It’s been 10 years since the outbreak, and despite a cure being somewhat readily available, hordes of fresh zombies shuffle to the left to make trouble for the locals. It’s this world that you’re thrust into in Dead Age 2, placed firmly in the boots of a guy named Jason, granted you can change his name but the patch notes greet everyone as “Jason” so it seems prevalent to keep it that way.(Classic “Jason”, not wanting to fight his reanimated loved ones!)
From the off you’re knee-deep in zombie guts during a very in-depth and lengthy tutorial period where you get shown the ropes of the complex systems that lie beneath. Dead Age 2 is more than just your average rogue-like, there are a lot of systems to micromanage that can help or hinder your odds of survival. For example, do you risk pressing the attack in the hopes of landing a juicy crit that will leave you victorious? Or do you hold off and use focus to gain a precious extra AP on the next turn while risking your enemies doing the same? The choice is yours.
If you’ve played games of this genre before then you’ll know it’s best not to grow too attached to any of the companions you encounter on your journey. All it takes is one misplaced minute of bravado and you can kiss you best characters goodbye. Hell, you could lose your whole team if the RNG gods aren’t with you!(Jack knows what’s up!)
Early on in my playthrough, I had just unlocked a 3rd person to come on trips with me, she had skills based in the hunting tree and was able to call forth a small hound to fight alongside us, this I thought, would be the turning point to the fight and in a way, it was, everyone died and I had to start fresh. Luckily, upgrades and points are saved in the forms of trophies that can be used on your next run and no doubt even more subsequent ones after that.(“Go for the balls Fido!”)
As you progress through the tutorial, you’re taken to your home base of “Jack’s Camp”, here you can eventually spend upgrades to build new rooms like a garden and smithy that can be used to harvest and create valuable resources like ammo and food, but you need to spend resources to make the resources and that means either buying them (expensive, money is hard to come by outside of missions) or scavenging them, which will be the main way of the game. Upgrades to these buildings allow you to create items in bigger quantities and different materials which will be useful in the long run.
When you get out of the tutorial, you’re given quite a free reign on where you go outside the broad story, locations are split between travel points and outposts with some extra missions having their own tab. The travel points can be quite simple in clicking through each one to move forward but sometimes you will encounter something. It could be an ambush, loot or a civilian in need, one you’re in though the only way out is win or die and start again. It’s here where luck plays a big part since you can only heal in combat or at major outposts. So if you end up ragged and forced into a fight you can’t win you’re pretty much screwed. You must learn to carefully balance progression and retreat, at least until you get strong enough and have enough supplies to help you through the more challenging fights.
Combat is a mixed bag, ammo is hard to come by so it’s best to stick with melee for the scrub mobs and use the guns for the harder beasties that lurk towards you, in the combat phase you get 2 AP, a lot of abilities and movements take 1 point so getting folks into melee range uses one point, but you can put them on the defence with their remaining to negate a lot of the damage or focus so you will have 3 to spend in the next turn. Some creatures pose different threats, armoured zombies are immune to all damage for a certain period until the armour breaks or you can throw Molotov’s and other fire-based attacks to instantly melt it off at the cost of an action point but these are often difficult to come across so it’s best to make them or buy them at shops if you can afford them.
Every settlement has a shop and various other services, you can visit the cantina to pick up side missions. The doctor may also have missions as well and completing these gains you a bonus, such as lower healing costs or discounts at the shop. Your reputation with the controlling faction of said settlement (of which there are 3) will also increase with every mission of theirs completed. The problem is your rep with the others will decrease, forcing you to decide whether getting grandpa his pile cream is really worth pissing off “Stabby-Pete”!
II can’t say I found myself caring too much about the characters beyond just getting their money and skills. There is some fun dialogue and a few interesting choices to be had if you put the time into building up the reputation with the factions. But the problem is if you engage in these missions you’re putting your resources at risk for the potential narrative pay-out and sometimes it just didn’t feel worth it.(“Fuck it! Keep him, I’m going home for a shit and a Cornetto!”)
If you’re a fan of the rogue-like genre then there is a lot here that provides interest, there’s a nice difficulty curve to begin with and scrounging for materials and exploring the location is quite fun, but the story, such as it is, is a little weak but still enjoyable at time. The game is also being updated quite heavily with pretty much daily patches while I was writing. Overall, I didn’t really encounter many, if any bugs, nothing game breaking at least which is good for a game with many moving parts. I’d recommend giving it a shot if you like zombies and deep mechanics along with the possibility of losing your folks, it never feels unfair that it happened but prepare to be frustrated!