Over the past few years mobile gaming has come on leaps and bounds, to the point that it’s not rare to see games that have proven to be a success on the mobile platform make the jump to the console side of life. Dead Age is another that has made the switch from mobile and if you thought zombie adventures were killed-off long ago then you’d be very much mistaken. You see, Dead Age looks to bring yet another bout with the undead to our lives, but can it replicate the mobile success on the console scene or is it time we called for a cull of the Zed?
Dead Age is essentially a turn-based survival adventure that weaves RPG mechanics and permadeath into the overall experience in an attempt to create the ultimate zombie survival game. There is a narrative offering involved that provides you with numerous quests and missions, as well as a whole host of different characters to meet on your adventures in the zombie infested lands. But if it’s a strong narrative you’re looking for, the text-based storytelling provides little to appease with a rather weak story on offer. Unlike most RPG infused games, it’s the gameplay that tries to take pride of place.
The overall goal is to survive, but there are a number of different things that you’ll be required to take on so it’s best to take things on an in-game day by day basis – as the slightest mistake can lead to unexpected death. With permadeath ready to swoop in and take all your progress the moment you make the slightest mistake, just surviving a day feels like its own little victory.
During a usual day in Dead Age, you are left to scavenge whatever supplies can be found, take part in crafting new equipment or going out and venturing on quests. Each of these activities can take up a day of in-game time and so you’ll need to get your priorities matching the needs of your group – especially should you hope to make it through the day without casualties. To aid with this you’ll need to recruit numerous survivors to make up the numbers within your team, with the character you’ve chosen from the start required to survive at all costs.
There are five different classes from which to base your protagonist character on, each of which can be levelled-up and customised as you progress. That said, on your first playthrough only the Student will be unlocked, with the Soldier, Medic, Bodyguard and Engineer available further down the line.
Throughout the game, you will spend a lot of time out and about in the world thanks to the need to search for supplies and take on quests, but with a world infested with shambling corpses, aggressive survivors and apparently vicious wolves and bosses, there is also a fair bit of combat that will require your attention. This is where the RPG mechanics come into focus as each battle sees you fight it out in turn-based combat all too similar to that of a Final Fantasy adventure. Up to three survivors are able to form a team in a typical RPG style ‘party’ layout, pitting your protagonist as the core of the group, whilst two other positions can be filled should you have enough survivors ready to tag along.
Should you have the depth to battle with a three-man squad however, it’s not always a wise decision to simply choose your strongest possible group. Yes, it’s important to have a capable squad to battle with, however you’ll need to consider things such as which survivors will be left to protect your base from potential break-ins and attacks from bandits while you’re not around, as well as deciding which ones are expendable enough that they can be afforded a shot at a supply run. Should you hope to have a stable base to come back to after a long day of questing, scavenging and running away from the various enemies you encounter, it is these decisions which will prove vital.
As you progress through each day, the tasks you complete will earn experience points, allowing you to upgrade the various skills of your characters, whilst the difficulty you decide to play on will factor in just how much experience you earn. Casual mode is available for those wanting to experience the game without impending death around every corner, but the hardcore mode is also available for those wanting the ultimate challenge in surviving the zombie apocalypse – just expect less loot and a more challenging experience.
No matter which difficulty you go for though combat is easily one of the most frequent activities for players to spend time with in Dead Age. Because of this, it doesn’t take long before things begin feeling highly repetitive. This is mostly due to the limited number of options available during battle with melee, weapon or medic options proving the notable choices along with fleeing from the battle. With the background scenery in each fight rarely providing much excitement either, with the same backdrop appearing over and over, there’s not really much to define one battle from the next. It will only take a handful of battles before you find yourself wanting to skip each battle by spamming whatever buttons necessary and hoping you run away.
Another disappointing feature of Dead Age is found in the heavily dated visuals. As someone who appreciates a bit of retro on occasion, it’s rare that visuals tend to be something I pay much attention to. In Dead Age though you certainly won’t find any 4K masterpiece. Instead we are left to mull over dull textures, rigid characters, a palette of darkened colours and an visual experience that would struggle to even be on par with original Xbox titles. Of course, this is a ported mobile title and that has to be taken into consideration, but with the extra power of the Xbox One, it would be nice to have seen some sharper textures or a little more detail in the environments and character models.
Sadly and even though the idea presented by Dead Age shows plenty of potential for an exciting gameplay experience, the overall execution leaves a lot to be desired. With a lack of any meaningful story, combat proving repetitive, visuals that are less than pleasing and an overall feeling that the game is more of a chore than an enjoyable experience, it’s fair to say that this is one zombie adventure we won’t be thinking back on with fond memories.