Early Access

Age of Darkness: Final Stand – Taking A Look At Survival Mode In Early Access

I’ve been following the progress and development of Age of Darkness: Final Stand for over a year now. The game first piqued my interest some years ago when I came across its trailer on Youtube. Immediately recognizing that the game is, essentially, They Are Billions but set in a medieval fantasy world as opposed to a steampunk one. Having played They Are Billions and absolutely loving it, it didn’t take long for myself to snag Age of Darkness on Steam. Now, it’s been over two years since the game originally released in Early Access and since then, a lot of progress have been made. That said, I think it is high time that we go take a look at Age of Darkness: Final Stand once more.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a wave-based survival RTS (Real-Time Strategy) where you build a settlement to fend off massive waves of the undead. The game is built on top of the concept that They Are Billions pioneered, or at least popularized in the modern era. In fact, it was way too inspired that it can be recognized as a reskin or a rip-off. However, the game does enough to stand out as its own RTS title.

Now, being an almost 1 to 1 copy of a well beloved game but with better systems and graphics is a sure fire way for an overwhelming success, right? Well, not exactly. While Age of Darkness is objectively better than They Are Billions from a technical standpoint, the game lacks a certain charm that reeked from its inspiration. I’m talking about the nostalgic look and feel of They Are Billions that gave it a timeless feel. Striking the perfect balance between modern and retro was never Age of Darkness’ intention. However, the lack of that one simple element hinders it from surpassing the game that inspired it. But that’s enough with the comparisons, moving on to what the game currently offers.

When I first played the game around two years ago, I remember it having only two factions with the only difference is the hero and starting units, everything else was identical. Now, we have access to three unique factions, each sporting two heroes for a total of six, with each hero equipped with their own unique perks and abilities.

While the game has added a ton of variety since then, having each faction play almost exactly the same lead to some disappointment from fans. While three unique factions exist, their only real difference is their available heroes and units as well as their town halls having a distinct look. Save for the banner colors, every building in the game looks and functions the exact same way. Because of this despite having different factions, every playthrough simply feels monotonous.

For the veterans and achievement hunters, the game’s survival mode offers 5 difficulty levels. Easy, Normal, Veteran, Horrific, and Nightmare with each difficulty drastically ramping up in challenge. I can’t really say much for Horrific and Nightmare considering I have yet to unlock them but, having played the first three difficulties I can say that while the game does indeed get harder, the playstyle is almost exactly the same.

The game also offers custom difficulty that lets you customize different game modifiers to your liking, which is pretty neat in my opinion.

Moving on to the gameplay, the game plays similarly to any other RTS that fans of the genre have grown accustomed to. While the resource gathering is a bit different from classic RTS games, players who’ve played They Are Billions will feel right at home with this one. And besides, even if you haven’t played that, as someone who’ve played other RTS games, the resource mechanics in this game is essentially simplified or dumbed down compared to the classics.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand has 4 Main resources. Population, Housing, Food, and Gold. The flow of these resources goes like this:

Population is increased by building houses using Gold.

Gold is gained through taxes from Housing.

Houses requires food from Farms.

And Farms need 1 Population in order to operate.

This is the most basic loop in order to survive in the game and you’ll constantly be looking at these resources in all of your playthroughs.

Aside from the main resources are 3 other resources that are tied to technology and progression. Using these 3 other resources we can pin-point each stage of the game. Wood, Stone, and Iron. With further stages the game lets you to build better units, structures, and defenses.

The game starts with the wood stage where you’ll have to build lumber yards around forests to start earning some wood. Wood is needed to build almost any structure in the game. After a while, you’ll be building quarries on top of Stone and Iron veins. However, in order to unlock new technology, first you’ll have to build workshops in order to research them. The workshops are as follows. Wood Workshop, Refined Workshop, and Siege Factory. While the Siege Factory acts as a structure to build siege weapons in, it also doubles as the workshop for Iron tier technologies.

As you go through the stages, you’ll slowly be upgrading structures as well as defenses in order to accommodate more resources as well as heavier waves of enemies.

When you’re not busy managing resources, you’ll probably be busy building up your defenses. Mostly securing choke points with walls, towers, and ballista. While these types of defenses are very reliable, they won’t be able to withstand the onslaught of enemies on their own, especially on death nights. Speaking of death nights, its an event that sends a massive wave of enemies every 5th night.

In order to survive heavy waves of enemies especially during death nights, you’ll need to train your own wave of soldiers to survive. Units are generally divided into 4 types. Hero, Melee, Ranged, and Siege. Except for the Hero and a few units that are available at the start of the game, you’ll need a Training Hall to train additional soldiers and a Siege Factory for siege units. While units may seem disposable, it is generally better to try your best at keeping them alive for veterancy bonuses that let them fight better. Your Hero can also level up, learning new abilities and getting stronger for each level.

While your Hero is an invaluable part of your army, they are by no means invincible. Your heroes are also susceptible to death but compared to other units, heroes simply revive after a few minutes.

If you ask your friend for a comparison between They Are Billions and Age of Darkness: Final Stand, high chance are you’ll get a response along the lines of, “Get They Are Billions instead, it’s better.” And while I sort of agree with this notion, its hard ignore this game as it still delivers a fresh take on the wave survival defense RTS experience. Considering I have been going back and forth between Age of Darkness: Final Stand and They Are Billions, means that this game also has something that makes me go back to it for more. And besides, Age of Darkness: Final Stand is still in early access, so some changes can still be made to make the game even better before its eventual 1.0 release.

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