The Age of Decadence is a turn-based, hardcore role-playing game set in a low magic, post-apocalyptic fantasy world. The game features a detailed skill-based character system, multiple skill-based ways to handle quests, choices & consequences, and extensive dialogue trees.
User reviews:
Overall:
Very Positive (814 reviews) - 84% of the 814 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Oct 14, 2015

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March 26

What's Next?



First, we’d like to thank you for your support. When we launched our game on Steam, we didn’t know what to expect. The Age of Decadence is a hardcore RPG that requires the player to forget everything they learned playing mass-market-friendly RPGs and approach it differently, which, in all fairness, is a lot to ask for.

We were prepared for the worst – ready to say “at least we tried” and go back to less exciting ways to make a living – but your support and open-mindedness ensured our survival as a studio and gave us confidence to continue and experiment with game design.

We’re a small studio. Our games will never sell hundreds of thousands of copies, which is fine, because we aren’t in it for the money. We want to make games that nobody else would (precisely because such games would never sell hundreds of thousands of copies) and with and because of your help we can do it.

Thank you. Again.

So what to expect in the near and not so near future?

The Age of Decadence

As our next “full-scale” RPG won’t be ready until 2020, we’ll continue tweaking and improving AoD, ensuring that there’s always something new for the returning players.

The next update will be released in a week or so and will contain:

  • Huge performance boost in Ganezzar, minor boosts in other locations
  • Animation speed now goes up to 4x.
  • Separate animation speed for combat and exploration
  • If a crossbow is loaded, a new icon shows the number of loaded bolts in the inventory screen.
  • Pressing "R" reloads the last used bolts in crossbows.
  • Option to hide skill tags in dialogues.
  • New camera option: follow the player’s character.
  • Separate camera modes for combat and exploration. For example, the camera can follow the player while moving in real time and switch to free camera in combat.

The Dungeon Crawler

Our short-term project is a dungeon crawler set in the AoD world. It's a combat-heavy, party-based RPG for people who like our combat system and want to play it in a party-based mode. It will use the existing engine, systems, and assets, although new creatures, animations, weapons and armor are being added as we speak.

We'll introduce it properly in a couple of months.

The Colony Ship RPG

Our long-term project is a colony ship RPG inspired by Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky. We want this game to feel and play differently from AoD. The core design (turn-based, choices & consequences, non-linear, text-heavy) would remain the same.
  • Character System

    Expect the same 6 stats (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Per, Cha) and 18 skills grouped in sets of three:

    • Melee (Fist, Bladed, Blunt)
    • Firearms (Pistol, Shotgun, SMG)
    • Energy Weapons (Pistol, Rifle, Cannon)
    • Science (Medical, Mechanical, Computer)
    • Speech (Persuasion, Streetwise, Trading)
    • Stealth (Lockpick, Pickpocket, Sneak)

  • Party-Based.

    It’s a fundamental change that affects every design aspect, most notably content “gating”. If you have 3-4 party members, most likely you’ll have all skills covered.

    Charisma will determine the number and quality of your party members. The party size will range from 2 to 5. Experience points from quests will be split between the human party members (a droid will have its own leveling up mechanics and won't cost you any XP), thus a smaller party will be able to gain levels faster.

  • Party Dynamics

    Typically, RPG party members serve a purely tactical role, giving your more bodies to control in combat and access to different combat abilities. In a sense, you’re role-playing an entire squad as outside of combat there is very little (if any) difference between the character you created and the characters you’ve recruited or created next.

    It works great in RPGs that are mostly about combat, but calls for a different approach when it comes to non-combat gameplay. The main problem is that party members offer nothing but combat benefits (occasionally, freaky sex to relieve combat stress and party banter), giving you very few reasons to treat party members any differently than the main character.

    In short, the problem is that in most RPGs party members are mindless zombies lacking any free will, agenda, goals, etc – the very qualities that separate an actual “character” from a zombie. Thus, our main design goal is to create proper characters that have a will of their own, as well as agendas, beliefs, goals, and other infuriating qualities.

