“Age of Decadence is a Steam darling modeled after the old school, bad ass, doesn’t-fuck-around, clunky-as-hell RPGs of the 90s that came and went way before my time. I was playing Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and Jet Moto when games like Fallout 1 and 2, Baldur’s Gate, and Planescape: Torment were inspiring a legion of gamers to reject modern RPGs as pathetic examples of condescending hand-holding trends brought to their logical conclusion. My admiration of the modern Fallout’s lore had always tempted me to dive back into the original games, but quick glances at their Steam pages always scared me away, even after accounting for their low price tags. They seemed too severe, too rough around the edges, too unforgiving of a player’s lack of clairvoyance to determine which skills will end up more effective than others in the late game. I figured these things were an artifact of another time, and while I understood their appeal, I also thought they would make as much sense to a modern gamer like myself as a Commodore 64 would to a modern computer-owner.
Yet Age of Decadence somehow managed to reel me in. I think it was the description of the game’s Steam page, which is just as well written as the story’s endless sub-plots and intrigues, which finally did it for me. AoD may look uncannily like Runescape, but it’s actually an absurdly deep RPG with more narrative control in the player’s hands than perhaps any game I’ve ever played outside of Crusader Kings. And it takes place in a pretty damn cool “low magic, post-apocalyptic fantasy world” where a stand-in for the Roman Empire has collapsed after a world war with another major power in which both sides summoned physically real deities and ended up in a state of mutually-assured destruction, thus leaving the land in a state of chronic fractured power struggle between three small kingdoms and a host of eclectic minor factions. Gameplay consists of multi-tiered dialogue trees with stat checks, and turn-based grid combat. Basically, if your favorite part of Bioware games is the personal negotiations between interesting power players, and you always felt like the sword/magic/gun/biotic fighting was just filler, AoD is the game for you.
Before I began playing, a Steam reviewer informed me that AoD has unusually “broad” classes which allow for interesting alterations to traditional play styles. For instance, “you can build a mercenary who is actually a lover not a fighter, an [sic] merchant who responds to denial with an ax to the face and many other combinations.” Well, I already knew this game was about accumulating power to take over a treacherous political wasteland by any means necessary, so I naturally thought that for my first playthrough, I would take on the role of the legendary Big Boss…”
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