PREVIEW: Age of Darkness: Final Stand

The darkness is coming and time is not on your side. Lead your colony against the horrors in the fog as it expands and builds its defenses in this dark fantasy RTS.

Released: Steam Early Access
Type: Singleplayer
Genre: Strategy
Developer: PlaySide
Publisher: Team17
Release date: 7 October, 2021


Colony builders can be a great experience when designed well. A variety of resources, professions, and challenges are required, but if you overcome the obstacles you’re likely to be proud of what you’ve built. The additions of a defense mechanic to the genre’s basics can spice things up or ruin them depending on their implementation and so far in its history we’ve seen both.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand manages to balance these elements admirably and the gameplay feels quite similar to They Are Billions, though in a fairly different setting. If you drop the science and pick up some dark magic, you’ll be just about there.

Race against Time

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is all about your race against the clock. From the second your game starts, the timer to the first invasion begins. Each time you successfully repel an invasion, the time will reset and you’ll get an additional day tacked on for you to prepare. An extra day each time is useful, even necessary, though the monsters from the darkness grow exponentially with each wave and even the first attack is severe enough to wipe out an unprepared colony.

These crystals keep the nightmares sealed underground. The good news is that every few nights one of them explodes and releases the monster underneath. Oh wait…

Preparations consist of building a thriving economy, a strong military, and suitable defenses. Housing increases your population which is required for both the workforce for your industries and the able bodies for your military, though it requires a steady supply of food to support them. Without excess food, there isn’t any new housing. Other materials need to be collected to train soldiers and construct buildings and you’ll find yourself needing to expand quickly to make a little lebensraum and find the resources that you need like forests for cutting and large tracts of land for farming. This process leads you right into increasingly dangerous enemy hordes that populate most of the map outside of your starting area. Pacing yourself is important as a lack of expansion will prevent you from being prepared for the next invasion while overreaching will leave your vulnerable colonists exposed.

Resource buildings, housing, technology workshops, and defensive structures can all be upgraded for superior efficiency once the necessary research has been completed. Early palisade walls will barely hold off the earliest of attacks, but the improved variety offer a far greater obstacle for the evergrowing horde of nightmares to overcome. You’ll need a healthy military to keep the darkness from breaking in and wreaking havoc on your settlement. Fortunately, chokepoints aren’t rare and using them strategically will force the enemy hordes to get get back up on your walls while your garrisoned towers cut them down to size.

Expansion is unwise unless you have the defenses necessary to protect your new structures.

To Arms!

The organization of your military takes thought and patience, though it isn’t particularly complex. You begin with an exceptionally powerful hero who gains new abilities as they gain experience. In this stage of Early Access, only the one with the giant flaming sword is available. He’s tough and can cleave through large groups of enemies within his reach. I didn’t have any complaints about him, and if you’re curious, he’s the displeased-looking fellow on the title image. Lighting enemies on fire for some serious damage over time never gets old.

Only one hero is available, but he packs a punch.

Simply sword-and-board warriors and archers make up the bulk of your early forces and you’ll be unlocking more as you progress with your research. Higher tier units offer more firepower and increased survivability though the selection is a bit limited. They get the job done but there isn’t much variety outside of the basic roles. I would have liked to have seen a much wider variety of units so that there was more choice involved in your army composition and defenses. A nice touch is that you are able to purchase passive bonuses for them via three separate role trees: melee, ranged, and siege. It’s important to note that while these choices can bolster your forces significantly, each choice restricts the others available and is for that entire class of units colony-wide; there’s no fine-tuning of individuals involved.

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Age of Darkness: Last Stand is shaping up to be a strong entry in the genre. It offers a solid challenge and I didn’t experience a single bug over the hours that I played which is a great sign for an Early Access title. That said, if this title is going to stand on its own as a rich and memorable experience, it’s going to need to find a way to differentiate itself as there isn’t much that makes it exceptionally unique. All in all, it’s a good one to keep an eye on if the genre interests you though.

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