Age of Fear 1.4.0 - Tactical turn-based combat with RPG elements

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Some of you might remember Age of Fear: The Undead King, a turn-based wargame with strong RPG elements I briefly mentioned on this blog about a year ago now. Well, since then developer Leszek Sliwko has released tons of free updates adding more detailed graphics, multiplayer options, new units, extra upgrades, balance tweaks, code optimizations, camera options and much more to make an already rock solid tactical game bigger and better.

While the first few battles of Age of Fear include a very small number of units on screen at any given time, the scale of the skirmishes quickly ramps up. Holding the line is crucial in this game, since the AI will immediately seize on any opportunity to go after the player's archers, mages and monks. There are often distinct groups of enemies on the map, and it soon becomes clear that the different parts of the enemy force perform their own unique tactical functions on the battlefield. The gameplay does not include height variations to consider but as there's no grid-based movement in AoF the positioning of units requires a bit more thought than in most turn-based strategy games. In particular, it's easy (perhaps a bit too easy) to create bottlenecks in the battle line which limit your own attack abilities more than it protects your weaker units.

The game's campaigns are broken up into self-contained missions but the player gets to keep surviving troops from the previous battle; an interesting gameplay mechanic which always reminds me of Homeworld. The persistent unit economy is a crucial factor since soldiers gain XP on an individual basis and recruiting advanced versions is costly compared to making low-level units more experienced by having them kill enemies on the battlefield and then get out alive. Gold is awarded between missions and spent on buying and upgrading units, and any remaining gold likewise carries over to the next army-building session. The inherent risk with such a system is of course that, unlike in most games, Pyrrhic victories are quite possible; i.e. you can win battles with heavy losses and still make progress in the game but sooner or later find yourself unable to proceed because you simply don't have enough good units or money to stay ahead of the difficulty curve. Thankfully, AoF allows unlimited saves both during and between battles (and even includes autosaves during each turn of the current battle); making it easy to return to an earlier stage in the game if things get rough.

Considering the two full campaigns included and extensive support for stand-alone skirmishes I can think of few better ways to spend $15 for fans of serious turn-based combat. Most important of all, though, is that Mr Sliwko is currently hard at work on a sequel called Age of Fear 2: The Chaos Lords which will include a total of 70+ unique units, a completely new faction, fearsome boss creatures and even smarter AI. Any additional AoF copies sold will surely help the development of AoF2...

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