Tips For Playing Age of Darkness: Final Stand

We’ve posted before about how great Age of Darkness is, the new Aussie-made game which is probably the most addictive thing I’ve played all year. It’s a cross between a city builder, RTS, tower defence, and maybe even an ARPG. It’s also brutally difficult, so here’s some Age of Darkness tips to help survive.

Starting with just a keep and a few warriors, you have to build a city that can withstand waves of Nightmare attacks. These waves are much larger than what you’d see in a tower defence game.

If you’re thinking this looks a lot like They Are Billions, you’re right — though Age of Darkness adds a hero character into the mix, and has a few other small changes. So here’s some guidance to help you with some of the more hidden systems as you reach that terrifying final wave.

Pause, Pause, Pause

Seriously though. Pause. It’s tempting to play this like an RTS, but stop that. It’s only “real-time” if you’re playing a masochistic challenge mode. Your brain should be like a Youtuber, except instead of constantly telling you to SMASH that Like button, it’s the spacebar.

Pause every time you make a decision. Where should I place that food hut? Do I need more archers on defence? Even in the middle of combat, you should be pausing to make micro easier. It’s not cheap — this is the game.

age of darkness tips
Be sure to have those ballistae ready for wave two. Image: Supplied

The Wave Structure

You’ll get hit with several waves, increasing in size and coming from different crystals across the map, until you reach a final wave in which Nightmares will come from all crystals.

In general, you should have these defences for each wave:

  • Wave 1: Tier 1 towers with archers and some wooden walls
  • Wave 2: Tier 2 towers with archers and some ballistas
  • Wave 3: Towers, archers, arbalests, and Great Ballistas if you can
  • Wave 4: Arbalests, Great Ballistas, and as many siege units as you can

You can also destroy a crystal before it’s time for the next wave, and this will trigger the next wave as soon as nighttime falls. When I did this, I seemed to get more red crystals as a retrievable resource. I’m not sure exactly what the tradeoff is here, whether you get more resources for destroying it earlier. I got quite a few red crystals for destroying it with four days left until the wave. But then I died. So there’s that.

age of darkness tips
This is what defeat looks like. Image: Supplied

It’s About Clearing The Map

Ostensibly, these games are about fighting off waves of baddies. Years of muscle memory in tower defence games may lead you to believe survival depends on clever placement of defences.

That’s part of it, but most of your time in Age of Darkness should be spent clearing the map with roaming bands of warriors and archers. The more land you clear, the more land you can leverage for resources. The more torches you light, the less enemies that can spawn in the fog.

A big reason for that is how farms work…

How Farms Work

When you place a farm, choosing a nice spot with maximum yield, it doesn’t mean you can later build close to the farm without penalties. Every square you use in that farm’s radius can either be used for farming, or another building — not both.

So the size of your economy will correlate positively with the size of your city. By the end of the game, you should have just about the whole map cleared, but you can beat the game with less.

Exploit As You Expand

There isn’t enough time to clear an area and then go back later and worry about capitalising on the land. You have to do both at the same time. It’s also easier, when you get used to it — as your army clears, build farms, houses, resource buildings, and storehouses.

If you come across a fork in the road, place some defensive buildings like a Great Ballista or two before you choose a direction. That way the sneaky Nightmares won’t attack your farms while your army is occupied.

age of darkness tips
Chonkyboi alert. Image: Supplied

The Storehouse Trick

Placing a storehouse next to a resource deposit will add to its output. It stacks, too, so placing two or three storehouses next to a mining camp is a good thing to do if there’s space.

This works for houses, too, which will generate more revenue when close to a storehouse. I wouldn’t worry too much about optimising this, as the space the storehouse takes up could itself be used for more houses, so it’s not as great as it seems. Focus on the mining and lumber buildings.

Stutter-Step Your Edwin

On the harder difficulties, Nightmares pack a punch. Thankfully, Edwin’s greatsword has some knockback, which you can use to micro him away from damage after every swing.

The mechanics are easy enough — if an enemy is close, just attack-move in any direction, and after the swing, move him away. Rinse, repeat. Normal Nightmares should never get a hit in. If you need to look away to manage another battlefront or macro, pause is your friend.

age of darkness tips
You’ll want more arbalests than this. Much more. Image: Supplied

Taking Down The Chonkybois

As the big waves come, you’ll get the big bois coming to knock down your towers, and they have so much staying power it’s hard to find something that works. When the Shrek-sized Nightmares come, playtime is ogre.

Currently there’s only one counter: Lots of arbalests. Only arbalests can do the type of high single-target damaged needed to take down these endgame enemies. But you need a lot of them.

Whether you put them in towers is up to you. Inside towers, they can enjoy the double damage buff at the end of their upgrade line. But outside of towers, it’s easier to specifically target the right enemies, and with the benefit of their Shadowstep ability, they can dash in and out to assassinate one or two before they’re in any danger.

You may also want to target the spitters with your mobile arbalest defence, as they’re next in the priority of threats to your fortifications.

age of darkness tips
These towers should only attract handfuls of overflow enemies. Image: Supplied

Find A Good Range For Side Towers

By “side towers” I mean towers that you place to the side of the attack path. The goal here is to put them close enough to be in range, but far enough to not totally divert their attention. If it’s too close, it’ll become a “main” obstacle to the AI, and you don’t want that.

If you get this right, these towers will enjoy relative calm while whittling away at the mass of enemies charging towards your keep.

This really helps in the long run, and can make or break a playthrough. The additional AoE constantly thins out their numbers so by the time the death ball gets to your main base, it’s that much smaller.

Save Scum If They Went The Wrong Way

One unfortunate aspect of how Age of Darkness works right now is it’ll tell you where an attack is coming from, but not the path the mob will take. Often you won’t have explored that territory yet, and even if you have, it can be pretty 50/50.

You’re basically forced to choose whether to gamble all your defences on one entrance, or spread your defences across multiple entries. Often a mob will look like it’s heading one way, only to swerve massively to the other, so any attempts to react to their early movements are often juked.

In my view, this isn’t quite the right design move. It still might be changed, as the devs are very much listening to the community during the Early Access period. But in the meantime, save your game often, and if you lose because the entire wave swerved in a different direction, just load the game from before. Survival in a game should never come down to a coin flip.

Pause, Pause, Pause

Did we mention pause? Hopefully you’ve got everything you need to give this one a solid go. You understand how the game works, and there’s nothing left to it but to do it. These types of games are notoriously hard, especially if it’s your first time. It took me multiple attempts to get past the final wave, which is no small thing when you think of how long this game takes to play.

But it’s worth it. I believe in you. Go step towards the darkness.

Got any Age of Darkness tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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