Age of Grit takes steampunk strategy to the skies

Take to the skies in Wild-West-inspired, steampunk RPG Age of Grit.

Age of Grit drops players straight into the shoes of Jebediah Rockwell, an ex-military cargo-ship captain who is firmly established in his Wild-West-inspired world. It’s quite refreshing to have a semi-open feeling world(you slide around map nodes) where the character is pre-defined and recognised by other players. It certainly makes a change from playing as a tabula rasa or entirely fresh-to-the-setting character. However, it has been taken to an extreme; a lot of interactions are beyond normal conversation, with the character seeming to have heard of, directly interacted with or be known by almost every character in the game — unless they want to fight or scam you. In that, it’s perhaps a little bit too close to cinema.

The Wild-West, Steampunk flavour is welcome, and really fits the node-to-node world-exploration, however, the absence of any indicator of bandits on the map really makes travelling feel like a bit of a chore sometimes. I did start wondering if the Age of Grit would work as well without random bandit attacks and, yeah, with a little bit of economy balancing this could have very much been an exploration and fetch-quest game that’d work great. Random townsfolk attacking you, and maybe ‘bandit regions’ that you sometimes travel through, could have kept you fresh on combat between bosses and the whole experience wouldn’t have been worse of.

If you’re not feeling the point-to-point travel system, have you considered steampunk sky sailing sensation Sunless Skies? Sunless Skies Review.

The main reason for my wondering this is because combat in Age of Grit, while very cool looking, gets a little repetitive. In combat your ship has multiple systems that you apply Steam to, including your engine, which can run so hot that it blows up, but will give more out steam assuming it doesn’t reach that point. Sensors and weapons play out in a selected order, which can have nice bonuses if you have certain weapons, however, most of the time you’ll just ramp up your engine and then either blast the enemy with a mixture of weapons, or ramp your sensors (buffing yourself) before firing the weapons. Combat plays out in turns, which fits really well, and none of this is really an issue. The issue is that you’ll do this two or three times between any two landmarks, and if you’re dealing in longer journeys for bigger quests (or simply trying to get maximum profit from local commodities) then, well, it’s hard to remember exactly where you want to go after a dozen similar battles.

The final issues, and I know that I’ve really opened with the negatives here, lay in the UI and onboarding. The tutorial is nigh non-existent and should have just been a mandatory quest, the arrows on the tutorial prompts are almost invisible in a screen of items that are exactly the same colours, the help and info buttons are small and the handwriting to give details on each location and certain regions is authentic, but will be a struggle to read for many. The developers were clearly very interested in making everything look Wild West x Steampunk and focused on having cogs on everything rather than making it readable. An easy quality-of-life upgrade would also have been showing how much better a new part would be than your existing one too.

Maybe the reason that I’m so hard on it is because I actually enjoyed a lot of it, it has that kind of magic and freshness that a lot of games lack, and Age of Grit is almost certainly something that people will stick with, and see through to the end if they can deal with the random encounters and odd signposting. IQ Soup have succeeded in creating a really deep world, they’ve made the NPCs into people that DO say something different when you return, with multistage quests that move around characters, or send you on eight or nine-stage quests.

It’s really fun, and the fact that your character, and their history and opinions, slot into the world so well is a testament to the writing — even if Jebediah has the option to be a bit of a prick at times. The combat, for all of the issues I mentioned earlier, feels relatively balanced too; which is more than handy because you’re going to spend a lot of time doing it.

Age of Grit is a little rough around the edges, but there’s a serviceable RPG with a great setting in there if you can get past the hiccups.

Age of Grit is available now for Windows, Mac and Linux.

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