Jay Barnson on The Age of Decadence

Jay "Rampant Coyote" Barnson has finally written down his impressions of Iron Tower's The Age of Decadence, a Fallout-inspired Roman-themed turn-based indie RPG with a marked focus on choices and consequences. As it turns out, while he has his reservations on some design choices, he seems to have enjoyed his time with the title so far. Here's on quests:
The quests themselves at least so far are something of a mixed bag. Each starting background comes with an early quest or two that will get you on the path for an overall storyline. Quests and events play out a little bit like an old (Choose Your Own Adventure) book (for those who remember them). You'll stumble into several of them, and the game politely teleports you to the important spots on your quest for at least the earlier ones. Many of the choices depend upon skill checks to succeed, and are politely prefaced with exactly what skills will be checked. I was pleased to see in one dialog that failure was not a complete disaster it simply dictated whether a situation was an insta-win, or it put me into combat with a wounded opponent.

The branching nature of these quests and events is definitely interesting, leading to some interesting replayable options. But there are always limitations. One downside of the branching dialog is that the game sometimes assumes a behavior on the part of your character that doesn't match your intention. Some of this can be prevented by giving your character more limited dialog not putting words in his or her mouth but that makes for less compelling dialog. The branching events also mean that as a player, I tend to consume quests pretty quickly. With a couple of failures and some dumb purchase decisions, I soon found myself kind of stymied in one play-through, where the only remaining quests on my list either demanded money I didn't have, or seemed to not yet be implemented. It's tough to tell, as the game gives you few hints on some of the later quests as to where to go.

While I don't mind a game not leading you by the nose on some missions, there are some modern niceties that would be appreciated. To find an interactive object or person, you have to move your mouse cursor over them, which will glow. But there is no name or identification of the object to go by. The only way to know if find your guild-master is to talk to people in the guild hall until you stumble across him. The interactive elements of the starting city are pretty sparse, so I spent a lot of my time wandering around moving my mouse cursor over everything, hunt-the-pixel style, trying to find something that would trigger a new event or resolve the new one.

Sometimes events seem to find you instead. For a short time, the world seemed pretty rich in events going on. I'd walk around the city and stumble into things that would trigger. This was pretty exciting. Then I seemed to exhaust the events, and the game revealed perhaps its biggest weakness there's no regular (loop) of activity in the game to engage in. In this way, it resembles an adventure game with RPG-style task resolutions. But if you get blocked for any reason, there's not much to do but wander around already-explored territory poking around to see if there's anything else you may have missed the previous dozen times you missed the spot. Occasionally, that proves true, and it's awesome when it happens. But when you spend fifteen minutes moving from place to place and talking to the same people who have nothing more to say, it gets pretty old pretty fast.