    Unlike the player’s character, the party members will have a complex personality & beliefs system that would determine their reaction. Most likely these stats will remain hidden from the player and you’d have to figure out what you’re dealing with by talking to them and observing how they act/react.

    We're planning to go with 10 traits (values ranging from -5 to +5) strictly for the purpose of reacting to different situations and the PC's choices.

    • Religion (-5 means raging atheist, +5 means true believer)
    • Politics (-5 filthy liberal, +5 glorious conservative)
    • Loyalty (-5 treacherous scum, +5 loyal to a fault)
    • Volatile (-5 comatose, +5 always ready to fly off the handle)
    • Connving (-5 honest abe, +5 Miltiades)
    • Opportunist (-5 a man of principles, +5 what are principles?)
    • Idealism (-5 cynic, +5 starry-eyed idealist)
    • Greed (-5 above money, +5 can quote Gordon Gekko)
    • Altruism (-5 selfish bastard, +5 For the Greater Good!)
    • Agreeable (-5 doesn't play well with others, +5 gets along with Hitler)

  • Feats & Character Levels

    Your characters will gain levels using experience points from quests. When you level up, you’ll select feats, unlocking or improving your abilities. The feats will be an important aspect of character development (i.e. they won’t give you minor bonuses but help you develop your characters along specific paths: lone wolf vs squad leader, offense vs defense, gunslinger vs sprayer or gadgeteer, melee vs ranged, which will go beyond which skill to develop, etc) and make as much of a difference as the skills levels.

    We want the skills to determine your chance of success with certain tasks and the feats to define what you can do and how you can use these skills to maximum advantage. For example, not every guy with points in Pistol is a gunslinger, not every guy who travels alone is a Jeremiah Johnson when it comes to survival, etc. Basically, the feats will define your character much more than your skills.

  • Skills & Learn by Using

    You will not gain XP for killing, talking, sneaking, picking locks, using computers, fixing mechanical things and such. You will not increase your skills manually. Instead your skills will be increased automatically based on their use.

    Instead of counting how many times you did something, we’ll assign a certain value (let’s call it learning points) to each activity (attacking, killing, fixing, sneaking, convincing, lying, etc). So killing a tough enemy or repairing a reactor will net you more points than killing a weakling or fixing a toaster. Basically, it will work the same way as XP but go directly toward raising a skill that did all the work.

  • Gadgets

    While melee builds will be viable, most enemies will use guns. Ranged combat will be dull if everyone just stands there, firing their weapons and dodging bullets. It needs cover but we don’t want to place cover everywhere, which means we need gadgets to make your own cover (among other things):
    • Depletable energy shield (absorbs x damage)
    • Reality distortion field (THC penalty against you)
    • Optical illusion a-la Total Recall (chance that enemies will target the illusion)
    • Cloaking field aka Stealth Boy
    • Stasis field (holds enemy, no damage can be dealt)
    • Brainwave Disruptor (don’t leave your home without Psychic Nullifier)

    Expect 10-12 gadgets with 3-4 upgrade levels.

  • Factions

    While factions will get a lot of attention and play a large role, you won’t join a faction but will remain an outsider, free to work for and deal with all factions, which fits the setting better as these factions aren’t guilds but different hubs. However, many quests would have conflicting interests and reputation would play a stronger and more immediate role than it did in AoD, so you won’t be able to please everyone for long.

    In addition to your reputation, which will play a much bigger role in the game (the main quest is sort of built around it), we’ll add two important stats that will be affected by your actions: faction strength & morale (your actions might increase or lower both or increase one and lower the other). More on that in the future updates.

