Anyone who has worked with pastry or cake batter knows there comes a certain point when you can overwork it and ruin the final product; unfortunately, this is something that Playside seem not to grasp.
Early access is a time for experimentation and innovation, but such experiments should not run counter to player feedback. Yet, time and time again, the developers have nerfed resources and introduced new mechanics that do little but slow down gameplay and replace challenges with tedium.
Instead of making enemies more dangerous or numerous, the developers have opted to nerf resource generation at every turn, despite player feedback to the contrary.
Some of these changes include removing the passive gold buff and nerfing the production bonus of warehouses into the ground, with players reporting as little as a 25% increase in production, a far cry short of the 100% buff warehouses provided at launch.
These changes have not made the game more challenging in any meaningful or enjoyable way; rather, they have forced players to spend more time waiting for resources to generate than designing their base or exploring the map.
What makes these changes all the more disappointing is they are the result of several updates, each of which has ignored player feedback and made the nerfs worse and tedium greater.
Thankfully, in starting February 2022, the developers began to slowly roll back some of the less popular changes while incorporating new quality-of-life features, such as priority targeting, in addition to providing the player with additional ways to combat the darkness, such as the ever-popular catapult, a mainstay of the RTS genre.
While these changes did not go far enough, and more work is needed to ensure that the Age of Darkness reaches its full potential, it is a step in the right direction. Subsequent updates have shown similar gravitation towards making the game more player-friendly.
While I commend the developers for being willing to try something new and finally respond to community feedback by incorporating new units, splitting said unit types between multiple unbalanced factions are not what we asked for. As a result, players are forced to choose between experiencing new but ultimately poorly balanced units (Voltalist and Rebellion) or sticking to the only well-balanced faction (Order), which lacks interesting units but is at least somewhat playable on higher difficulties.
Procedural generation is a great way to keep games fresh; however, when such games require near split-second perfection and micromanagement to succeed on all but the most trivial of difficulties, there must be sensible limits to procedural generation to ensure that players have access to the materials and resources to required to succeed.
I have played games where there have not been enough stone deposits on the map to create the units and buildings required to survive all but the earliest death nights, while other maps have so much stone I am forced to waste 90% of my production due to insufficient storage.
Prodcusally generated terrain is great for replayability, but developers need to ensure that each map retains a fixed amount of resource nodes; otherwise, players are at the whim of an algorithm that does not take fairness or skill into consideration.
Resource allotment aside, unit costs are insane; while I can understand the gold cost and would even recommend raising it, there is no reason beyond artificial difficulty why two archers require as much stone to recruit as a fortified wall takes to build and why a single arbalest (crossbow) requires more stone and iron than a stone wall.
It’s clear these prices were put in place to provide “challenge”, but in reality, all they do is hinder the player and slow down the Age of Darkness: Final Stand’s already glacial pace considerably, limiting expansion, exploration and preparation for endgame encounters.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand lacks all forms of progression. A near-win is no more rewarding than a total failure, ensuring players cannot bypass the tedious aspects of early gameplay even on their umpteenth playthrough.
I would love to see challenges reward players in meaningful ways, kill 10000 nightmares to start future games with x additional units, or collect 100k of a resource to start future games with additional materials.
However, with the developer’s apparent reluctance to make gameplay more rewarding, I fear that by the time the developers respond to player feedback and incorporate meaningful progression, the community will have moved on to other games, all but assuring that Age of Darkness: Final Stand never reaches its full potential.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand runs smoothly even when more than 70000 units are on-screen.
While visual fidelity has been sacrificed on the altar of performance, and graphically speaking, it looks no more impressive than any title released in the past 15 years, the ability to battle against tens of thousands of nightmares at a time more than makes up for its simplistic aesthetic.
Overall, I feel the developers have made the right choice by focusing on performance over visuals, and more developers should be brave enough to buck the trend and let visuals take a back seat to performance, especially when it leads to larger and more immersive engagements.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand is unrated and contains the following:
Age of Darkness: Final Stand is a fun game that “has its moments”; however, unless the developers can find a way to limit procedural map generation and RNG within acceptable parameters, players will continually be subject to the whims of an unfeeling and often unfair algorithm.
While the developers have begun to show signs of listening to community feedback, and recent updates have made the game far more enjoyable than it has been since shortly after launch, I cannot at this time give wholeheartedly recommend Age of Darkness: Final Stand, at least until the developers have a few more solid updates under their belt and show they are willing to work with the community, instead of against it.