Link to download: http://www.irontowerstudio.com/
My review of the earlier combat demo: http://www.heroicfantasygames.com/Forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=275
I'm very interested in the combat aspect of turn-based RPGs. So naturally my first character was a Mercenary like Conan. During character creation
you must choose a 'background' which determines what quests you will have access to. You can choose between Mercenary, Praetor, Assassin, Thief, Loremaster and a few other backgrounds.
You set the starting abilities - strength, dexterity, constitution, perception, intelligence and charisma - using a point-buy system.
So I created my Conan with the maximum strength possible (10) and I put my skill points into the hammer skill (from playing through the earlier combat demo, I thought hammers were very good). But the thing is, I didn't feel like Conan while playing for the first time. I felt weak. It seemed as if every other fighting character also had 10 in strength.
The reason for this was that every obvious quest accessible in the beginning of the game led my character to a horrendous fight, and a premature death. You can assault a fortified mining outpost, assault the camp of a group of raiders, or assault a guarded merchant caravan (1st quest with the imperial guards).
I realised later that there are a few easier fights you can do prior to attempting those quests. Early on I missed the easier fights because it seemed that all locations of interest were accessible from the local map. Actually, if you move through the city only by clicking locations on the local map, you're going to miss some important content and fights. You have to make your character walk through the various streets to trigger this content.
Another thing I realised was that the 'Block' skill is better than the 'Dodge' skill if you want to take advantage of heavy armour. So I made another character, this time specialising in Swords, and Block. And this character had a good time. It seemed like he would master every encounter, crushing all his enemies under his blade.
Which brings me to another thought: when playing Age of Decadence, you have to leave all moral concerns aside. In this game, fighters must take every opportunity to kill a character, in order to gain skill points and treasure. It doesn't matter if the victims are completely innocent.
So how far did my Sword character go? Very far. He became a friend of the imperial guard commander and overthrew the city's king. But then he was captured and caged. Then he was given a chance to escape. But before he could escape he had to kill two guards, while being completely naked except for a dagger. Since the character had put all his skill points into Block and not Dodge, he had approximately zero chance to survive. You need a shield in order to block attacks.
So I made a new character, this time specialised in Axes and Dodge. His weapon was the two-handed axe. Again, this character was very successful. He even managed to defeat the group of seven raiders. But he completely failed to defeat the mining outpost, even after poisoning the food of its occupants. Next, he joined the imperial guards. But then he completely failed in the mission to overthrow the king. At first I thought that he failed because 'Dodge' is inferior to 'Block' but that was not the real reason.
No, the real reason was that my axe-wieder had intelligence 4, while my swordsman had intelligence 8. Because of the higher intelligence, my swordsman had impressed the imperial guard commander and in return my character had been showered with rewards. My axeman was dumb so his life was made incredibly harder. I read on the official forum that if your intelligence is at least 6, your fighter receives a boost to the weapon skills, a set of armour, and elite guards in the mission to overthrow the king. If your fighter has intelligence 4 or 5, you get no reward and the guards that help you in the mission are much weaker.
Now from these two examples - the naked fight and the reward for intelligence - I think we can draw the conclusion that the game tends to reward certain choices in a very arbitrary fashion. I don't mind that the game world is a very cruel world where everyone is scheming to gain an unfair advantage over others. The Dark Sun world is like that too. But I think it's annoying that the world lacks coherence.
It would be coherent for the imperial guard commander to give a little extra reward (e.g. the armour set) to the player character if he had been particularly smart in a mission. But it's not coherent for the commander to decide that the player should lead the next mission without receiving training or properly trained allies. Similarly, it's not coherent for the commander to recommend that the player character fight naked with a dagger when the character is actually specialised in another weapon, and not in Dodge.
The reward for intelligence is a bit like having a D&D game where you play a wizard and, at some point in the adventure, a NPC wizard offers to provide 10 high-level magic scrolls to the player character, but only if he has a strength of at least 13. Why should a wizard be required to be strong, in order to gain a major advantage? Likewise why should a pure fighter be required to be smart.
In a pen and paper RPG, character-development choices are never wrong because the game master can adjust the game on the fly to make sure that everyone enjoys the game. It would be nice to see the same thing in a video game: to know that no matter what combat style you have chosen, it is a viable choice which will not create a major obstacle for the character down the line.
When it comes to the bad points I should also mention that I thought the game was much too dark (no gamma slider), too slow to load a saved game, and too slow to display combat animations. There is an animation speed slider but you can only set a double animation speed at the most. Even this is much too slow. Please allow a much higher value for animation speed, like x10 or x20.
The game uses acronyms it doesn't explain. For example I know that THC means 'to hit chance' but it could have meant two hand combat. 'vs DR 1' is not explained anywhere. I would prefer if the game was in pure top-down 2D, but that's just me. Finally the game contains a memory leak which forced me to restart my computer from time to time.
Now for the good points I would say that the game has a certain aura. The aura of a game that has been worked on for a very long time.
It has good animations, nice graphics, and it's very well written. I've found that the accessible quests are very different if you play an assassin, a praetor, or a mercenary. Combat is very interesting and the quests are interesting. I think anyone who likes turn-based combat should try this game. This is a beta version so it will get better.