One of my favourite aspects of the campaign in Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 was that it allowed you to embrace your inner turtle. Or at least, hunkering down and building a powerful base to fight back the enemy was my favoured playstyle. The problem I’ve found with many RTS titles since those halcyon days is that single-player titles are focused on small-scale squad management, while multiplayer and RTS is an oxymoron in my lexicon.
All in all, when I finally got around to starting up Age of Darkness: Final Stand – having initially installed when released in Early Access last October – I found myself feeling very comfortable.
My comfort was short lived, as I ended up with my hero slain and base destroyed during the first onslaught of Nightmares barely twenty-minutes into my first time taking on the Survival mode. Fortunately, I was able to quickly discern where I had gone wrong.
You see, Age of Darkness has a very pleasant focus on building up your defences and troops to fight off the Nightmares that will periodically stumble across your expanding base. You can’t rest on your laurels, as these small incursions are a precursor to the Death Night. Each Death Night sees a growing horde of Nightmares come flooding towards your base, with their number increasing with each new Death Night.
After my first – rather rapid – defeat at the first Death Night, my second attempt at Survival took me to the brink of surviving the second horde. This time around I thought I had recovered from the first Night and prepared well for the new wave of foes. I had a nice array of mid-tier static defences deployed in the direction the Nightmares would attack and a hearty number of soldiers and archers ready to slay the enemy. Unfortunately, once my defensive barriers succumbed, the Nightmares pushed forward without remorse, surrounding my troops and quickly destroying my base.
There’s a nice rhythm to the action, during the day I found myself exploring and taking down clusters of Nightmares while they weren’t receiving any buffs from darkness, then fortifying my defences during the normal nights. For me, trying to gain bonuses from hunting Elite Nightmares wasn’t worth the sacrifice of my troops, although others will no doubt make hay from the strategic options that these bonus goodies offer.
I do enjoy the randomly generated maps in Survival mode, ensuring that no two attempts are the same. I’ve also taken to stepping back from Normal down to Easy difficulty so I can better enjoy the base building and increase my knowledge and understanding of the game mechanics. I’m not sure I’m ready to face potentially up to 70,000 enemies at one time!
The full release, hopefully coming later this year, will feature a full campaign, one which I’m sure will leverage the Heroes to shed some light on where the Nightmares have come from, and why this land has been plunged into darkness. The two Heroes that are currently playable have different back-stories and abilities, giving me a sense that there could be a simple but effective tale of light vs darkness, good vs evil to be told in the campaign.
You can find out more about the Early Access journey of Age of Darkness over on Steam.