If zombies died a quick death and were never to occur in videogames for the next six months to a year, a tear would not be shed. Zombies were people too, right? Who represents them? Who cares. But, biting my tongue and subsequently feasting on it, Dead Age 2 reanimates those corpses for just a little longer.
From Headup Games and Silent Dreams, this is a turn-based survival game about resource management, crafting weapons and supplies and simply staying out of the ground or part of a zombie buffet. To say this game is tough is an understatement, but that’s more to do with the odds that are against you, rather than outright challenging.
First of all, it’s the second wave of Zombieville. After the first outbreak, the hoomans managed to kick some zombie butt with a cure and ration their spending on Faberge eggs for more important things. But, like a bad smell, they came back. In Dead Age 2, factions have reformed, and it’s not just the resurgence of the undead you have to battle it out against, but other folks too.
Designed to be replayed again and again, you start as an enclave with nothing. Gradually you scavenge the lands for resources – water and food to live, scraps to craft weapons and defences to survive. As much as it’d be nice to focus on the undead (other than the physical threat, they aren’t emotionally demanding), the other groups make it… complicated.
Initially, you’re freelance with a Switzerland approach but can form alliances with the military, smugglers and other riff-raff. You have to build standings with these divisions, and that’s usually sought through side quests and a good old game of fetch.
As your ranking improves, so do the options such as reducing the cost of items for sale, exclusive loot and a better way of living. At the expense of the other factions, who don’t like you siding with someone else. Cue a bit of rivalry that includes random encounters in the field, as well as raids on your base.
There’s a world map where you take turns in progressing. Each time you move forward, night draws in – not good when it comes to zombies, plus you’ll consume rations. It’s essential to plan your routes, and especially when they are time-restricted.
Dead Age 2 begins with customer characterisations, and despite being a slave to this type of feature, it was pretty weak here. You choose a name for your character, gender, race, etc.. and then select some stats. The dialogue and avatars are done in a comic book style, not too far off from The Walking Dead, and the font choice reflects that.
There are two combat forms: melee and ranged; the former restricts to who you can attack. There are six places for characters (enemies can call on characters off the screen to fill spaces), front and back. The front is supposedly your defensive line and best suited for melee, and the rear is suited to weaker characters with high-ranged skills.
Each character will have strengths and weaknesses; some will be vulnerable to bladed attacks, others blunt, while you need to wear the tanks down in Dead Age 2 with molotovs and similar. Characters can also specialise in skillsets such as hunting with traps and calling on beasts, to engineers that can lay turrets.
But as a turn-based game, it’s all about strategy. Sometimes it’s the defensive game and wearing your opponent down. In this case, you manage formations, ensuring your characters have enough health, buffs and what-not to survive. After a battle, you can loot goods to equip, sell or strip down for parts like an apocalyptic MacGyver.
In between battles, you will have optional paths to loot areas, hunt, and help out survivors for rewards. Death is inevitable, but if you pace yourself, you can do pretty good in each run. Upon death, you restart with the option to recreate your character with medals to boost their stats, meaning each new playthrough is a little more potent than the last.
Dead Age 2 is one of the better-looking games in its genre, and there’s a good enough variety; factions, locations and enemy units to keep you occupied. The walls of text are initially overwhelming, but the schematics become second nature. The marginal gains with death is a decent incentive, as well as the very many upgrades.
As an anti-zombie protester, I was a bit cautious about Dead Age 2, but it surprised me how addictive it was. If you like your stats and seeing visible improvements after each run, then this is a game worthy of your time. The story is a bit run-of-the-mill, and gameplay can get repetitive and equally frustrating when you want to end a venture out due to ‘ill health’. Otherwise, it’s a thumbs up and may the dead continue to give us aggro if the quality matches this.