Video Games – Age of Decadence Demo
I downloaded the demo for Age of Decadence. Here’s what I thought.
I was frustrated. Age of Decadence is a soon-to-be RPG, in the style of Fallout – the original Fallout, not the new bullshit first-person shooter ones. I’m a big fan of Fallout. It holds up. I played Fallout a year or two ago, and it was still fun.
Age of Decadence (AoD from now on) seems to have taken away some of the wrong lessons. But they sure got some things right.
Before anything else – yes, I know this is a demo. I know I can’t judge the entire game on the demo. Maybe they’ll polish things up, change a bunch of stuff I hated. But a demo should get me excited about the game. This one didn’t.
Things I liked
The character creation system is complex. I love it. You’ve got six stats – strength, dexterity, constitution, perception, intelligence, and charisma. You have a bunch of skill choices, too. You can spend points in weapons, or critical strikes which apply to any weapon, or blocking, or persuasion, or lore, or lockpick, crafting, disguise, and a bunch of other stuff. I like this kind of complexity – I feel like I can make a more believable character by dabbling in a handful of skills that might seem contrary at first. A guy who is good at critical hits and daggers with high lore? Yeah, he creeps around old ruins, shanks the creatures he finds, and makes off with the loot he knows is valuable.
I enjoyed the extensive history in the game, even though I thought it could be presented better. When you’re dropped into the game, you can talk to a guy in the tavern. This guy goes on and on with his story. It’s too much to start with. Parcel the history out – we don’t need an info dump right when we start the game.
I also liked the quest structures. You can use skills in dialogue – for instance, someone will offer you 50 gold to kill a guy, and one of your options could be “2. [Persuade] I’ll be taking an awful risk, doing all the work, and you’ll be getting all the reward. I want a bigger cut – it’s only fair.” So you know what skills you’re trying out. And if you fail, when the NPC speaks back, there’s a little [Failure] at the beginning of their speech box.It looks like your skill level has to be high enough to try in the first place, but I don’t mind that too much. What I would like is a rough percentage of how likely my attempt is to succeed. It’s possible to get killed in dialogue. More on that later.
The demo doesn’t tell you how to use any of the controls. You can spin the camera angle around you character with Q and E, which is very helpful, but I had to learn it by pressing random keys.
It appears as though there are many ways to solve quests. My first character, a talky-smarts guy with max Int and high Cha, was able to talk his way through like three quests, getting people killed by deceit and superior knowledge. It was fun. We’ll come back to him too.
Things I didn’t like
Combat. The website and forum for AoD let you know that combat is ‘difficult’ and that some people have ‘problems’ with it. What they mean is this – if you aren’t built for combat, you lose, and if you don’t understand the mechanics, you lose really fucking hard. The site/forums state that a battle against three opponents is hard, four to five is very difficult, and any more than that is suicide.
Combat in Fallout was hard. It was brutal. But you had an equal chance of obliterating your opponents with a lucky shot or two. It felt real, because it felt like chance had a free hand. It didn’t, of course, but the system made you feel like you were in wild gunfights against bandits and mutants. Plus, the game showed you how to fight before throwing you into really deadly situations. Smashing rats right outside the Vault? Good practice. It gives the player a handle on how combat works, which is the first step in understanding how to win in combat.
AoD just drops you into it. There isn’t a learning curve – you can win with brute force, or you can’t. It’s terrible. In AoD, I feel like I’m being punished for daring to attack their precious NPCs. And I wasn’t fighting with my talky-smarts character. Let me explain.
When you choose to start a new game, a window pops up. Here, you have the choice to either play the ‘Normal’ mode, where you make a character from scratch or choose a template (which spends ability points but not skill points), or you can click ‘Awesome’ and play their pre-made awesome character, who is supposedly an experienced veteran. I tried this Awesome character out after my talky-smarts character.
The ‘Awesome’ veteran was terrible.
He’s set up as a combat character, and that’s all he can do. He can only fight. Why does that suck? Well, here’s an example. I approach the castle to talk to the lord of the starting town. The captain of the guard stops me. He gives me two quests. One of them is to free a captive from some bandits.
I head off to the bandit camp. There’s easily nine bandits here, maybe more. Remember, more than five enemies is tantamount to suicide, so I approach and tell them I’m here to listen to their demands. They want one thousand gold and they’ll let the captive go. I return to the captain of the guard and tell him this. He says no way. I try to persuade him that it’s the safest way to make sure we get the captive back alive. The persuasion fails, because the Awesome veteran character is only good at combat.
