Playing an RPG Without Combat

After playing through a swath of combat-focused RPGs recently, PC Gamer has turned their attention toward another recent title where combat can oftentimes be optional - Iron Tower's The Age of Decadence. And since they're liking what the game has to offer in this regard, they've chronicled their adventures in a new accurately-named editorial entitled "Playing an RPG Without Combat":

Instead, I'm a master at doing words at people more so than this sentence would imply. My primary stats are trading, persuasion and 'streetwise,' and it's interesting just how much these skills matter. I've played for a few hours, and, so far, Age of Decadence has mitigated its early linearity through contextual events and dialogue. At multiple points I'm given the option for actions that rely on my (appalling) dexterity, or conversation choices that require my (amazing) persuasion. But these options don't magically solve problems.

In one instance, a man tries to lure me into an abandoned house. This feels dodgy, and, thanks to my streetwise skill, I'm informed in-game that something suspicious is afoot. I decide to follow anyway, and am immediately set upon by muggers. This triggers a combat encounter and I die almost instantly. Even in the merchant campaign, combat can happen. As the player, it's my job to recognise dangerous scenarios and avoid them. I'd say it's a lot like life in that regards, but nobody has ever attempted to lure me through a mystical Roman-esque town into a run-down house full of jerks. Not that it couldn't happen. I live in Bath, after all.

I'm not far into Age of Decadence, certainly not enough to make any strong pronouncements of its overall quality. But the resolution to my last mission did fill me with hope. The merchants guild are a political organisation, and a recurring theme has been negotiating tactical murders through the assassin's guild. In the latest instance, our organisation's desired target was deemed too hot to handle, and so it's up to me to find a solution. That means seeing the town's ruling lord, but getting an audience requires solving some problems with two enemy camps outside of town.