Now this brings me back. This game has the bad graphics and superb gameplay of the early 90’s and milks it for all it’s worth. Made by Leszek Sliwko and published by KISS ltd mid November 2011, this game was made to put on your Power Glove™ and have a blast to the past!
Age of Fear: The Undead King takes it’s theme seriously. Even the developer’s website, Age of Fear.net, looks like something out of the now defunct Geocities. Can the content really make up for the deliberately outdated aesthetics? Read on to find out!
Age of Fear: The Undead King
While first impressions dictate that this is a fantasy RPG, this game actually is all about the strategy. Turn based strategy at that! Another throwback to the old days. TBS is one of the oldest types of gaming genres, and of course I’m talking about tabletop and board games here. Early computer games were action, text or point and click adventure or this. It borrows heavily on it’s real world predecessors and even now offers a higher grade of strategy and finesse compared to Real Time Strategy.
History lesson over, children. Let’s blow the dust on the cartridge and launch this game!
Cliche storm, the game
This is the story of a lowly son of a lowly noble, Edward, in his quest for glory. You fight goblins, then orcs and ogres, while the Kingdom prepares for war agains the “greenskins” a subplot of necromancers raising an undead army slowly becomes the focus of the story. If this seems to you ripped straight from many-a long gaming knights of Dungeons and Dragons it probably was.
Looking at the graphics you will not be wowed. The trailer is very cheesy and reminds us of the awful times when FMVs where all the rage and VHS “games” became a fad. The sound is well, typical of what you would expect from a flash game, and the battles lack music.
And none of this is bad, quite surprisingly.
Tropes are tools
The fact that this story was told a million times does not mean it is told badly. Your mooks are given names, some of them are introduced during a level or in the flavor text between fights. There is attention to detail, the world is well built. Colorful descriptions combined with researched medieval life make the walls of text a plus instead of a minus. Fan of fantastic literature will really enjoy this.
About the sounds, you don’t need 192KHz bitrate for a turn based strategy game and music here would be distracting. There is music however, in the story portion of the game and it’s quite appropriately played with a lute.
Flashier 3D graphics may be pretty, but the simplicity here serves two purposes: it can run on a lot of machines, which means more business for an indie developer, and it allows you to process more information quickly. You will be surrounded by enemies and will need to think carefully before you act, overseeing a large battlefield efficiently is vital for victory.
The art of war
The main reason to play this game is because you love TBS games. And love this game you will. There are two main campaigns to choose from, with the Necromancer and Human sides each. The human campaign works very effectively as a tutorial also, and will prepare you for the multiplayer element.
A nice feature is the fact that the game creates new saves at each turn and at victory, allowing you to replay battles from any moment of your campaign. You can even go to skirmish mode and replay those battles as the other side, fighting your own forces!
Your basic units are melee, ranged and magic. The melee units, infantry and cavalry, are the bulk of your forces. Bigger units, like knights, can block the way for the enemy and allowing you to control the flow of the battle by creating bottlenecks. With magic you can heal, buff your allies, curse your enemies and rain fireballs upon them. Finally, ranged units are best for wearing down the incoming attackers but are weak at melee fights.
Each unit can win experience by performing actions during battle, and you can improve those units by spending the EXP on different active and passive skills. Your hero can also find items in the battlefield and win them by advancing the story, allowing you to customize him. Not to mention that you can recruit new units and expand the size of your army between levels.
The game gets addictive fast, it’s relatively easy to learn rules allowing a great flexibility and different approaches to combat.
Trivia and verdict
Did you know that Age of Fear 2 was released before this game? That went into polishing. The devs constantly roam the forums, answering questions and giving useful advice. The game updates regularly with extra content, adding new items and balancing fixes. It offers many hours of fun with it’s singleplayer alone, TBS and tabletop fans should buy this without doubt! If you like retro gaming, fantasy stories and have some minutes to kill with a quick skirmish, this is a very recommended buy as well.