The Dark Ages: Final Battle is an extremely difficult survival RTS, and without the right knowledge and strategies, players may find victory unattainable. Players build and expand their dungeon-centric city and must defend against waves of nightmarish creatures. Each wave increases the number and strength of attacking enemies, culminating in the final assault where the player will be assaulted from all directions.
The fantastic cousin of They are billions is a ruthless battle for resources, land and time. Players familiar with the genre will recognize the basic cycle structure of the game. Explore the area, expand the base, defend against attacks. As the game progresses, new technologies will be unlocked which will provide access to better industry, weapons and defenses, all of which are required to succeed.
The most important lesson for new players is to always be expanding. Time is the ultimate limiting factor in The Dark Ages: Final Battle and players who don’t use it effectively will lose as soon as possible. Every time players are waiting, whether it’s refilling a resource or finishing building a building, they have to ask themselves “what can I do right now?” The answer is almost always to grow. At the start of the game, the player’s most useful tool is his hero unit. Like Arthas in Warcraft 3, heroes are special units with their own story. With high durability, damage, and natural respawn, the hero is crucial for early game expansion, as they can single-handedly clear new areas, even before the player can spawn other units. Claiming new land means new areas for farms to produce food, houses to increase population, and access to natural resources. From start to finish, the expansion must be at the forefront of the player’s mind.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand – The First Night of Death and Beyond
There are a few priorities for every successful game of The Dark Ages start with. First, build a lumber yard. Much of the map is covered in forest, and lumberyards are cheap, so there’s no excuse for running out of wood. Second, find a stone deposit and build a quarry. The stone will be a limiter at the start of the game, so the more a player can find and harvest, the faster they can progress. Third, start building dwellings and food huts. The population, like the supply in Starcraft II, limits the number of units and workers. This will increase the town’s population and gold, both of which should start growing rapidly.
Once these steps are completed and the town has begun to grow, other options open up. The first night of the dead, where the player will have to defend himself from a horde of attacking nightmares, is fast approaching and to survive the city will need soldiers and walls. Stone will be the limiting factor here, so players should save it for three things: the training room, the dungeon, and the archers. The training hall allows the player to recruit units, and without it he will not survive the first night of death. The dungeon can be upgraded, which provides significantly more gold storage and income. Finally, archers will be the main defenders of the city in the early game, and players will want as many of them as they can support.
Death nights are huge attacks, like swarms in They are billions. As the night of the dead approaches, a crystal will be revealed on the map. Select a unit, place it in your dungeon, then tell it how to get to the crystal. This guy is screwed, but it will help predict where the swarm will attack from. Once the player has determined the angle of attack, it’s time to build defenses, and choke points are the name of the game. Ideally, find a long, thin passage on the map and fortify the entrance where it widens on the city side. This will minimize the number of nightmares that can engage city defenses while maximizing the number of player soldiers in the area.
Several layers of walls are essential in The Dark Agesand towers extending the range of archers will greatly improve their effectiveness as bunkers in Starcraft II. The gates have lower health than the three walls they replace, so they create a weak point and should be excluded from Night of the Dead defenses. For players who can complete defenses in this style before the first swarm arrives, the first night of the dead shouldn’t be too difficult. If you can’t find a choke point, defense in depth is the next best option. Multiple layers of walls for archers to retreat behind can allow players with less fortunate starts to get by with a bit more mic.
Now that players have survived the first night of the dead and understand the basics, it’s time to move on to brass tax. Efficiency will win or lose every part of The Dark Ages, so understanding where small perks can be gained will be the difference between survival and death. Rarity is part of any good RTS, and iron and stone are two resources that will always be scarce because they must be found on the map. Building a warehouse near a quarry will increase its production, and researching the refined quarry should be a priority. Lodges should be favored over houses as the primary dwelling type, as lodges are both more efficient in terms of recovering invested gold and they do not use stone.
Age of Darkness: Final Stand – The Endgame
Exploring the map is a constant necessity in The Dark Ages, but doing it wrong can end a race. As players explore, they must build fire appliques in their path. The light prevents enemies from spawning, limits the area of death fog during death nights, and allows units to recover from horror. Fire Walls are the first step in claiming an area for the city, and they must be protected by towers with archers or crossbows. Accurate to medieval warfare in the expansion, creating full defenses in all directions is a waste of resources. Instead, a tower or two will suffice except on nights of death. Elite Nightmares, huge monsters that only spawn at night, are scattered across the map, marked by crystal-tipped towers. Although they offer essence rewards when killed, at the start of the game these will kill the player’s hero and wipe out their army.
Heroes lose experience each time they die, which can quickly hamper their usefulness. Elites are best staved off until crossbows are unlocked. Larger crystals can also be found on the map, appearing as objects resembling black and red flower buds attached with chains. They are the source of the swarms that attack Death Nights, and attacking one will immediately trigger the countdown to the next Death Night. Like summoning the horde in left for dead, there’s really no good reason to go after one. Players will lose significant prep time and take losses for some essence that might be harvested after the crystal naturally erupts on a Night of the Dead.
As every night of death is survived, The Dark Ages players will have more time to prepare between swarms, but attacks will become noticeably more vicious each time. The Great Ballista Tower and the Impaler, a movable ballista, are unlockable through the Siege Workshop. They are the next big step in defense progress. after the second or third night, crossbows alone will not suffice, but they are still invaluable for expansion.
Rapid expansion is a must in the end game as siege weapons are extremely expensive and players will need a lot of them. Gold deposits will become the main source of income, and iron and stone will again be limiters as fortified walls and towers are built. This is also the time to assess the positioning of strengths. Late game swarms are essentially unbeatable without a good choke point, so it will sometimes be necessary to cauterize an entire section of the city if an indefensible area is targeted. Remember that farms can be rebuilt, but if the swarm breaks through the player’s defense, it’s all over.
On the last night of death at The Dark Ages, the player will be attacked simultaneously by all the previous crystals. They will have ten minutes to prepare, so planning this attack early is essential. If preparations are left too late, the player will not have enough time or resources to complete the many chokepoints needed. Anything that can be sold for iron should be sold and converted into large ballista towers and fortified walls.
Ultimately, aggressiveness, efficiency and positioning will determine how long a race lasts. Each city will be pushed to its limits and players will gain experience with each defeat. Even with knowledge of the mechanics and careful strategy, players will lose, repeatedly. The real test is to learn from those defeats without giving up.
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The Dark Ages: Final Battle is available on PC.
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