App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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After almost 20 years, King of Dragon Pass, the celebrated narrative/strategy hybrid game, has gotten a sequel. Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind takes many of the same tenets of King of Dragon Pass and dumps them into a new game about settling in a new territory and trying to make ends meet for your people. It may sound like a typical management sim, but Six Ages uniquely weaves an astounding amount of of narrative, lore, and nonbinary decision-making into its gameplay that makes it feel truly unique and special.
Six Ages puts you in charge of a clan of riders who decided to create a valley settlement after the collapse of their former home, The Golden City. It's your job to make sure you run a great clan that not only stays sustainable, but shows its might over the other clans settled nearby.
This setup may sound pretty boilerplate, but the world of Six Ages is unlike most other games of this ilk. The game takes place in Glorantha, a fantasy world created by Greg Stafford in 1975 that is deeply concerned with mythology and storytelling. As such, much of Six Ages revolves around gods and goddesses, rituals, and sacrifice to create societal harmony while the more typical 4X mechanics (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) take a bit of a back seat.
The choice is yours
In addition to its unique premise, Six Ages is also unusual in the way that it plays. Six Ages' action is largely static art with text telling you what's happening in your tribe and presenting you with a choice. Sometimes it's something routine, like deciding to clear fields for planting, but at others, you're deciding what to do with young members of your tribe that have suddenly discovered they have the ability to shoot fireballs. There are also moments where you have make important tactical decisions in battle, or help guide the members of your tribe through the recreation of a sacred ritual to receive a blessing from the gods. While doing all this, you need to try and keep in mind what is best for your tribe, and this can mean different things based on your tribe's origin story, which you have a hand in making at the start of each game.
To help you make these decisions, you also have a council of seven advisors that sit conveniently at the bottom of your screen who you can tap on to receive some input on your possible choices. These advisors aren't always the best people to rely on though. Often, they don't agree or suggest solutions to problems that serve their own interests over those of the tribe's. Ultimately though, every choice is yours to make alone, and trying to figure out where your choices lead your tribe is where the core of Six Ages' fun lies.
Free as the wind
While there are definitely choice-based management games out there (i.e. Reigns), what sets Six Ages apart is how nonbinary all of its decision-making is. In most situations there are four or more choices, and there isn't one in particular that is always the “right” one. Sometimes you'll be in battles and the same old strategies you've been using don't work, or times when your most reliable gods and spirits don't answer your calls for help, so you always need to be looking for new ways to survive.
If you're looking for a game where you can figure out all of the systems and use that to min-max and create the ultimate civilization, Six Ages is the wrong game for you. This is an experience that relishes in ambiguity and wants players to go wherever their choices may take them. It's kind of a beautiful thing, especially considering most other games seem designed specifically for players to find optimal paths to victory.
The bottom line
Six Ages offers up some incredibly rich fiction in a genre that usually depends solely on layers of systems to create fun. There's plenty of that here too, but it feels much more magical due to this game's tendencies to keep decisions and mechanics mysterious and ambiguous. This may be cause for frustration for some players, but for those that are willing and able to take a deep dive into a world full of unforeseen consequences in an unfamiliar world, Six Ages is well worth your time.