Here are the first 3 design updates if you wish to read more:

Setting Overview

Party Dynamics

System Changes

Again, thank you for your support and encouragement. If you’re interested in AoD, buy it today while it’s on sale to support the games we're working on. If you aren’t sure whether or not the game is for you, read this overview first:

http://steamcommunity.com/games/aod/announcements/detail/79169731941085705

68 comments Read more

February 3

A Bit Of Everything



The update contains a lot of things that were requested by the players:

1) A Stash!

As requested, a stash to store your ill-gotten gains. Rent a room at any inn and get a magic chest that will follow you everywhere (i.e. to the inn in the next city).

2) Sneaking & Stealing

As requested, more opportunities to ply your shady crafts. Stealing from sleeping inn patrons and merchant stalls is now a thing.

3) Spearman's Kit

As requested, a one-handed spear with a longer reach. It comes with a fancy buckler, a well-crafted blue steel helmet that doesn't restrict your vision, and its current owner. Enjoy!







To get your hands on that kit you have to bravely enter a tavern in the Arena district and challenge a dreadful pirate currently terrorizing the peaceful patrons. Are you bad enough dude to save the patrons and claim the villain’s spear for yourself?

4) Trading Cards.

As requested, now you can trade cards and craft your very own badge (or two). Steam gave us hard time ensuring that the divine badge is up to the code and meets the highest requirements (shines like the North Star on a dark night), so hope you won't be disappointed.


One of the badges

5) Expanded Endings

If you always wanted to know what the Zamedi demon is up to (and other memorable characters you've met on your journey), well, now you can. As requested.

6) Camera & Interface Resolutions

As requested, the camera's code has been updated and now it's much smoother. Don't expect any miracles but it's better than before. Plus we added higher resolutions support for the interface.

7) Minor things

Several new characters, text descriptions, bug fixes, improved textures and models, minor balance tweaks.

Thanks for playing.

34 comments Read more

Reviews

“Age of Decadence is an RPG to its core. It offers the player a wealth of choices, many of them carrying lofty consequences along with them. The core design element of player choice transcends simple dialogue choices, as players can progress through the game in a variety of styles. Many games offer up the illusion of choice while failing to actually deliver, but Age of Decadence serves up difficult and tangible crossroads with no looking back. It may have some rough spots, but it is one of the most well-designed RPGs I have had the pleasure of enjoying.”
9/10 – Destructoid

“But Age of Decadence wants nothing to do with kobolds, just as it wants nothing to do with Doo-dads of Unimaginable Power. The overarching idea is a crumbling society divided among three noble Houses, each fumbling around in its own version of darkness to comprehend what destroyed the world. That’s the central mystery. It plays out like noir in that you are the detective, piecing together what really happened from differing accounts, all vividly written with clear voices and efficient prose. And like a detective in a noir yarn, you can’t help but become part of the central mystery, effecting an outcome you might not have intended. Age of Decadence might run away from you.”
4/5 – Quarter to Three

“The Age of Decadence is a dream game from fans of the purest form of cRPG to others. An very interesting narrative driven title with a superb C&C system in place, a well meditated combat system and a world and inhabitants that keep surprising you at every step.”
9/10 – Meristation

About This Game

The Age of Decadence, our first but hopefully not the last RPG, is now available. If you've been following it or playing it in Early Access, you know what to expect. If you've just discovered it, "stay awhile and listen". The most commonly asked question is:

What Kind of Game Is It?


It’s a very different game than anything you’ve ever played. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the RPG genre hasn’t really been explored yet and most RPGs follow the formula that didn’t change in 20 years. While there were always games that strayed off the beaten path – Darklands, Planescape: Torment, King of Dragon Pass – such games were the exceptions that only reinforced the rule.

The Age of Decadence is an experiment, an attempt to explore a different direction, taking you back to the PnP roots of the genre. It doesn’t mean that the game is awesome. In fact, there is a good chance that you won’t like it, precisely because we took too many liberties with the established design.

So What Sets The Age of Decadence Apart From Other Games?

