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Monday, 25 April 2011

Indie Strategy Game Review: Age of Fear: The Undead King

Age of Fear: The Undead King is a turn-based strategy game with a fantasy setting; the game uses a slightly different approach to most TBS games I've played, and as a result offers a refreshingly different gaming experience, though it does have its faults as well. Without going into too much detail about the storyline, you have two campaigns to complete - one as the noble Sir Edward, defender of all that is right and just in the kingdom, and that of Krill, a Necromancer and generally pretty vile individual. The two campaigns feel very different indeed; with not only different objectives and unit types in each, but two unique sets of strategy needed.

Age of Fear is all about the strategy; although some features I'd expect, such as terrain affecting the outcomes or being able to select and move a group of units, were missing (at least, as far as I could see), the unique game mechanics made up for this. The interface works very well, albeit sometimes the game runs a bit sluggishly for no apparent reason. At first glance the game seemed rather a second-rate strategy game, but once I'd started to suss it out a bit, and especially when more unit types came into play, it became pretty engrossing.

The game basically works by each unit having a field of vision / attack range and a field of movement. Carefully maximising any potential advantage of your army's position and relative positions to each other and the enemy units are crucial to succeeding in Age of Fear. There is perhaps a bit too much randomness in whether a unit succeeds in hitting an opponent or not - meaning that potentially (as an extreme case) the same strategy can either succeed or completely fail on different occasions - but generally you feel that your actions have a direct bearing on how well you're doing.  If you win a level but suffer heavy losses, the game warns you that this may make the rest of the campaign too difficult - it's generally well worth replaying the level in that case with different tactics, and in fact even if you don't lose too many troops, it can be worth your while trying a different approach so that you're in a better position for the next level.  You don't always have the opportunity to replenish your ranks between levels, and later on you might not be able to recruit the most advanced units you've already encountered, depending on where your character finds themselves at the time.  (Little points like this really add to the atmosphere of the campaigns and make them feel more realistic.)

The army size is small, starting off with a handful and slowly rising as you complete scenarios - also units are never grouped. The upshot of this is that while it feels somewhat small scale compared to most TBS games, the fact that each character has a name, can gain experience and be levelled up etc means that you actually start to care about all the members of your army (in the good quest only - after all as a Necromancer you have an undead army, you don't really start to get pally with them!!). The campaigns themselves, with well-written narratives between the different scenarios, do have a somewhat epic feel to them despite this small-scale approach.

The graphics are functional - they're not exactly pretty, but they do the job okay - and the music is good. The ambient sound effects are nice enough; the speech samples have a rather homespun quality to them, and this is where Age of Fear lets itself down at little. However this is a small quibble really in a game that, while I didn't take to it immediately, I've actually found to be very addictive over time. My review relates solely to the single-player game modes in Age of Fear; multiplayer and other features are currently in the works. (My review copy was v1.0.3)

For more information / to buy the game or download the demo, see the official Age of Fear website.

Age of Fear is available for PC, Mac and Linux.

For trailers see the post below:

Age of Fear: The Undead King released

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