I've been keeping an eye on this game for some time and last weekend GOG had it on offer. I nabbed it and became very quickly hooked spending most of last weekend (including up until 3am on Sunday morning) playing. It's a very long time since a game hooked me so deeply.
AoD is a post apocalyptic, isometric game with turn based combat. The graphics are solid but not the most detailed, controls are straightforward and there are a lot of people to talk to; a lot of reading that needs to be done if you wish to engage fully with the story. There is a detailed lore structure underpinning everything here. Put together, these elements mean that AoD has an old-school feel. Plus, battles are tough. They take a combination of strategy, skill based tactics and luck to win.
For me, what makes this game stand out is how the story develops as your character grows and how choices have an actual impact on what happens next. I can't resist replaying events and dialogue in order to see what happens if my character chooses a different option. There are real consequences, especially politically, which immediately shift the balance and change the direction of the endgame.
Character creation is straightforward. You have a choice of several different roles including Merchant, Assassin, Thief, Loremaster and Bum. Each character comes with a set of stats, but dexterity is the one which determines how many moves you have in combat. Alchemy can be used to create a potion which increases this slightly, but I've found it is an aspect to pay attention to as once you begin a new game, these stats, which are arranged across the top of the character sheet page, are set in stone - you cannot change them. Below are two further sets of skills. On the left are combat based skills, the right details social skills. You can choose from these which you wish to develop, but part of AoD's challenge is the fact it is incredibly difficult to create a character who can survive every situation they meet. In addition, the beginning stats can be quite challenging as certain characters e.g. Loremaster, are structured to rely upon social skills rather than combat yet will find themselves engaging in fights during the course of the game.
AoD's narrative structure is based around three Lords who are battling for supremacy and the apocalyptic battle which left their world in ruins. You can switch allegiance and, through choices and actions, shape the world to come. If you go to a fresh area before completing current quests, the game itself resolves major conflicts and choices. Some quests will remain, but not all.
As I mentioned earlier, battles are a combination of strategy, skill based tactics and luck. They are hard, but for a character who relies on social rather than combat skills, alchemy provides tools to assist, as do such items as nets which hold an opponent in place and reduce the amount they can move for that turn. These are nicely done, but the downside is, with some characters, their inventory can become very full (due to a lack of strength) and, so far, I haven't found a chest to store items in. There is a decent range of weapons, armour etc., available and crafting allows you to create your own. One aspect I like is how, if you right click on your weapon during combat, you are given a range of options. So you can throw a knife at an opponents legs and cripple his/her movement, go for an arterial strike, or use a fast strike which has an increased chance of hitting. For close combat there is a whirlwind swing which (hopefully!) damages all enemies surrounding you.
So far, I've thoroughly enjoyed AoD. I like the challenge, choices, political content and story. Steam has a free demo which, naturally, I'd suggest trying out. This is an interesting game to discuss, so let me know what you think.