How to survive in Age of Darkness: Final Stand

The dark-fantasy RTS Age of Darkness does a lot of things that will be familiar to old-school RTS fans. It has that nostalgia-inducing isometric perspective, a focus on economy and resources, and a dark, earthy atmosphere that evokes classics like Warcraft 2 and Warhammer: Dark Omen.

But Age of Darkness is also its own beast. It brings in elements of popular genres like survival and a little bit of roguelike to raise the stakes as you fend off thousands of Nightmares summoned by a dark force known as The Veil.

Against such odds, you’ll need to come prepared, so here we’re going to talk you through some basic strategies to get you started in this unforgiving world.

With its procedurally generated maps, Age of Darkness makes each new game a mystery. With the ability to build anywhere on the map, exploration is essential, but you’ll need to line up a few things before you start civilising the wilderness.

Before building in an area, you’d do well to light it up with fire sconces if you want to keep the Nightmares at bay. To get the sconces however, you’ll first need to research the technology in your Workshop, so be sure to build one of those nice and early.

You’ll soon learn that the enemy doesn’t fight that well as individual units, but is deadly as a swarm, flowing towards you mindlessly but relentlessly through any gap it can find. You’ll need to learn the ‘flow’ of the enemy, funnel it through chokepoints, and set up defences for them to break upon like black sludgy water upon rock.

It’s important to establish the boundaries around your first Keep. Send your troops out to find key entry points on all sides around your first settlement, then block off the approaches with walls and towers – a strategy familiar to Age of Empires.

A tower holds back the horde

(Image credit: Team17)

As you expand further out, build extra walls at logical choke points – tight passages where you don’t need to build long stretches of wall and where enemies will be forced to squeeze in tight, making them more manageable for your units and defences to pick off.

You’ll eventually research better technologies, which will allow you to build sturdier defences like stone walls. Siege equipment like ballistas and powerful flamethrowers on wheels will also become available to you, knocking back and decimating enemies from behind the safety of your walls. For this you’ll first need an iron mine, thena forge in which to build your siege units.

The deeper into the game you go, the more epic and spectacular the battles become, but you’ll need to make sure you’re always scaling up with the enemy threat. So when you start hitting those resource capacities, build storehouses to increase your total gold cap, as well as stock caps for nearby resource gatherers.

Which brings us onto another loop familiar to AoE players: the need in the early game for resource-gathering buildings like lumberyards, food huts and quarries. When deciding where to place a building, keep an eye on its resource yield as you hover it over different areas to see where you’ll gain the highest yields.

And of course you’ll need to factor the dreaded day-night cycle into your expansion and economic plans. Try to do most of your building during the daytime, when the enemy is restricted to small skirmishing groups. That’s because at night the enemy becomes fiercer and more voluminous. Things get even worse on Death Nights, when both the threats and rewards are at their greatest (for more on those, check out our previous Age of Darkness feature). When these nights roll around, your defences and strategies have to be ready.

Nothing can quite prepare you for what you’re about to face in Age of Darkness, but this guide should give you a little glimmer of light in the dark.

Age of Darkness is out now in Steam Early Access.

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