Age of Darkness: Final Stand PC Review

Age of Darkness: Final Stand shows a lot of promise and it's a survival RTS that is both literally and figuratively very dark.

By LCLupus, Posted 01 Aug 2022

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a survival RTS by PlaySide, and it’s quite interesting. The heyday of the RTS ended many years ago, with StarCraft II being the last truly major RTS game, but indies have continued their efforts to try and bring it back, and Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a good attempt in that regard. Unlike many other RTS games in various ways that will be discussed throughout this review, it’s also good to clearly state that this game is in Early Access. It is not finished. This will be a deal-breaker for many people. So, it’s important to get it out the way early. There is no multiplayer, and there is no story mode yet. At present, there is only a skirmish mode.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Artwork, NoobFeed

The skirmish mode presents the game in its mechanical entirety, although there will be additions and balances made to the game over the following months and years. For instance, this review has come out because of the new, more extensive update, which has added a few changes. These updates will continue to roll out, so if this game interests you, it would be worth keeping an eye on it. But let’s get to the game itself.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is an RTS, but not in the traditional sense. You choose from several characters, who serve as your skirmish’s hero, and you enter the world, expand in it, and attempt to survive. The world is an intentionally dark one. It is both tones and mechanics. The game features a day/night cycle that strongly influences the overall mechanics. The darkness envelops you. You need to try and clear away the darkness by building structures to keep the area lit, and this is of central importance because if you do not, then the creatures that go bump in the night will respawn where you’ve left some darkness. This means that if you do not sufficiently spread out your base and ensure that it covers everything, then enemies could spawn right next to your undefended buildings.

The environment itself is your enemy. And the only way to ensure that there is no respawning is if you continue to build and expand. Constant expansion is also very necessary. Age of Darkness: Final Stand somewhat simplifies one aspect often found in RTS games: worker management. You control where the buildings go, and you control the military. The rest is managed by the systems you implement around you.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

This means that you do not need to manage workers and ensure that they can move from the forest to the sawmill; you simply place a lumber gathering building near the trees, and you will automatically receive an amount of lumber after a certain number of seconds. No micromanagement of workers whatsoever. This frees you to focus on exploration and expansion. You need to micromanage your soldiers and your hero, and you need to use this military force to push further and further through the world.

As you push through the world, you lay down new structures while managing your base. Your base allows you to expand the number of structures you can build and to upgrade them as your needs arise. And your needs will arise. This is quite different from the way most RTS games operate. You typically clear areas, and then those areas are clear, and resource gathering is much less sophisticated and is instead based on having resource gathering centers near those resources. But this is something that contributes to a bit of an issue.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is not friendly to newcomers. There’s no real tutorial, and you instead get a tutorial as you play. You must learn through trial and error. For instance, at the beginning of your first skirmish, you have no idea that you’re constantly on the clock. Every few nights, there’s a special event in which you get rushed by a vast number of enemies. They swarm at your structures and must be fought off. And when they are fought off, you gain a permanent upgrade for the remainder of that skirmish. But if you do not know about this cycle, you will be unaware of the need to plan your expansion ahead of time.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

You need to spend several in-game days expanding, upgrading, and growing, and then you need to spend the last day or two before the attack preparing. This means building defenses and getting your soldiers in position. It can take a lot of planning. So, if you’re not ready, you’ll learn some time into a skirmish that you really should have invested in that upgraded tower earlier in the game because you’re now running out of time. A literal thousand enemies are going to swarm out of a portal at you! And with each of these “Death Nights”, the number of swarming enemies increases.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a challenging game. This game does not play around. You’re likely to get swarmed your first few times playing, even on the easiest difficulty. You must learn the best way to optimize your defenses and your expansion. Because the game doesn’t tell you anything. You’re never given any strategy to use and must instead work it out on your own. A good example is not realizing that resources have a max cap and so you sit around waiting for your amount of lumber to reach 100, but it just won’t happen! Then you realize it’s because you need a special building to increase that max cap.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is not interested in instructions. You need to figure it out! And so, the early game can be challenging. However, once you get the hang of the systems and how best to optimize the various aspects of your civilization, then it becomes great. Although, you’ll probably still die a bunch because it’s not a very unforgiving game.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

However, whenever you die, you can simply try again. And each skirmish will likely take you several hours as you need to expand across the map and defeat darkness itself. This also makes one curious about what the devs plan on doing with multiplayer because this feels like a very single-player survival experience. Maybe co-op rather than competitive? But that will likely not be anytime soon.

There is also one small and one moderate technical matter to note. Age of Darkness: Final Stand runs smoothly, has good load times, and has a great visual aesthetic, but the camera feels somewhat clunky. It’s not as smooth as it feels like it should be. When you play one of the greats, like Warcraft III, the camera pans smoothly wherever you position it, but it feels sticky here.

The other issue is that the ally AI can sometimes feel a bit stupid. When you position your army near a bunch of enemies, those near the back sometimes just… forget to fight. And you must actively bring them forward to fight. So, getting a more aggressive AI for your soldiers would be nice, so they don’t have to be told to do absolutely everything.

Other than those two things, there’s nothing else of technical note to complain about. The game runs great, and it should have tons of replayability despite being unfinished, provided you’re someone who’s into RTS games.

So, should you check Age of Darkness: Final Stand out? If you like RTS games and want one that involves battling near endless hordes of enemies, then definitely! If you want there to be a narrative experience or multiplayer of some kind, then it would be better to wait for either a new update or for the game’s final release. Either way, Age of Darkness: Final Stand shows a lot of promise.

Justin van Huyssteen (@LC_Lupus)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Team17
Developer(s): PlaySide Studios
Genres: Real-Time Strategy
Themes: Survival, Fantasy
Release Date: 2022-08-01

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