dotAGE

Posted:  Jun 08, 2024
SDHQ BUILD SCORE: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
SDHQ CONTENT SCORE: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarHalf Star

Review

This review was created using an LCD Steam Deck. OLED testing will be carried out soon.

2023 was a massive year for gaming. While Baldur’s Gate 3 eventually won my personal GOTY, dotAGE ran it incredibly close. Who expected a city-builder roguelike to work so well? Not only does dotAGE succeed, but it also succeeds in leaps and bounds. dotAGE was one of the best indie games of 2023, and it’s still getting better! It is also great news for Steam Deck owners, as dotAGE performs very well on our favorite handheld.

dotagemap
Use roadsigns to expand your base, but remember that every action needs a follower!

The concept of dotAGE opens from humble beginnings. You start on a randomized map with a few followers and their leader, an elderly bloke who has consumed too much booze. Somehow, he can see the upcoming apocalypse, and it's up to you to save them all or die trying. No pressure! While dotAGE’s pixel graphics are modest, they still look clean. Every villager and building has its animation, and while it won’t win any awards for visual design, it goes beyond what I expected from a 2D city builder.

While dotAGE can be brutal, it bucks the trend city-builders follow by favoring a turn-based system. In other city-builders, juggling the ongoing disasters that plague your settlement can be frantic. In dotAGE, you can take as much time as you need. That’s just as well because there are many decisions to make.

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The buildings you can build and unlock are randomized every playthrough.

The key to dotAGE is population control. More followers mean access to more resources and buildings, but each follower consumes an item of food. You get more followers by getting them to shack up and make kids who can’t provide any labor until they become adults. This is increasingly important since everyone can only work on one building simultaneously.

A staggering number of buildings and mechanics in the game can also be unlocked through the game's knowledge system. Because the elderly leader has forgotten everything, he only remembers things when encountering them, including everything from resources to new buildings and mechanics. As you play, you will unlock knowledge points from the buildings you make, which are used to unlock new ones.

In the end, dotAGE is all about survival. Threats come in Doomsday scenarios, weather events, plagues, and disasters. Despite the massive amount of information to learn, the game does an excellent job teaching players with a great tutorial, a full in-game codex that tracks everything players unlock, and a diverse range of difficulty settings. In its base form, dotAGE is challenging, but I love how you can customize the experience. Do you want to relax? Put it in cozy mode. If you fancy the masochist life, there are many difficulty modifiers to dial it up. 

dotagememories
These are just some of the vast amount of things you can unlock with Memories!

With these features, dotAGE has something for everyone. Despite its depth, I found it deeply engrossing. Every move brings choice and consequences. Do I sacrifice production for a turn so they can make children? Ignore the upcoming threat, knowing I cannot tip the balance in my favor, instead focusing on building up resources to potentially survive the doomsday event. Sometimes, these random events can mess you up. Once, I had a great village going and my best run yet until a rogue lightning event paralyzed six of my twelve villagers. With half my population unable to do anything, I could not stop the cascade. Ten days later, my settlement was destroyed, and I had to start over again.

dotagetips
Check out the fantastic codex in-game if you ever get stuck!

In other roguelikes, I’d just get pissed off, but dotAGE never made me feel like I was hopeless. It's just one of those games with a brilliant gameplay loop with tons of content and depth and is easy enough for anybody to pick up and play.

dotAGE - Steam Deck Performance

dotAGE is fairly kind on the Steam Deck. Even when it lacked full controller support at launch, I could play it using the Keyboard and Mouse controller profile without problems. It showcased another advantage of Steam Deck over its competitors: those trackpads have so many uses!

As of December 2023, the developer added that missing controller support to the game, earning it a Verified badge from Valve. I found that dotAGE deserves the Verified status, although there are a few things to look out for.

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There is little performance degradation when capping dotAGE at a low TDP.

At the stock settings (60hz/FPS and nothing tweaked), dotAGE will run beautifully, but given it is a 2D turn-based game, that should be expected. With the TDP uncapped, dotAGE is surprisingly intensive, sipping around 12-13w during a normal turn. Fortunately, dotAGE performs well with greatly decreased TDP. It’s even a contender for my upcoming 3 Watt Challenge series!

As I discovered, you can play dotAGE at 40hz at 4W TDP while maintaining a steady 40FPS. Being a turn-based game works heavily in dotAGE’s favor, and I played through about 30 turns in this mode comfortably.

When booting into the intro screen or loading up your map, you will see some framerate drops. This crops up in vanilla settings and even on powerful PCs, so it isn’t much of a concern. The main game runs smoothly enough, with improved battery life. At this battery-saving mode, dotAGE sips between 6-7W, giving the LCD Steam Deck an estimated 5-6 hours of battery life. I cannot reliably test things there because I don't own an OLED model.

If you don’t mind a few frame drops in loading the game, I recommend using the low TDP/40hz mode for dotAGE. There isn’t much of an advantage to going 60FPS, and you’ll massively increase the battery life.

Accessibility

While dotAGE lacks specific graphical settings you can tweak, it does a decent job with other settings. You can turn on colorblind mode, change the pixel font, increase font size and screen resolution, toggle controller settings, invert the X and Y axis, and change the cursor sensitivity.

You can also disable blood, screenshake, and flashes in the settings. It is also playable in French, German, Italian, Polish, and Simplifed Chinese.

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Conclusion

dotAGE is a masterpiece. It combines the best parts of city-building and roguelike mechanics into a truly addictive experience. Being so playable on the Steam Deck is just icing on the cake, and it is light enough that you can play it for hours on a single charge if you want to. Trust me, after picking up the game, you won't stop playing it either!

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

dotAGE is not only a fantastic city-building roguelike, it also runs pretty well on the Steam Deck!

Content

Gameplay: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Graphics: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarHalf Star
Story: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Sound: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Fun Factor: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star

Build Score

Performance: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
VISUALS: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Stability: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Controls: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Battery: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star

Community Rating

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0
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