Age of Darkness: Final Stand (AOD) was interesting to hear about for the first time because I hadn’t played a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game in so long. I remember playing Stronghold Crusader and Supreme Commander back around 2008. I never got into StarCraft because it looked like you needed some big brains to play that, and I only had a pea brain then. The best, recent reference for a hit RTS game was They Are Billions, which boasted having 20,000 units on-screen at a time. This quantity was unheard of, until now.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a dark fantasy RTS set in a medieval-like world called “The Veil.” It’s filled with green creatures known as “Nightmares” who want to ruin your beautiful Keep and city. This preview of the game offered a look into one of its most enriching and stressful game modes: Survival mode.
In Survival mode, players play as the Champion, Edwin—Wielder of the Flame. Edwin holds a huge Greatsword and gains fire abilities as players level him up in combat. Once players choose their Champion and difficulty, they spawn into a randomly generated map with Edwin as their Hero, and a few Melee and Ranged units. Each game comes with a pre-built base called “the Keep”, and if the Nightmares destroy this building, it’s game over.
If players think they can slowly learn the gameplay in one slow sitting, they are sorely mistaken. Depending on the difficulty, players are given between 2-4 days to gather resources, build defences and an army and research new upgrades to prepare for “Death Night.” Death Nights are dedicated nights in the day-and-night cycle that force players to defend their keep at all costs against the running swarm of nightmares One random spawn point appears on the map that indicates the general direction of the swarm, so this gives players a couple of minutes to bolster their defenses on the side of their defenses the swarm is expected to hit.
There’s also limited visibility on the map as your buildings and Keep provide some light, but most of the map is blacked out by the “Fog of War”, where Nightmares and potential treasures lie across the map. As players explore the Veil with their Champion and the supporting military units, they are highly susceptible to receiving a “Horrified” debuff that seems to make units move and attack slower.
“If players think they can slowly learn the gameplay in one slow sitting, they are sorely mistaken.”
Exploring in Age of Darkness: Final Stand takes a lot of risk, but players can reap great rewards with random drops that appear around the map called “Points of Interest”, POI. POIs are small areas where the enemies need to be standing outside the POI area for players to capture the designated POI. Capturing these POIs is great as they can give players free resources and a few extra military units.
Another element that elevates the gameplay in Age of Darkness: The Final Stand is understanding the Skill Tree of the three different types of army units. As mentioned before, there are Melee and Ranged units, and then there’s Siege units which dish out high damage in a big area.
The skill tree has four tiers per type of army unit and has three skill upgrade choices per tier. So, if players choose to upgrade Melee units’ Attack Damage in Tier 1, they cannot upgrade Defence or Health Regeneration in the Tier 1 line. This is another excruciating detail that adds to the complexity of Survival mode.
“Exploring in Age of Darkness: Final Stand takes a lot of risk, but players can reap great rewards…“
As someone who’s had some fair experience with RTS games, everything was a little intuitive, or it came back to me after a couple of failed attempts. But that’s what makes this game shine. There’s no step-by-step tutorial to help the player understand everything from the beginning. It does explain things as players click through the various buttons on-screen for building or upgrading units, as well as exploring the Veil with your military units. So, it’s a lot of trial-and-error, problem-solving and yelping when your defences and military units don’t hold up like you planned.
If that’s not scary enough to spook you, here’s a fun fact from the creative team behind Age of Darkness: Final Stand. PlaySide Studios and Team17’s “SwarmTech” allows over 70,000 Nightmares to be displayed on-screen at a time! I was able to see a couple of thousand enemies seamlessly, which already blew my mind. But seeing tens of thousands of enemies is absolutely bonkers. If players are concerned if they can render 70,000 creatures with a lower-end graphics card, it’s definitely possible. I only have a GTX 1050Ti and the graphics ran smoothly with little to no dropped frames.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand has huge replay value for players and provides many choices that push players to think critically. The choices of where to build and when to upgrade military units will always be the thoughts creeping into the players’ minds while thinking about a dozen other tasks. This preview has me craving more for what the full release will bring to the game. I’m constantly screaming and panicking every time Death Nights are approaching, and I hope other players can enjoy that nail-biting experience too.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand is expected to be released for PC Early Access on Steam on October 7, 2021.