If there was ever a game that proved that graphics weren’t everything, we have it here.
My whole weekend is gone, and yet . . . I still feel like I haven’t scratched the surface of this game. There are so many routes to be taken and so many decisions to be made!! Steam says I’ve played for 11 hours, and yet I’m not even done finishing the storyline on one character out of a possible eight. This is probably going to be the game I come back to most for months to come. I will also confidently say that if an expansion pack ever comes out, this company is getting my money immediately.
There is something that needs to be said about The Age of Decadence, though. This game was not made for everyone. There are plenty of gamers I know who would not enjoy their time at all here. For starters, the graphics are low quality. This game has no eye candy whatsoever. There is an archaic click-to-move system with WASD relegated to camera movement only. Most importantly: the whole game is reading. It almost makes me want to call it a super-deep visual novel. Many of the quests rely on the player remembering what they read in order to figure out where to go next. There is nothing for you in this game if you don’t like reading. Do not get this game if you hate to read. That being said, the writing is superb. Everything is political intrigue and backstabbing. You’ll also really grow to like or hate some characters. For anyone out there who cares about the plot of a game, The Age of Decadence has plenty to offer you.
On top of being text heavy, this game is also hugely about stat management. There are 11 combat and 12 non-combat skills. Skill checks are present in almost every conversation you will have. The game does not reward splitting stats evenly, either. Decide what your character will be ahead of time and pour all your points in that direction. There are multiple ways to handle any situation, too. You’re almost never locked out of completing a quest the way you want to, unless your skills aren’t high enough, or you make a bad choice. There’s one specific part of the game that gives great insight into what you can expect the rest of the game to play like.
Early on you’re told you have to speak to the king of the town. If you decide not to sneak into the palace, you instead meet with one of his guards who tells you to complete two quests in order to gain favor with the king, and only then will you be granted an audience. In the first quest you are told to find out what a camp of enemies is doing in a mine by the town, but you’re not specifically told how to go about it. There are several ways.
- You could go the assassin route. Sneak in at night, avoid enemies, and look through everything before stealthing your way back to base. No messy fighting, just in and out real fast.
- You can go the brute-force warrior route and kill the five enemies guarding the entrance in broad daylight. It’s very hard to win, but possible. Since the Critical Strike stat is treated like an instant-kill check in dialogue options, you can also get a free kill on one of them before the fight even starts.
- If your Impersonate stat is high enough, you can pretend to be a person they were expecting to see and waltz your way into the cave to examine to your heart’s content.
- You can also pretend to be a supplier they were expecting and hand them wine laced with poison to severely weaken all of them, before waltzing back in with your combat armor and killing everyone. There is also choice in the poisons you can get. There’s the easy poison that every vendor sells, or the deadly one that only the Alchemist sells—and you can even get it for a low price if your Trading skill is high enough.
Or you can do what I did and complete two quests in one! The second quest the guard gives you is a rescue mission from a band of raiders. If you decide to talk with them instead of killing them, they demand a ransom in exchange for the person they kidnapped. If your Persuasion and Streetwise stats are high enough, you can convince the leader of the raiders to kill the camp of enemies at the mine for the amount of the ransom. If you keep your word and pay the leader the money afterwards, he becomes famous later on, which allows you to use his name as an intimidation tactic for at least one other quest in the game. There are a lot of quests within The Age of Decadence that work this way. When you consider that every choice you make for a quest has a repercussion, you’re never really at a point in a game when you can just brainlessly go through it—unless you decide to re-roll after realizing you screwed up hard at the beginning and have to go through the same decisions over again as a new character. That’s happened to me quite a few times . . .
I’ve mentioned combat a few times so far, but haven’t really explained it. Combat is a huge challenge in this game. Despite the game telling you that combat is not the focus, it is actually a fully fleshed out and fun system. Despite being turn-based, it never feels slow, given all of the strategy that goes into each attack you do. There are a host of weapons at your disposal, from swords to throwing spears. Each weapon has several different attacks you can do with it. Quick attacks for lightly armored foes, strong attacks for the heavily armored ones, as well as aimed shots to inflict debuffs, armor damage, or bleed effects. Certain weapons are more effective in certain situations than others, and even the bows come with varying types of ammunition that serve different purposes. Not to mention that each weapon type has its own brand of special attacks that are different from the normal variety, such as a Whirlwind attack with a dagger that hits any enemy around you. You can also craft bombs and other tools for use in combat. Some other tools, such as nets, prove to be necessary in later battles, where the enemy is just too tough for you to fight fairly. There are so many aspects to combat that I couldn’t even wrap my mind around how it worked without the help of a video.
I will say that for all the praise I give this game, it doesn’t ace everything. The graphics are awful when it comes to the character models and animations, but reasonably okay in the landscape. The music does a decent job immersing you, but there’s no real variety, so it gets repetitive after a while. The interface feels clunky and bland. I also wish there was more to the map than what you’re given since after playing the game for a while it starts to feel really small, despite the smallness actually being a part of the storyline. There also doesn’t seem to be a true full-screen option to the game. There’s just a specific square of game that you’ll get to see and the rest is a black background. To be honest, though, these were all things I easily overlooked given how immersed I was in the game. I often wonder how well this game could have done this year if it had graphics that matched those of a triple A title. Maybe more people would be willing to try it.
It’s with great pleasure that I say that Age of Decadence is a game I love. I couldn’t have been happier to have been given the opportunity to review it. It’s a fun, engaging game with a seemingly endless amount of depth, leaving me truly surprised that a team of only six people were able to create it. You can tell that they spent a long time trying to make this game as great and hardcore as it is now. I can’t wait to see what they decide to do next.
This has been Roderick and thank you for taking the time to read this review on BitCultures. Looking forward to writing more for you in the future! Until then, stay cool, beautiful people.