Alright, so the captain disregards my attempt at persuasion and plans to just go take out the bandits. I like to imagine he just threw his hands up at this point and went “Well, fuck it, the one guy I sent couldn’t immediately work something out, I guess it’s time for a full assault that will risk the captives’ life and likely get some of my own men killed. Nothing else to do! No other solutions! GO GO GO!”
So, uh, that’s what they do. They ask for my input on the camp; what were the defenses like, how many bandits, etc. This is a Perception use in conversation, but it doesn’t tell me if I succeed or fail. Which makes me feel like maybe I missed something, because the captain comes back and tells me a bunch of his men got killed in the attack and the captive was murdered. Good job, Awesome veteran!
In the demo, there were three quests I could complete with the Awesome veteran – I could defend myself against two thugs who jump me, I could pay off the guards to allow some refugees to enter (no skill roll, just have the money), and I could kill a guy on behalf of the local Loremaster.
I couldn’t get into the castle by doing the guard captain’s quests because I couldn’t complete the quests. Rescue captive? Can’t fight that many guys; got some guards and the captive killed. Need to destroy the new foundry of a rival house? Well, I’m not skilled enough to sneak in – they see me – and I’m not convincing enough to lie my way in – they know I’m not a Loremaster. Okay, so I try to sneak into the town’s castle to see the lord of the starting town.
Mistake! I have to kill a guard and hide his body, then I easily and make it over the wall. I creep around inside for a few, then climb onto a roof. From there, I enter into a tower, which appears to be the easiest way into the castle. Inside, there are some guards, looking out of windows. Next to one is a door. Would I like to try to sneak up on him and kill him silently, then use the door?
Hell yes I would. That sounds like a kickass thing to do. In the dialogue option, this is presented as a [Critical Strike] attempt. Awesome veteran should be good at that, right? Getting in a killing blow, swift and accurate?
I sneak closer. Just a few more steps. Almost there, and – and then the guard spins around, sword already out, and guts me. You die, game over, nice try idiot.
Tons of fun.
And sneaking into the castle is a dialogue tree of options. I never click somewhere to move around. I kill the guard with a dialogue option; I sneak around the back of the castle with a dialogue option; I climb onto the roof and sneak into the tower with two separate dialogue options; I get killed while using a dialogue option to sneak up on that guard. I actually really liked this. It was almost like playing a pen and paper RPG, right up until I was insta-killed in dialogue.
Other things I didn’t like – when playing my talky-smarts character, I wasn’t allowed to equip something called a Loremaster’s hat. No explanation. Just couldn’t do it.
I had to tinker for a while with the graphic settings to get the game to run even a little bit smooth. For how the game looks visually (awful), this shouldn’t have been an issue. I don’t mind the bad graphics, but man, it should run smoothly.
The talky-smarts character
I had a lot of fun making a character the first time I played the demo. I did a bit of power-gaming. The ability scores go up to ten. I made a character with 10 INT, 8 CHA, 8 DEX, and like 5 STR, 4 PER, and 4 CON. Smart, charming, runs away a lot like the coward he is.
Let’s see how he compares to the Awesome veteran.
Convince the captain to pay the ransom, saving the captive and sparing many lives? Easy.
Bluff my way into the rival houses’ foundry? Can do, with my power of “having points in skills other than Sword, Block, or Critical Strike” (I use Lore to convince them I know a lot about ancient machinery and am looking for work).
Once inside, am I smart enough to figure out what the ancient machine does – it’s a foundry that does most of the work – and then also sabotage it? Hell yes. This rules.
Once sabotaged, can I run outside and shout at everyone to go into the mines? Yeah. How do I get the mine workers to believe me? I say that their leader claims they are about to witness a miracle of the ancients. Yeah, excellent; and then, does the foundry explode, killing the entire expedition of the rival house and ruining their attempt at controlling this foundry? Holy shit does it ever, I am like the best spy/saboteur ever.
Overall – the intelligent charmer character is not just a blast to play, but it’s more effective and less frustrating than the bullshit ‘Awesome’ combat character. Combat isn’t fun. Instant-death because of one wrong dialogue choice isn’t fun and doesn’t make much sense. Game is ugly, and it’s slow without some tinkering.
I do not recommend this demo. I’m waiting for them to put out one final demo before the launch of the game, which will hopefully represent the game better. I guess they are putting out updated versions of the demo? I don’t know, I’m not certain.
As it is, based on this demo, I wouldn’t buy Age of Decadence. I’m not sure I want to play another version of the demo, to be honest.
I give this demo one vomiting man:
Posted on August 10, 2012, in Video Games and tagged ability points, age of decadence, awesome character, character creation, demo, difficult combat, insta-death, skill points, skill use in dialogue. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.