Steam Greenlight Spotlight: The Age of Decadence
The Age of Decadence is an isometric, turn-based, single-player role-playing game that hearkens back to the RPG days of old (think the original Fallout games). When I first started the Greenlight Spotlight feature here at OCC, I stated that I would try and focus on games that I felt may have broad appeal. So let me get this out of the way now: The Age of Decadence is not a game for everyone. While most modern RPGs try to be noob-friendly in their approach, The Age of Decadence is anything but. If you're into hardcore RPGs, this is the game for you. If not, well, keep an open mind and try the demo – you may be surprised.
In development by Iron Tower Studio since 2004 and using the Torque 3D engine, The Age of Decadence takes place in a low-magic, post-apocalyptic fantasy world, inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire. The game will feature over 100 quests as you explore 22 locations. But these aren't simply your standard, over-used fetch and kill quests. Quests often have multiple ways of handling them, including non-combat resolutions, if you prefer diplomacy over bloodshed. It doesn't take you very long in the demo to see this at work, so I won't spoil it here. Those multiple paths aren't just window dressings either – your decisions matter and affect which of the seven endings you'll encounter. Oh, and there is no such thing as a "critical NPC" – you can (attempt to) kill anyone you want, as there are multiple ways to acquire "plot-critical info." Yes, it seems like The Age of Decadence will offer a lot of replayability, and that's one reason why it was easy for me to pick the game as this week's spotlight.
Arguably the most important aspect of any RPG is its character system, and The Age of Decadence has a very deep one. First, let's go through some of the numbers. The game features eight backgrounds: assassin, thief, praetor, loremaster, grifter, drifter, mercenary, and merchant. However, unlike most RPGs, picking one background over another doesn't limit the way you play the game in anyway. Instead, each background simply determines what stats, skills, and faction reputation (there are seven factions) you start with, along with how many stat and/or skill points you have available to assign yourself, if any at all. There are six stats: strength, dexterity, constitution, perception, intelligence, and charisma. There are eleven combat skills: one for each of the eight weapon types (dagger, sword, axe, hammer, spear, bow, crossbow, and throwing), along with dodge, block, and critical strike. There are 12 general skills: lockpick, sneak, steal, traps, disguise, etiquette, persuasion, streetwise, alchemy, crafting, lore, and trading.
Eight "classes" with eight weapon types and 23 different skills should make any RPG fan happy, but Iron Tower Studio adds a few unique twists to the usual RPG formula. First is how hit points are handled, affected by your constitution stat. Here are the exact words from the in-game help: "Please note that once determined during the character creation phase, your character's HP will not be increased – unlike many other RPGs, there are no character progression levels and the HP value is static throughout the game. Consider your decisions carefully." It'll be interesting to see how late-game battles play out because of this. But while that sounds like it may add a bit of difficulty to the game, one feature that I wish other RPGs had is Weapon Synergy.
With Weapon Synergy, allocating skills points to one weapon also boosts other similar weapons by a percentage. For example, putting a point into sword provides a small boost to your dagger, axe, hammer, and spear proficiencies. In a lot of RPGs, allocating points to a specific weapon is often a risky venture, as you're then pigeonholing yourself into only using that particular type of weapon, even if you may find a better one of a different type. That will not be the case in The Age of Decadence and it's a lot more realistic system – if you train sword fighting, doesn't it make sense that your dagger fighting would be slightly improved as well? In fact, you may want to carry more than one type of weapon with you, as each weapon type has its own inherent bonus trait. Daggers and throwing weapons bypass armor, swords and bows have an increased chance at landing a critical strike, axes can split shields (rendering them completely useless and unrepairable), hammers and crossbows can knock your opponent down, and spears can interrupt attempts to close in on you. You can always use the crafting system to get the weapon you want, but if you see a character with a cool weapon, simply kill him and take it – the game uses a "what you see is what you get" loot system! In combat, you have a set number of action points to spend per turn on various actions, which include fast, normal and power attacks, aimed attacks (torso, arms, legs, or head), and special attacks based on the weapon (eg. whirlwind for a sword).
As I mentioned earlier, you can pick up the demo and try the game for yourself. If you're a fan of turn-based, tactical RPGs and can't wait for Wasteland 2 or Project Eternity, The Age of Decadence is definitely a game you should check out. Watch the trailer below, check out the screenshots, play the demo, and then vote "Yes" on Steam Greenlight. Unfortunately, the Greenlight page was just updated today with an estimated release date of October 2013, so we'll have a long ways to go until we can play the full game.