Ever since The Walking Dead started airing on television the apocalyptic zombie genre has been experiencing a massive resurgence. It’s all the rage these days, with movies like World War Z and Train to Busan, shows like The Walking Dead and its spinoff; Fear the Walking Dead and the many zombie-themed games that benefit from this increase in popularity. And with games like State of Decay 2 and Days Gone on the horizon, it doesn’t look like zombies will be going anywhere anytime soon (they are rather slow, after all). Dead Age is another one of those games featuring a post-apocalyptic zombie setting. Part RPG, part management sim, Dead Age is shambling onto iOS and Android after being so well-received when it released on PC last year. Porting a PC title to mobile can be quite tricky due to a number of factors, so let’s see how it stacks up and if there was anything lost in the transition.
I just want to get this out of the way and mention that Dead Age is not like most games you’d find in the mobile stores. It’s not free to play. It requires a one-time purchase and has no microtransaction options at all. You buy it, you get the full game: no strings attached.
Upon starting a new game in Dead Age, you are thrown into a prolog to teach you how to play while introducing you to the story. But before that, you have some options to mess around with. First, you get to name your character and choose a job. There are five to choose from, each with their own unique starting equipment and abilities. The soldier job, for example, starts you off with an Uzi, some ammunition, and points in the melee, survival, and assault rifle skills. There is a catch, however. The first time you play, you will only be able to use the Student job, which offers no benefits whatsoever. The other jobs must be unlocked with medals. The medals can be earned during the game by completing challenges, such as kill ‘x’ amount of a specific enemy type. Dead Age features a permadeath system, so when you die you must start the game over from almost scratch. Spending the medals you have earned allows you to unlock the other jobs or spend them increasing your stats and skills for a subsequent playthrough. There are two difficulties to choose from; casual and hardcore. For your first time, I recommend casual just so you can get used to the flow of the game and resource management. Hardcore is simply a much harder version of the game. If you are starting the game anew for the second time, you are also given the option to skip the prolog.
The whole goal of Dead Age is to manage your camp and survivors so you can live long enough to trigger one of the multiple endings. The story is non-linear and features different survivors and daily missions every time you begin a new playthrough. I love the kind of variety this offers. As I mentioned, the game features permadeath so you don’t want to have to go through the exact same thing over and over whenever you bite the dust. Managing your survivors is simple enough. Just make sure the camp has enough rations so they don’t starve and make sure they don’t get killed in battle. Each survivor can be assigned one job per day. This ranges from hunting for rations to guarding the camp against looters, to creating an item or a piece of equipment. The survivor’s effectiveness at these tasks depends on their job skill level. The day ends when you either assign your main character a job for the day or you return from an outing. My biggest gripe with this game is navigating the menus. The menu UI is unintuitive and annoying, though I think this may be in part due to the nature of being played on a small phone screen. There is definitely a bit of a learning curve involved when getting used to navigating the menu.
The camp serves as your main hub. From here you can go to the cantina to receive quests and buy items, you can assign jobs, check the status of your medal-earning challenges, or go out scavenging. When scavenging, you can choose two other survivors to accompany you. You can choose the area you want to go to, and a handy list beside each one tells you what type of materials you can find. Each area is comprised of 20 battles of increasing difficulty. After each battle, you are given the chance to heal, change equipment, or return home. Returning home ends the day. Between battles, you may also be given the chance to find some loot. Usually, this puts your job skills to use. The higher your skill level, the higher the chance you will be successful. Now that’s enough about the survival aspect, let’s take a look at my favorite part: the RPG aspect.
You will find that Dead Age has all the hallmarks of a traditional RPG; turn-based combat, earning experience to level up, your character’s power is determined by stats, finding gear to equip and make you more powerful, and plenty of beneficial skills to be learned. Upon each level up, you are awarded a certain amount of points that can be spent on skills. There are two different categories of skills: Combat and Job. Job skills typically give you a better chance at succeeding at special events, while allowing you to create items in a specific field. Putting skill points in the Craft skill, for example, allows you to create better items in the Gunsmith and Outfitter jobs. Leveling up Combat skills makes you a deadlier combatant while giving you access to new weapon-related skills. I found it smart to have each survivor focus on one specific field of expertise so I could max them faster and gain access to the higher level crafting stuff.
The combat is a classic turn-based affair. Each character attacks one by one, with the order determined by their speed. Each character can have a gun and a melee equipped at the same time, but using guns costs you hard to find ammunition. Once you have learned special attack abilities, you can use them by expending AP. Your characters gain 1 AP each round, so you will need to save up your AP for a few rounds before being able to use your most powerful abilities. Abilities can also inflict status ailments on your enemies, like defense down and stun. Health can be restored by eating food or using up medkits. Characters can also recover 20% of their health at the beginning of each day.
Dead Age has some impressive graphics for a mobile game. I especially liked the rain and lightning effects that are seen in some areas. I had some framerate slowdown issues when I first started playing but I haven’t had a problem with that since the last patch was released. Dead Age only saves your game at the beginning of each day. I have mixed feelings about this because most people play cellphone games on the go for a quick gaming fix. There is no way of saving your game if you’re in the middle of an area, so if you have to turn off the game you’ll be right back at the beginning of the day the next time you play. Getting to the last stage of an area can be time-consuming, so you can see why this saving feature sucks. That aside, Dead Age makes for a fine mobile RPG for people looking for something heavier than the usual Android store fare.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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