1. The Setup


Traditionally, many fantasy RPGs are about killing things, clearing up dungeons, and being a hero. There is nothing wrong with mindless fun and wish fulfillment, but we want to offer you something different. To quote Tom Chick (Quarter to Three's game critic):

"But Age of Decadence wants nothing to do with kobolds, just as it wants nothing to do with Doo-dads of Unimaginable Power. The overarching idea is a crumbling society divided among three noble Houses, each fumbling around in its own version of darkness to comprehend what destroyed the world. That’s the central mystery. It plays out like noir in that you are the detective, piecing together what really happened from differing accounts, all vividly written with clear voices and efficient prose. And like a detective in a noir yarn, you can’t help but become part of the central mystery, effecting an outcome you might not have intended."

The Age of Decadence is not a game about killing monsters or exploring mystical lands, but rather, surviving amid the greed and brutality of your fellow humans and carving out a name for yourself. Good and bad are purely relative. It’s a world of scheming and backstabbing in which your words and actions have the potential to forge alliances and sow discord, and your path is never certain.

You get to play with seven different factions: three Noble Houses and four 'professional' guilds: merchants, assassins, thieves, and the army, all fighting for power or influence; over 100 named characters, over 750 ‘generic’ characters with unique IDs taking part in violent take-overs, assassinations, and power grabs, and over 600,000 words of dialogue: a well-developed and thought through world, believable characters, realistic motivations, but no elves, dwarves, magic, and wizards in fashionable, pointy hats.

2. Combat difficulty


Another design aspect worth mentioning is combat difficulty. It’s a hard game.

Combat difficulty is integrated into the setting. You can’t say that the world is harsh and unforgiving and then let the player kill everyone who looks at him or her funny. The game has to be hard, dying should be easy, and you should have reasons to pick your fights.

You aren’t a powerful hero who can defeat anyone and save the world and it is the difficulty that reinforces this notion. Make the game easier and we’re back to the powerful hero setup. So unless you’re a natural born killer, watch what you say and think before you act or you’ll end up dead before you can blink.

3. Choices & Consequences


Choices are what the game is all about - crafting your own narrative via a variety of choices that alter the story, playing field, and your options down the road. From multiple quest solutions to branching questlines you'll have plenty decisions to make and consequences of said decisions to deal with, which is what makes the game incredibly replayable.

Starting the game as a mercenary and joining the Imperial Guards will give a completely different experience, different quests, different content and points of view than, say, playing the game as a merchant (less buying low and selling high, more scheming and plotting to gain advantages for the guild), a praetor serving a Noble House, or an assassin.

The questlines are interwoven, forming a large, overarching story, so playing the game only once will be like witnessing events from a single perspective, which is limited by default. You will have to play the game several times to better understand what’s going on, piece everything together, and see the full effect of the choices you make.

The Big Question: Should You Buy The Game?


Try before you buy. Even if everything I said sounds exactly like your kind of game, try the demo first. That’s what it’s there for. It gives you access to the first Chapter, consisting of 3 locations and about 30 quests split between mutually exclusive questlines and decisions.

System Requirements

    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10
    • Processor: 1.7 GHz Processor or better
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Nvidia Geforce 8500 GT / ATI Radeon HD 7290 (512 Mb) or better
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 1900 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 10
    • Processor: 2.5 GHz Processor or better
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Nvidia Geforce GTS 250 / Radeon HD 4870 (1Gb) or better
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 1900 MB available space
Helpful customer reviews
76 of 93 people (82%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
161.3 hrs on record
Posted: December 15, 2015
Age of Decadence is a turn-based RPG set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is based on a technologically advanced Roman Empire that suffered a cataclysmic event due to the influence of extra-planar beings. It's also one of the best games I've played in close to 30 years of gaming.

This game reacts to your choices in a way very few games do. If you help one noble house, you risk alienating another. And this has consequences that affect the ending you get, the quests you receive and your path through the game. All of this adds to replayability and to see the whole game you will have to playthrough multiple times. Each playthrough should take about 10-20 hours depending on how thorough you are.

