Have you ever wanted to take on the hordes of the walking dead in the style of retro Final Fantasy? Now you can, thanks to the new title on Xbox, Dead Age. Developed by Silent Dreams, this new horror survival has flipped the lid on conventional horror games and goes for something a little different – a turn-based strategy role-playing game. Starting off as a struggling survivor of the latest zombie apocalypse, your aim is to establish a camp, find survivors seeking refuge, and defend at all costs. You start off by entering your name, choosing a character – varying in their strengths, and then diving straight into the story.
You are stranded on a highway on the outskirts of town looking for your lost sister, after meeting a rather helpful sheriff, you build a camp and provide shelter for any decent folk passing by. All of this is done simply via screens, which is a bit disappointing. There are no cinematics in this game but there are some brilliantly drawn stills that help to tell the story. As you progress, you need to start gathering supplies and going into the wild to collect materials, rations and other items to help stay alive.
This is where the game changes to its next and only screen, the fight scene. This is where you take turn based actions against zombies, monsters and other possessed creatures, with even the occasional boss fight throw in. The style is very similar to the days of old Final Fantasy – you pick your turn, either melee, weapon or medic (to name a few) then it’s the next players turn, and so on – always making sure to keep an eye out on your health meters along the way. The graphics unfortunately are not so great and remind me of the early legacy Xbox.
The zombies and survivors look a bit plain and seem to lack character, just standing there, bobbing around waiting for the next attack – not even raising a bat in the air or spinning a pistol in their hands. The sound on the other hand is well done with a score written for the game and really gives that “survivor” feel. Once you’re done collecting supplies you can choose to stay out in the wilderness or head back to camp. Decisions are very common in this game and offer you chances to get extra loot or can, indeed, have the complete opposite effect.
As you tackle the days one at a time, you may have break-ins, bandits and punks that will attack your camp and steal item unless you have protection. You can choose to set survivors as guards while you step away and have others help with jobs such as crafting, medical supplies and armor – thus collecting materials is mandatory. Doing jobs like these will use up one day, so you have to balance the amount of rations you collect to how many days of crafting you need, or you may find your camp starving sooner than you think.
Doing these activities will earn you experience points to upgrade where you see fit; weapon use, medical recovery and so on, its all there – along with also upgrading your survivors. The game is simple with a lot of menu sifting which can slow the pace of gameplay, but attempts a new take on the everyday horror and I salute them for doing so. Dead Age offers a variety of play ranging from the more casual mode for beginners to a more challenging mode with less loot drops and higher attack rate. Straightforward stuff, really.
Dead Age is intuitive and houses a good concept, but greatly lacks in the visual department. Fans of the likes of the original Final Fantasy games may pull more enjoyment from this title than I did, given its style and its turn-based functionalities, but outside of that, there’s really not a lot going on, and the slow gameplay really holds it back.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.