Browse the strategy section on the Steam store and you may find yourself hard pressed to find something that feels new amongst a slew of tower defence and medieval themed releases. Auroch Digital & Slitherine Games are hoping to change that with the final release of their early access title; Last Days of Old Earth.
A turn based strategy game that falls somewhere between board game and deck builder, Last Days of Old Earth is a melding of different strategy game mechanics that succeeds in offering fans of the genre a unique and refreshing addition.
The game takes places in a distant future, where the Sun is dying and remaining life on Earth is threatened with extinction, save for the few able to make it to the equator where the remaining warmth lies. Players take control of a tribe of nomads travelling to this warm zone, and must combat both the terrain and armies of machines on their quest for survival.
As well as a refreshing play style, Last Days of Old Earth features an art style which sits somewhere between Hitman GO and Monument Valley; the end result being a polished sci-fi world, that is both brutalist and gorgeous in equal measure.
The game features PvP multiplayer, skirmish mode and deck builder along with a recently added single player, where the majority of my time has been spent so far.
Single player is where the story unfolds, with a series of levels moving both narrative and difficulty forward in what has ultimately been a very satisfying manner.
Players begin each level with a hand consisting of seven cards, and it’s from here that you populate your HQ and build your first army. Over 30 playable units are on offer, consisting of infantry, vehicles and ‘heroes’ cards, with the latter making things interesting with unique abilities and perks.
At the start of each round you can spend points to purchase new units from your deck, with the aim of reinforcing your structures, and building roaming armies to explore the barren hex grid wasteland.
This deck builder-based approach works well, and although initially overwhelming; becomes a big part of your strategy, as you swap heroes and units in and out to build forces to meet certain strengths and styles of play.
Once deployed, your forces can roam the board, with a movement mechanic similar to the Total War series, limiting movement per turn and adding an extra element of strategy to proceedings.
Your movement range is further hampered with the ‘supply’ area your buildings afford you, requiring players to build outposts further afield to ensure your unit’s vision and defensive capabilities stay effective as you travel towards your enemy’s HQ.
The turn based elements to LDoOD takes cues from the table top game Warhammer initiative dice rolls at the start of each turn on the map and in combat. The winner of these rolls will earn extra AP and the chance to perform manoeuvres first, whilst the latter is also true in combat. I found this initiative system worked well to keep things uncertain and help swing proceeding both in (and out) of your favour through the course of the campaign in an entertaining and engaging way, without feeling rigged in either player’s favour.
Before long your units will encounter the enemy, and it’s here that the Last Days of Old Earth offers some of its strongest gameplay. The battle ground is grid-based, allowing you to strategically place units in both defensive and offensive setups with the initiative rolls then deciding who strikes first each round.
Another popular dice mechanic is employed here, with attack and defence stats for each unit translating to the number of dice you and your enemy can roll for each turn in combat.
Combat continues in rounds until you or your enemies’ units have been destroyed, at which point the battle is won and the spoils of war are earned.
Players continue this cycle of building and advancing through the map, until they are capable of attacking and defeating the enemy HQ. Although this cyclical style of play does repeat itself through each level, the reward of new cards for your deck on completion of each level means that on the whole you want to continue through the campaign and unlock the best hands possible for your armies.
All in all, Last Days of Old Earth offers fans of both board, card and strategy games a fresh platform on which to combine elements of all three in a comprehensive package. The initial learning curve may be off-putting for some, but the included tutorial should give enough for players of all experience levels the basics to get the first few levels under their belt without too much drama.
The steep price point has been a matter of contention for some; however, once the campaign is exhausted, both the multiplayer and skirmish offer plenty of replayability and opportunities to test out both your deck building and strategic nous in what is a fun and well-polished addition to the strategy genre.