This is also a game that gives you multiple options to get through a quest. One of the early quests in the game gives you the task of investigating an archeological dig that is being conducted by a rival house. You are given multiple options with how to resolve this quest:
  • You can fight your way through.
  • You can find who is supplying food to the guards at the dig and convince them to poison the food.
  • You can convince some raiders from another quest to attack the dig, killing two birds with one stone.
  • You can impersonate someone that the guards at the dig are waiting for and infiltrate the site.
  • You can side with the other house and assist them with the dig.
  • You can ignore the quest completely.
Note that while all of these options are available (and I might have missed a stealth option), not all of these options are available to every character. The game demands that you specialize and while specialization will open some solutions and quests, it will close others. For example, the character who specializes in negotiation and diplomatic skills to convince the raiders to attack the dig, will not have the combat skills to fight their way through the guards. That means that the combat heavy quests, like becoming a gladiator, will be closed to that character.

The combat in this game is fairly challenging. You will only control one character in the game, although you may have NPC allies, and most of the time you are badly outnumbered. Combat is turn-based and you action points that you spend for actions like movement and attacking. Different attacks have different action point costs and you target specific locations for various effects, e.g. you can attack an opponent’s legs to make them easier to hit. The penalties you impose on your enemies with these attack stack and you also have special attacks with consumable items like nets, flasks of Greek-fire and grenades. The enemies also have these abilities and they use them fairly effectively.

This means that combat can have a snowball effect, e.g. you might be fighting an opponent who you can defeat quite easily, then they land a lucky leg hit against you, which lets them land another and soon you are defenseless and being torn apart. While you can use this snowball effect to your advantage, because you are outnumbered it tends to be to your disadvantage more often than not. This is really a game where one bad roll can lose you the battle, while I like this, I can understand how it would be frustrating to many players.

While the game is well written and offers many paths through the game, there is a sense of diminishing quality as the game progresses. The second town for example feels very empty compared to the first town, and the game feels a little rushed towards the end. There are also two stories going on simultaneously, there is a civil war and the exploration of the ruins. The stories are linked, but the skills you need to explore the ruins might not be the skills your character needs to support their faction in the civil war. Such a character will end up missing half the game on their playthrough.
The game is also not without some bugs. While I have not encountered any game-breaking bugs, I have encountered updates to quests that cannot be completed, or characters forgetting some of the things that I have done. However these bugs are few and far between.

Synopsis: if you liked Fallout 1 and 2, Wasteland 2, or just a good story driven RPG, give this game a try. However, this is not a game where you can do everything in one playthrough, so be prepared to playthrough it a couple of times if you want the whole story.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
77 of 99 people (78%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
23.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 29, 2015
I've been following Age of Decadence since around 2008 and have been greatly looking forward to playing it. When it comes to video games, I seem to completely share the same opinions and tastes as the lead designer; I'm a bit of a fanboy of his so that only increased my hype.

I've enjoyed playing it, but I do have numerous issues with the game. I completed this game soon after release and was planning to only submit this after having played it several more times and editing in additional thoughts, but I haven't had the time to do that so I'm just going to post this review as is, though I will probably end up adding additional thoughts whenever I get around to playing it more (and I expect my opinion of certain aspects such as the story to improve after spending more time with non-combat characters). The following review might contain minor spoilers.

Story, Writing & Quests

I found the writing and story pretty good but if I'm honest I expected better. Some parts, especially Ganezzar, feel very rushed to me. The ending is unbelievably abrupt and anti-climactic. The choices and consequences weren't as frequent or as important as I expected from Vault 'Choices and Consequences' Dweller; it seems like the biggest choices are right before you see a story slide, which I think should be secondary to in-game effects. If I side with a faction, I want this choice to affect me; perhaps if I betrayed them, they send assassins after me or something in the next town over? Things like that. But the consequences were rarely there from what I could tell. Half the reputation systems aren't ever checked so are literally pointless and the other half are checked infrequently.

