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Bite Sized Reviews: Age of Undead
I hope everyone’s been enjoying my little bite-sized reviews. I know it’s a major change from my longer articles. Many things are happening behind the scenes, and they haven’t been progressing as quickly as I would like. However, as soon as it’s moving forward, I can reveal more. It should be good news all around — I hate being cryptic, so bare with me a bit longer.
Either way, it seems that these smaller reviews are doing well. While this is a pretty small press outlet, they’ve managed a small uptick in views. They might just be better for engagement, though you’ll never see me write clickbait! This is still the place for my weird and wonderful coverage of indie games. I’ve got a couple of cool interviews in the works as well. Anyhow, onto today’s review.
Age of Undead is a bizarre game. It’s the best way to describe it! I remember when it launched last year, and the idea behind it always intrigued me. Multi-genre games are ambitious, and this mix of real-time strategy, turn-based, and first-person shooters receive top marks in ambition. I was even more surprised to learn only one guy made this. I love stuff like this — huge projects that require a ton of time and care. While Age of Undead has its flaws, I appreciate the scope and drive behind this one. I received a code courtesy of Keymailer for the purposes of this showcase. As I focus on early impression reviews, this is more of a hands-on, on-the-cooker opinion. My stance on Age of Undead will probably change as I play it further.
I’ll get the elephant out of the room first. This game requires a shit-ton of storage space, a lot more than I expected. It might be a nitpick, it just took me completely off guard. 64 gigabytes! This isn’t like Cyberpunk 2077 with incredible graphic fidelity. It doesn’t look half bad either with the sprawling player maps and character models, but something feels off. I’m not the only one who was surprised — the Steam forums have several people confused by the large installation size. It’s not exactly a deal breaker, but for those with slow internet or lack of storage space, it’s worth mentioning. On my slow internet, it took me longer than I wanted to get this installed. While I’ve been in the industry side of game development, I’m no expert on texture compression. There’s probably a reasonable explanation why.
So storage woes aside, what’s Age of Undead like? It’s pretty cool to play. Few games combine an RTS with a first-person shooter, let alone a strategic 4X element. Silica is the most reason case, another solo developer project although that one has the considerable backing of Bohemia Entertainment behind it. Carry out important decisions on the campaign map, fight battles in RTS mode, and deal with your enemies in first-person mode when required.
There are three different factions in this Undead Age of Empires — the Army, the Undead, and the Survivors. They all come with their different play styles. The Army relies on technology and overwhelming firepower, the undead overwhelming their prey with massive numbers, and the plucky survivors holding on through sheer audacity. There’s a solid mix of troops and strategies to play with — not bad for an RTS. It’s not the most elaborate title in the genre, and I found the enemy AI rather basic. There are some nice features such as a night/day cycle, as well as weather events that provide some dynamic changes to how you play the game.
There’s a fair amount of content to chew over as well. A sprawling, turn-based campaign map, dozens of RTS maps, the first-person combat mode as well as a quick battle/skirmish mode provides players with plenty of ways to play. I could tell how much the developer cares, and he’s very receptive to feedback. For a solo project, this is pretty ambitious.
Of course, there are some rough edges. Despite the various ways to play, I found some of the mechanics undercooked. Enemy AI doesn’t do anything special, and the macroeconomy makes things less ‘handsy’ than I would like. Plop down resource buildings, generate passive income and build troops. I would prefer to have dedicated units to gather resources, but that’s more of a personal nitpick. I also had some problems with performance — while I may not have a new-gen gaming rig, it’s still enough to play games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077 and better enough. I saw some pretty big frame drops during the night cycle.
Right now, the dev is working on his upcoming game Mercenaries of the Kingdom: First Blood. I was concerned that it would mean ending support for Age of Undead, but patches are still being released for this game, which is comforting. As an early impression, this is a deeply ambitious title. While there are technical issues, and I still think the storage size is far too high for what it could be, this is a pretty cool, unique game for the price tag. If you’re not afraid of some QOL quirks, I give this a tentative recommendation.
A lot of ambition
Some pretty heavy framedrops even on modest hardware
A unique mix of 4X, RTS and FPS mechanics make for a messy but enjoyable experience
Enemy AI is only average at best
Plenty of content for the modest price tag
Tiny UI and lack of UI Scaling makes this a problem for those with poor eyesight