Survival game? Check! Turn-based combat? Check! Zombies? Check! Dead Age II sounds just like my perfect game, or as close as you could come to describing one anyway. However, where I would normally overindulge in such a title, spending every waking minute trying to survive, this game, just didn’t grip me as I hoped it would. Rather than returning, it has left me not wanting to go back to it ever again.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Dead Age II isn’t a bad game. It’s not extremely buggy, it looks good, and the idea is there. But my God did it bore me to death. I’m half torn between the thought I put too much pressure on myself to enjoy it, and that I didn’t enjoy it because it was just a tedious experience that spends far too long trying to set the game up, and overcomplicating everything with so many places you need to click on the screen.
The story takes place after the original title, 10 years after the initial outbreak of the zombie apocalypse. You’re making your way to Freedom City with a customised character to a camp that your friend Steve is located in. However, Steve becomes a traitor just before you arrive but you stick around anyway because, well, safety in numbers right? From there on, it’s all about survival.
You must go out into the world, gather resources such as food and drink, building materials, ammo, everything you’d need to survive a world where the dead have come back to life. But I just felt disconnected from the story, from the characters. There was no feeling there at all. If they all died and I had survived, I wouldn’t shed a tear. And when you’re setting a game up like this, you want that emotional connection. To feel like you’ve built genuine relationships. But Dead Age II fails to do it for me.
I have a couple of ideas about why I felt this way. Firstly, the way the story unfolds. It’s during the game’s tutorial, which seemed to go on forever. I’ve ridiculed games for not being in-depth enough before, but this goes to the other end of the spectrum. There is so much to learn, and it covers pretty much everything. And when you think you’re done, there is still more to learn. And the way you are taken through it is a mix of emotions.
Whilst I appreciate being shown the ropes, you have to go through so much chatter with characters in the game, about what is going on, and what you need to do. But it just takes so long to get through. I gave up halfway through due to boredom and went back to it later again with the determination to see it through. And I did, but it still didn’t fill me with excitement or anything that made me want to come back to it.
Now, the one thing I do like about the tutorial, and progression through the story is the comic book styling. The animated characters pop up with their text next to them, and it all looks well-polished, really fitting in to the theme of the game. It’s just a shame that every time you have to read something, it feels like an essay to get through. Of course you can skip through stuff, but then you lose any storytelling at all, and miss out on what to do in the tutorial.
In terms of gameplay, the game does it well but it an be a little complicated. It’s not as simple as just attacking or defending. You can have multiple weapons per person, long and short range. But you have to switch rows to use them. You can use defensive stances to take less damage, strike certain enemies with standard attacks, or switch it up and use more special abilities. It’s a good mix of actions you can perform, but there is just so much going on.
Add to that outside of battles, you have skills and such you can upgrade too, which the tutorial does cover. But again, it’s almost like the game is trying to do too much with so many things going on all at once. Because after you’ve looked at combat and levelling up skills and such, you’ve also got to learn about your base, crafting things like ammo, securing your defences and more. Again, covered in depth in the tutorial, but with so much to remember, my mind often switched off and I couldn’t settle in.
Thoughts on Dead Age II so far…
Like I say, it’s not a bad game, because I didn’t see any issues in terms of bugs that affected my experience. It’s nicely designed, is smooth enough in terms of gameplay and the mechanics work well. But there is just too much going on to grip my attention, and I think the storytelling and tutorial could be stripped back a little and streamlined to flow better. Because in its current form, I could have been bored to death. But that’s not to say fans of the series won’t enjoy it, nor fans of the genre in general. But it may take a bit of perseverance to settle in and truly begin enjoying it.
Dead Age II is developed by Silent Dreams and published by HeadUp Games. It’s available currently on Steam in Early Access, and is due for a full release on later this month. Remember to check out more of our game previews by clicking HERE.