There wasn't as much to do in cities as I would've expected; if combat was as easy as it is in, say, Fallout 1/2, I think the game would go by WAY too quickly. Certainly could've done with more quests and I hope that they add some more in the next 3 months of development.

Combat & Skill system

Many people claim that the combat is too difficult. It's not uncommon for people to struggle to get past the first fight and it's recommended that you restart with different builds until you find the right one. This wasn't necessary for me, and I found every fight apart from two quite manageable. Occasionally there would be a fight that I couldn't do right away, but going away for a bit and doing a few quests to get some skill points and then returning solved that. The only two fights I had severe trouble with were the Aurelian Outpost, which I'm pretty sure wasn't possible with the character build I had at the time, and an end game fight that I'm not sure is even possible for anyone to win.

So overall I thought the difficulty was good. Not too difficult, not too easy. You have to reload regularly but it doesn't get to absurd levels. Even if you do have to reload a bunch of times, it never bothered me much because you're very quickly back into the action. I tend to only get frustrated in games where there's needless tedium, such as in Dark Souls where you have to constantly, needlessly, run back to the challenging part through a bunch of weak enemies, which to me seems as though they might as well give you a maths problem to do before you can get through the fog door. It doesn't add anything.

That said, I was disappointed with the tactical elements. I was playing an assassin with a dagger (speaking of daggers, I got a steel dagger in Teron (I believe) and not ONCE did I ever find an opportunity to upgrade it throughout the rest of the game. Unique and high quality metal shields, hammers and swords coming out my ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, but not a single good dagger. Why?) and high dodge with some critical strike added to the mix. I very rarely found any reason to use anything other than Arterial Strike. As far as I can tell, the only reason to use anything else is if 1) you don't have enough AP (I had 12 AP, so for me that only occurred when I had moved the same turn), 2) the opponent is lightly armoured (so, like, <10% of enemies?) or 3) the opponent was really hard to hit. There wasn't a reason to use other aimed attacks from what I could tell, I tried them out but I'd rather do 10-15 damage than cripple their AP very slightly for a few turns. I thought Aimed: Torso might be useful so 100% of my dagger's damage wouldn't be absorbed like it is with every attack apart from Arterial Strike, but no; that too was much worse than Arterial Strike.

Numerous skills, such as Traps, seem to be really underutilised.

Personally, I think that you get too few civil skill points. Combat skill points are fine, no need to increase those, but as an assassin I would've liked to have been able to have felt like a more competent one who could do more than just fight. I feel like the design limited my character too much and I would've liked to have been decent at Streetwise, Lockpick, Sneak and Impersonate, all skills I'd associate with an assassin. Presumably the reasoning for not giving more is to encourage replaying with other builds, so this is somewhat understandable.

Technical Issues

Graphically the game isn't a champ, but that's no surprise from a small indie team with a low budget. Some areas managed to look quite nice and had a good artistic vision, such as the monastery.

I had dozens of crashes throughout my playthrough, some of which happened JUST as I beat a fight I had been reloading on for awhile, which was rather frustrating. At times the game would randomly decide to crash before I could get to the menu screen over and over, so I had to close Steam and start is as admin before it would work. The next day, that fix didn't work so I had to directly launch AoD.exe as admin.

At one stage, in Ganezzar, the game stopped recognising my saves and started listing them as 'beta saves' and a lot of them got corrupted all of a sudden. That could've been the end of my playthrough right there, but luckily I save like a mad man and had a suitable backup from 20-30 minutes ago that didn't get corrupted.

A few times when starting fights or going into buildings, enemies would be invisible and I had to reload to fix it.

At one stage, I failed a Dexterity check despite having 10 Dexterity.

There were some other really minor niggles like a few typos here and there; surprisingly the very first line spoken to you when you start as an assassin had a typo!

I know how difficult it is to test these things and make the game run well on all systems, so I don't consider these issues much of a big deal.

