Super Co-Op Bros Gets an Early Look at Dead Age 2
Dead Age 2, from HeadUp Games, is the sequel to the turn-based zombie apocalypse game, Dead Age, which was originally released in 2016, and is described by its developers to be a “mix of role-playing, rogue-like, fast-paced, turn-based combat and survival, all in one.”
I got an early look from Headup Games at Dead Age 2, which became available through Steam Early Access Games on July 16th, and was given access to test and proof the game before going to official release as part of their debugging work. Because of this, I also got the opportunity to play the game early to give you this preview of the game.
The early access version is not a complete copy as only about 60% of the full playthrough is available, but all elements of the game were available, with only a truncated quest progression.
If you played Dead Age, you will immediately recognize the strong influences of the original title on this sequel. Dead Age 2 uses a very similar story-telling process, combat system, and overall game mechanics. It is an extension of the story from Dead Age.
Once Upon a (zombie-pocalypse) Time
Dead Age 2, like Dead Age, presents the initial introduction to the games’ back story with static images and drawings, like the panels of the pages in a comic book as there are no narrations. Throughout the game, as I follow along picking up quests, the mission dialogue is accompanied by a Polaroid-styled picture of the character speaking, along with text-based story-telling and dialogue.
You start off on the character creation screen. Here you can make some modifications to your main characters physical appearance, as well as renaming him from the default name (“Jason”), along with selecting the difficulty level. (Check out our article on difficulty levels). As players play through the game on later attempts to the same game save, they earn points that can be used on subsequent play-throughs to upgrade their starting stats/skills and gain starting faction bonuses.
Once you set up your game and hit start, you are given a brief historical outline about the basic scenario and world history that has brought you to this point. TLDR: ten years ago, a plague led to the greatest catastrophe in the history of humanity resulting in the deaths of billions. A small group of survivors discovered a cure for the zombie plague, giving hope to the human race.
From this, several factions emerged; the U.S. Military, bands of smugglers and rogues, and groups of independents, are all vying to survive off of limited resources. Unfortunately, the plague re-emerges, decimating much of the remaining population which was trying to rebuild from the ashes of humanity. This is where you come in. It’s now up to you to lead a band of survivors as you take over control of “Jack’s Camp.” The camp name comes from Jack, who invented the cure to the zombie plague, but is unfortunately unable to fully cure himself, and is now slowly dying from the illness he cured.
“Not Today, Satan…”
Once past the brief comic-book style storyboard introduction, you are immediately introduced into the turn-based combat system. Jason, your main character, enters left and immediately encounters a “Crawler,” one of the many zombie classes in the game.
From here, the tutorial introduces you to several key characters in the game, including Jack and Steven, and instructs on the basics of using the turn-based combat system. This turn-based combat system makes up one of the main user interfaces. When players are involved in any sort of “encounter,” the players various group members appear on the left half of the screen, squaring up to face off against various combatants that the player might encounter.
The combat system puts one or more enemies in battle against you, controlling up to three of your survivors at a time. While you have a main character that the player identifies as, you ultimately accumulate a number of other survivors at your base, each with their own pre-established areas of strength for ranged and melee combat, as well as some basic focus on one or more non-combat skills.
Both my selection of skills/traits, as well as story-based decisions will have lasting implications on how the game plays out and this much is also explained in the tutorial for the game.
The Skills to Pay the Bills
The combat system uses a pretty typical RPG setup. There are no “classes” specifically in DA2, your survivors earn points that you can spend on improving a range of different skills, with both combat and non-combat skills.
Combat Skills are broken down between ranged and melee combat, and further sub-categorized depending on the type of weapons (piston/shotgun/rifle for ranged; bladed/blunt for melee) as well as special abilities – such as for setting traps or using special equipment/items. Non-combat skills encompass abilities which assist in producing various weapons, armor and equipment.
Ultimately, any survivor can focus on any skills, but as skills cannot be reset, planning is important so the player does not end up with several survivors among their ranks that all focus on making guns and ammo, while no one can garden.
The Road to Freedom
As with typical RPG style games, as you kill baddies and complete missions, you are the recipient of money, quest items, gear, and materials. Characters also receive experience points from their successes, which provide a means for leveling-up. As your various characters levels increase, they receive improvements to an arrangement of stats affecting your attack and defensive capabilities, etc.
In order to succeed in the game, I had to strike out and explore the land around Jack’s camp. Players can explore the forest and roads around, travel to the local smugglers camp to try to find goods, trade with the nearby cell of the “Independents”, or travel to “Freedom City” in order to try to get into the good graces of the local US Military company. Each of these groups represents a “faction” with which players can earn (or lose) status with. Greater status means the ability to buy/trade for better gear, such as armor. Deteriorated status means an increased likelihood of raids on your own base, with these unfriendly factions stealing supplies. It’s also key to surviving the game that the player explores various hot spots for supplies such as water and food.
From my time playing the game, I found that, the most disastrous mistakes I made were related to not having enough food and water on hand. Quickly, you will find your survivors health deteriorate as a result of rationing and shortages, and its next to impossible to accomplish anything else without the survivors being adequately fed and watered.
The final version will have an estimated total gameplay, for a single first completion at an estimated 12 hours, and for a full completion of the game to be about 25 hours.
Dead Age 2 is available via Steam Early Access for PC and Mac for $17.99, which will grant immediate access to the full version once it is released. While it is still in development, the Early Access version offers everything that will be available in the final, full version as far as gameplay mechanics, though there is about 40% of the final full game campaign that will not be made available until the full release is made available. The Dead Age 2 Steam Early Access game was first made available on July 16th and after about 10 days of being live, there have been 5 live patches made to the game, with more to come.
No final release date has been announced. Dead Age 2 is in development for PC, Mac and Linux based systems. HeadUp is also working on both Xbox and PlayStation versions of the title for later release.
Keep up with us here for the latest news on Dead Age 2, and comment below with questions you have for the Dead Age 2 Development team and we will ask them ourselves