Age of Decadence is an upcoming isometric single-player role-playing game that just launched on Steam Early Access. The game is set in a low magic post-apocalyptic fantasy world, inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire, and is currently being developed by Iron Tower Studio.
The game is addressed mainly toward hardcore RPG fans, as it quickly becomes evident by the length of the text you have to go through during conversations. Talking is very important in this game, most conversations being pretty well written and quite witty, and as such qualifying as an added gameplay feature.
Age of Decadence pictures a brutal world in which you are but a lowly adventurer trying to make ends meet without falling on some stranger's sword. Quite a difficult task, since malevolent strangers seem to be abundant in this game. Survival is a difficult task, and being able to talk your way out of perilous situation becomes a skill as important as wielding a weapon.
Potentially, it offers a lot of freedom as to what type of character you can play, as there are no classes, but you can customize your character to fall more or less into the classical stereotypes.
The character progression is based on a relatively detailed skill-based character system, similar to the one Fallout used, where your base attributes are fixed and every time you gain experience, you can raise the levels of more specific specializations.
There are no level ups, and any interaction can end up offering some skill points or altering your reputation, from fighting to keeping your word when you take on NPC quests.
Keeping your word, of course, means that things can change dramatically while you go around your business. When tasked with an assassination, you can elect to instead put down your assassin comrade in an effort to prevent a factional war, or just to ask for some gold in exchange for sparing the target's life.
Age of Decadence's strongest point yet is the level of interaction it affords its players. You get various skill-based checks, and a higher perception or persuasion can uncover new dialogue options for you to explore.
A high streetwise stat can warn you when other characters are trying to deceive you and your body count can be used to determine the success of your intimidation attempts.
At every step, there is a choice to make, and not paying the vagrant its escort toll while travelling the bad side of town can get you ambushed by some rather uncouth characters. Then again, maybe you can bluff your way out, convince them you're a member of the feared Assassins Guild. Or intimidate them into submission. Or just pay them instead. Or fight them.
Which brings us to combat, where the game switches to the square grid of the turn-based system to reveal some pretty strong colors highlighting diverse areas of the grid you don't have time to care about because you will soon be dead.
The game offers multiple weapons along with multiple ways to use said weapons, fast strikes that consume less action points but also inflict less damage, power shots that do the opposite and even aimed blows targeting specific body parts in order to inflict damage to unarmored parts or different status effects lowering the enemy's prowess.
Hit point pools are very limited; therefore, you have to take care of your defenses, either choosing to armor up, go sword and board and invest in blocking or go for very light armor and invest in dodging damage altogether. Even one-on-one engagements can turn out badly, and combat has to be carefully weighed on almost every occasion.
The game is very hard from this point of view, but after a couple of reloads you start getting the hang of it. Use your allies as best you can, don't soak up unnecessary hits, balance your offensive skills with your defensive ones, save often, avoid confrontations, especially in the beginning, save often and, also, don't forget to save.
You'll die a lot in this game, before you get the skills to hold your own against its world, and playing a more guile and negotiation-driven character will certainly prove a challenging endeavor best left for a later, more experienced date.
The alpha gives players the option of an “easy mode” where you start off with some weapons and combat training, pretty buff compared to the normal start, but even that can't take you very far, as it will become evident in the gameplay video.
Dying two minutes into the game on its normal difficulty makes you realize that this is not a title to be taken lightly, where you just throw yourself at monotonous throngs of opponents gulping a potion from time to time, but a much more deeper role-playing experience.
Never being allowed the luxury to be careless with your choices makes this game seem very real. You never know how things can go bad and who is deceiving you. It certainly is an engaging role-playing experience, with all the different paths you can take.
Some paths you won't be able to take. Be it your unfavorable reputation with a particular faction or your inability to talk your way in or find an alternate route, or having to first prove yourself in order to gain access, it all adds to the wonderful experience.
A very key element of this game is its close to infinite replayability, you will always want to store a game saved at a certain point and then go through the story following the branching path that opened, to see where it takes you.
Fighting is difficult and combat seems to favor the random number generator gods from time to time, that translating in very many reloads before you land that one decisive shot, and the graphics look a bit wonky and dated. The camera many times feels like a rodeo, especially indoors and especially with its annoying fixed isometric perspective, but these issues are all fixable.
What matters is that all-in-all, all the important elements seem to be present in the alpha. The role-playing is very strong, with the checks pertaining to your skill distribution choices, and the branching paths that always open to you really make the game seem like a self-contained world rather than a track you have to follow.
Age of Decadence alpha is available on Steam Early Access for $32 / €23.