Conclusion

Overall this review has sounded quite negative, but that's a problem I have where I don't know how to review anything other than by pointing out its flaws and going from there. I enjoyed AoD, I think it's easily the best RPG in years and MUCH better than recent games like Pillars of Eternity. Any fan of classic isometric turn-based CRPGs needs to play this game. I'm really glad that Iron Tower Studio is going to continue making games and I will definitely be buying any of their future games including the upcoming AoD dungeon crawler.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
64 of 83 people (77%) found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
139.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 3, 2015
There hasn't been an RPG since 90's where your character's skills and attributes mattered so much during the game. It is a paradise for people who love to metagame, try and fail, try again and succeed and love to search for hidden content like pieces of lore, character bits, easter eggs, hard skill checks and hidden endings. It is an utter terror for people who are used to games with flat difficulty curve and being rewarded without struggling for reward. It is actually a game where Steam achievements are something you wear proudly like medals for your survival.
Developers also tried hard to squeeze as much as possible from Fallout's turn-based combat and actually succeeded. For a system where you control only one character and have just a handful of action points, while also constantly facing multiple enemies at once, it has surprising level of depth to it due to unique attacks, huge arsenal of weapons (none of which are completely unplayable, although some being easier to handle), consumables (which are essential for your survival in this game) and small mechanical features (like weapon and armor Hardness, critical hits and such).
While visuals of AoD are outdated, many locations are actually very atmospheric and writing and music make up for that.

There are, however, some things that drag the game down and make what could have been a marvel into flawed gem.
The first one is that engine is outdated and game is not systemic, not even on a level of, say, first Fallout, or Ultima's, Arcanum or Deus Ex. Most of the things are done via text quests instead of player actively trying out and combining skills and objects inside the game by mouse. Pressing [TAB] will reveal most active spots around character and then it's just a matter of having right skills or items, as your options are clearly presented to you as a list.
It makes game especially easy as talker-character, as you can completely avoid combat via skill checks, while in other games it's usually challenging because you have to use things like stealth, spells or know game very well to make a "pacifist" run.
Game tries to subvert this sometimes as there are decisions that are not obvious, like switching factions, or some dialogues actually make you pay attention as you get bonuses to skill checks if you choose right answers, but first depends on how well particular quest line is written, and latter is only used rarely, so there are no text quests turning into actual puzzles like, for example, in Space Rangers.
This makes game a lot more reactive than proactive, which is why exploring ancient sites and finding hidden endings and easter eggs become more fun later after game held your hand during some of the guild quests.
Developers continue to try and fight this by adding even more skill checks where it is appropriate and providing players with even more options, but without proper systems it is an uphill battle and creates a huge cluster**** of scripts and variables that are hard to perfect.

Second thing that can't but make you sigh during big battles is, of course, that you can only control one character. Sure, it has been set in stone, probably from development day 1, but still... There are so many weapons and builds you can try that it would require many playthroughs to run them all, and even with a party of 3 characters, combat would become a lot more tactical and require less metagaming - as for now many battles require you to have a particularly high defensive skill or good armor to even stand a chance to survive first round or two and make use of your options.
It also makes many battles a chore to replay, as in some of them your impact is small and sometimes allies can win battle for you.

And third thing which is a mixed bag is, of course, the writing.
It is a mix of genuinely interesting politicking and exploration, memorable characters, constant betrayals and your character trying to prove himself, encyclopedic lore dumps, cool plot twists and viperous pragmatism, Roman decorations, characters interpreting history, characters forgetting their history, characters making new history and **aliens** (hands gesture).
Game writing begins resembling someting like Roman "Thieves World", dabbles into politics and then suddenly makes and awkward jump into ancient technomagic and makes every character rush for a search for deus ex machina, which can change everything you did, thus seemingly cancelling that what I thought to be main idea behind design of the game and also behind every good plot - cause and effect.
It is particularly boring and banal to read ancient history through various journals and consoles that suddenly manifest in large numbers during endgame, instead of trying to figure it through interpretations of people who live here and now like in the beginning of the game.

