App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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If you've heard of A Sharp's games (King of Dragon Pass, Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind), then a shortcut assessment of Six Ages 2 is that it is the most fully realized version of these uniquely narrative-focused strategy games. This is to say there is nothing fundamentally different here, but then again, there aren't really any other games that do what these do. Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out takes the idea of creating a lore-rich saga of survival to the most seamless, varied, and replayable places yet, solidifying it as the best game in the series.
Story > Strategy
Assigning genre labels to Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out doesn't really help describe what the game is. Although it is technically a menu-driven turn-based strategy game (and also has elements of gamebooks, role-playing games, and management sims baked in), using any of these terms are too... mechanical to capture what the game feels like to play. So yes, while it's true the game is about managing resources to ensure the survival of your clan as the world slowly but surely dies, Six Ages 2 is more about cultural understanding and tactful leadership of people to achieve those ends.
So, although there are hard numbers and victory and loss conditions present in this game, there is also a layer of lore and personality that constantly rubs up against any ability to turn the game into an optimization puzzle. There are people on your clan ring, for example, who help guide your decisions and may not agree with what you do, and doing things like swapping them out or repeatedly disagreeing with them can cause bigger problems. There are also times where your dwindling supplies may run up against a cultural norm of expending more than usual and you have to navigate what happens if you decide to defy tradition. Decisions like these constantly rear their heads and make for a game where you have to act as a leader supporting what feels like actual people as opposed to simply manipulating commands to make certain numbers go up or advance some tech tree.
A tale of survival
As you play through Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out, individual narrative threads take shape and they all revolve a central reality: the world is ending. Gods are dying, resources are dwindling, and demons of Chaos are roaming around and attacking other tribes, many of whom will be completely destroyed over the course of your playthrough. This makes the backdrop of every decision you make in the game being about trying to make the most of pretty dire circumstances, and learning how to lean on the strengths of surviving gods and exceptional clan members to survive for as long as possible.
This isn't to say Six Ages 2 doesn't have an end, nor is it simply a string of completely random events to manage. There are many complete narrative arcs that weave into one much larger storyline, and--given the amount of different choices you can make in the game--it all feels surprisingly natural. There are some repeated events, but aside from routine combat encounters, those were relatively rare. For the vast majority of the time, my playthrough of Six Ages 2 felt like a complete story that naturally evolved in response to the decisions I had been making, all without really feeling like I could see what was happening behind the curtain.
How deep is your lore
As much as I want to keep gushing about Six Ages 2, I do want to acknowledge some pretty big caveats to enjoying it. The first is that it's a game that portrays everything through still illustrations and accompanying text boxes. This is to say it isn't particularly flashy, though the art is quite well done and varied. The second is that this game is very big on its lore. You may not know who Orlanth is when you start the game, but you dang well better not only know who he is, but who worships him, what blessings he bestows, and more if you want to be successful in this game.
This is because Six Ages 2, like the games before it, exists in a universe where mythology drives nearly everything. Thankfully, Six Ages 2 has a good lore book built right into the game that you can reference, and--perhaps even more importantly--the game rarely ever has distinctly right or wrong ways to handle just about any decision. That said, if you want to try and make it all the way to the end of Six Ages 2, you should be ready to take a pretty deep dive into this fantasy world.
The bottom line
Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out may ask a lot of you, but what it gives in return is unlike most games I've ever played. This may also be true of the previous games in this series, but the execution here is peerless. Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out is in a league of its own thanks to its particular blend of strategy and narrative gameplay.