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It's been several weeks since we rounded up a set of reviews for Iron Tower's The Age of Decadence, and since there have been at least a couple of well-written and lengthy ones to ponder about, it seems like a good time to do a round-up.
Gamasutra starts us off with a scoreless piece called "The Fanatic and His RPG":
The Age of Decadence is a great game. Like the Watts Towers or the 15,000-page-long illustrated novels of Henry Darger, it is startling, superhuman, almost inhuman in its ambition and novelty. When one attempts to break it into the various categories by which games are typically reviewed (e.g., stability, audio-visual qualities, writing style, fun factor), there is room for debate as to whether it is a good game. But that is merely another way of saying that inspired though it may have been by games like Fallout and especially Arcanum The Age of Decadence has broken the mold. It is not fully amenable to the metrics we typically use to measure games because so many of its qualities are so unusual.
It will take time to judge whether Weller has succeeded in the goal I've imputed to him: opening our minds to a kind of gameplay that we forgot, or forsook, or believed impossible. But no one could have shouted louder, or longer, or more passionately in that cause than he has. Weller deemed The Age of Decadence worth 11 years of his life, worth abandoning his successful career as a businessman. You should deem it worth $30 and a few hours of your time, though perhaps you will find yourself lost in its world for far longer.
RPG Codex goes with a scoreless critique, as well:
I can say that I've had a very complex love/hate relationship with the game. Each time I came across something brilliant, it would then likely be followed by something not so brilliant. Some things infuriated me to no end, while others impressed me with the sheer ambition that made them come to life.
It is ambitious because it tries to blend so many things into one. The developers say that their game is (not for everyone), but I disagree. After all, it has a great combat system and can be played for it alone. It has plenty of branching and reactivity. It may not have much in terms of exploration, but it does have a lot of secret hunting and info collection. For God's sake, it even has an inbuilt CYOA mode if you hate RPGs, no matter the fact that it's not particularly good. In this way, AoD is actually for everyone, simply due to the breadth of playstyles and approaches supported by it.
Darkstation gives it a 4/5:
Age of Decadence is a thinking person's RPG, and rewards patience and attention to detail. It doesn't waste your time with meaningless tasks or busywork, though ultimately, pouring time into crafting or alchemy or weaponsmithing and combat are just as viable as developing persuasion or talking your way out of conflict. It's hard to talk about the game's story except in general terms because each playthrough will forge a relatively unique experience, but Age of Decadence is a welcome alternative for players a little tired of fighting mages, dragons, and orcs, having to manage an unruly party of specialists, or intimidated by the prospect of a vast open world with too much to do and not enough direction.
And then Game Industry News comes in a bit lower at 2.5/5:
I suppose players who complete Age of Decadence can wear that achievement as a badge of honor. I certainly would respect them for doing so. But with so many great games to play and the recent resurgence in RPG popularity, hitting constant walls and frustration with Age of Decadence was just too much. I know that some people will really embrace this style of gameplay, but for me and I suspect a lot of others choosing another RPG to play is probably going to be the one choice that makes the most sense when considering Age of Decadence.