But my own personal gripe with story of AoD is that it doesn't do Roman setting justice it deserves. There is some "Rome" in Praetor story, but not enough for me. I was waiting for flavourful descriptions of deaths of ancient rulers (with their eyes replaced with sapphires and liquid metal mixed with **** poured over their heads - just like in my friend's favorite book!), political marriages, conflicts between free people and slaves (and of course me buying slaves for my own protection and leisure), but probably the most "Roman" story in the game happened not with me, but with a wonderful scumbag Miltiades, who did in the game things that I wanted to do myself. It is always bit sad when NPCs do cooler stuff than you, and it's not even particularly epic stuff.

With all that said, I invested 100+ hours into the game. And unlike many other games where these hours are generally repeating same stuff, reading same text, meeting same characters, in AoD very often you will find yourself doing completely different things. Even combat builds change the way you play and battles you choose, and of course there is a ton of hidden and locked content in the game waiting for persistent players to find.
It is a joy of a game with completely different, no-bul**** approach that doesn't work in compromises, and you either accept that and try, struggle and win, or... good ****ing riddance.
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39 of 49 people (80%) found this review helpful
124.2 hrs on record
Posted: November 17, 2015
Excellent game. Very rich, deep, immersive world. Despite the graphical limitations (not a complaint, btw, I love them the way they are), the world feels very alive and encompassing. The excellent writing, both narrative and dialogue, fuel this feature and set this game apart from so many on the market today. The learning curve is fairly steep and most of the negative reviews I have read stem from that fact. This isn't a Bethesda sandbox. Your character cannot and will never be able to 'do everything' at once. Initially, you will only do a very few things very well. As you learn the game and the story, you'll be able to expand a bit on subsequent playthroughs and be more multi-faceted.

There is an incredible story here, with dozens of smaller, elegantly-interconnected side stories woven throughout. Perhaps the most satsifying aspect of the experience is discovering different angles to each story depending on which faction you ally with. It is really fascinating to worry your mind at a plot 'hole' when playing an Imperial soldier only to have it fully explained much later on during your 40 Thieves playthrough. Very smoothly put together narrative running behind the scenes here.

If there's one complaint, I suppose it would be the 'linear' nature of the game. Personally, I don't mind it, as I understand its necessity in order to tell a cohesive, meaningful story. But some people probably will mind it, so I mention it here. There are MANY different paths through the game and it will require several playthroughs to see them all. But once you've chosen your 'path' for a particular playthrough, that path generally runs on the rails until it completes. Which isn't to say that you can't change paths partway through, if you're good enough to survive betraying your masters. ;) Each path also has significant choices you can make which will dramatically affect the life of your character and, in rare cases, the fate of the faction you serve or the world as a whole. So while there is some linearity in order to maintain the story, you do have a reasonable measure of liberty within that structure.

A truly great game here. A masterwork, in my estimation. I've had more fun with this title than I have with most in the past few seasons. I hope that those of you who follow my recommendation and take a chance on it find the experience as rich and rewarding as I have.
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29 of 36 people (81%) found this review helpful
20.9 hrs on record
Posted: November 3, 2015
If you can look past the graphics and the insane difficulty, its honestly an underrated gem that I was very surprised by. No one I know owns this game except me. If you're a fan of the old school Fallout 1/2 series, this is definately a good successor to that kind of gameplay.

Very few games nowadays have a lot of rich story, a conversational text dialog system, and plenty of branching paths to choose from to shape your character. This is one of the few that keeps the classic roleplaying genre alive.

The only downside to this game is that the difficulty is just insane. It will take a lot of effort, research, and trial and error just to make some decent progress after countlessly dying and starting over to try new character builds. This, however, is also part of its charm because there really isn't any handholding at all. This is truly one of the real hardcore games that I haven't really seen in quite some time. Dark Souls is definately a lot easier than this.
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