to hit up in multiplayer and ideas have been thrown around about jumping into a couple of the forever-in-development survival simulators that were already fun years ago, 7 Days to Die and Project Zomboid. Oh, and we can’t forget my long-standing addiction to State of Decay 2.
The original Dead Age only caught my eye within the last year or so and although the depth may not have been comparable to many of the aforementioned titles, I had a good amount of fun with it for what it was. There were several times that I played it a couple of hours in a single sitting, though I ultimately burned out of it before I saw it through to the end. With the arrival of Dead Age 2, I once again found myself hooked over a couple of sessions thanks to the improvements that you’d expect in a sequel, though in the end, several of the same major flaws showed through.
Oh Great, Another Apocalypse
Dead Age 2 tells the tale of a camp of survivors as they struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds. Although the zombie apocalypse had been all but overcome by the fraction of humanity that had scraped by, a resurgence has taken place several years later and pushed the recovery phase back to the drawing board. The living have once again become the hunted scavengers divided by faction lines that they once were. The army, the independents, and the smugglers are the three key ones that hold serious sway in the world as it is.
These factions can make for useful allies and provide benefits like unique equipment, though you’ll have to build a relationship with them first. Running around the map and completing tasks for them is the key to this and these missions come in quite a variety with differing levels of difficulty. At the end of the day though, it’ll be up to you to ensure that your camp makes it through this harrowing experience and out the other side.
A Makeshift Fortress with Too Many Mouths to Feed
Your base of operations is a decently large building with plenty of room for improvement. Each area within its domain, whether a room inside or a space outside, has a predetermined capability that allows a specific facility to be constructed and upgrade there. These offer necessary advantages like improved armor, being able to produce food, and increasing the quantity and quality of your camp’s defenses. The variety of improvements is done well enough to keep you occupied during an indie title like this one, though I often found myself wishing that I could’ve had a little more creative license and decided on how I wanted to use the space available to me.
The Feared and the Fearless
No matter how efficiently your base may end up running, you’ll need to send you survivors out every so often to scavenge for supplies. Instead of providing their labors to the camp, they’ll instead be dealing head-on with the dead and gathering whatever useful items the come across. The territory map has locations scattered all about it with different areas being better for different types of loot. If you’re looking for food, the forest may be ideal with its berries and wild game running about, but if you’re looking for guns and ammunition, you might want to give the police station a shot instead.
Most of your time will likely be spent scavenging these locations. This experience can mostly be summed up as your party running from left to right through an area, stopping at certain points to loot, fight, or interact with events. Combat plays out similarly to other turn-based RPGs, like Darkest Dungeon, WARSAW, or just about any classic RPG. You’ll be making use of character positioning, managing your health and supplies, and using abilities based on your characters’ skills and equipment. The variety of zombies with a few other enemies sprinkled in keeps it interesting longer than you might expect and the experience gained from these trips lets you level up and customize your survivors. These levels grant them boosted capabilities that help both in the field and at home.
Dead Age 2 has several features that technically make it a rogue-like, though I’d suggest there are some limitations to this. When you die, your game ends, though you’re granted medals based on what you achieved during that run. These can be spent to improve your starting conditions with better equipment, a more talented main character, and friendlier relations with the factions. This all sounds nice, but there’s a catch. You may not even end up using this aspect of the game.
When you first kick the experience off, you’re informed that you shouldn’t turn up the difficulty until you’ve completed the story once. The problem is that there just aren’t enough rogue-like elements or difficulty to justify the engagement that’s required to dive into them. The gameplay loop is too repetitive when compared to the rogue-like classics that have truly left their mark on us. I found myself running out of steam a few hours into my first run and have never used the rogue-lite mechanics at all. It seems to me that a much more challenging base difficulty would’ve suited the title better overall. As it is, the skilled and experienced gamers among us are likely to see everything in their first go of it.
Dead Age 2 is a nice diversion of a fairly casual zombie-themed RPG that can provide a good amount of fun for a few hours. After that, it’ll likely start to feel repetitive and you’ll find yourself looking for a new experience to jump into instead of giving it another go with the rogue-like improvements. I’d recommend it to fans of the zombie theme as its solid enough for what it is and can certainly provide fun for a bit, but don’t expect it to earn a place on your mantle.