The best place to start is where Fallen Age starts, with the following introductory letter:

If any live to read this:

\tab Know these things, and take joy in your survival. You are the last remnants of a once great race, the race of humanity. For many thousands of years we, your kind, ruled the surface world; we mastered all things and all knowledge, and the world rested in our palms. Yet, in our pride and curiosity, we delved too deeply into secrets and forbidden rites; and somehow, in our research, we attracted Thothan, the Dark Ones from Outside.

\tab Thothan came upon us in a sudden storm, and we were overwhelmed. Our cities, our fortresses, all were annihilated, all our arms and banners turned to dust; inside a few broken moments, all was laid waste, naught left but charred and scattered fragments.

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Fallen Age hopes to rise above.

They came in upon a strong wind from the northwest, and the sky was blackened with their arrival; we were tossed to the winds, a lost people, and our hearts were given over to chaos. Then appeared among us our first great Emperor, Siam. He had survived the onslaught with his mind intact, and he taught us again the knowledge and science we had lost, organized us into bands and armies, and led us back to war again against Thothan.

\tab All that was longer than four hundred years ago. Yesterday, in a final cataclysm, The Great Emperor was slain. In his death he sent Thothan reeling; the chaos of that last clash is sweeping across the land, shattering all we’ve tried to build in these past four centuries. You, our children, are our last best hope. The best of our genes, selected by the Emperor before his death, are hidden away in catacombs deep beneath the earth. If all else is lost, then three hundred years from now you will emerge again into the surface world, the heirs to our knowledge and our civilization, the heirs of humanity.

\tab If you are reading this, then it means all was lost upon the surface; but whether through cataclysm, or the renewed power of Thothan, we cannot know. Your tenacity for life is in itself deserving of respect. Go forth, young ones, into the world; rebuild our cities, and spread the gifts of civilization. If any of humanity are yet living, find them. If they cannot see, help them to find sight. If they cannot hear, help them to listen. What they do not know or have forgotten, teach to them. It is not given us to know if Siam’s final price broke Thothan, or if they remain watching, waiting. Prepare yourself for them, and beware. Your objective is to unify mankind and develop a new civilization, and to annihilate Thothan.

It\’e2\’80\’99s your world now.

What exactly is Fallen Age? It has been called an MMOG, an RTS, and an MPRPG. It is none of these, yet it is all of these at once. The best way to describe Fallen Age would be to call it an MMORTSSRPG, or Massive Multiplayer Online Real-Time Strategy Sim Role Playing Game). Chew carefully before swallowing that behemoth. If you are looking for something simple and familiar to pigeon-hole Fallen Age, you could say it was a distant cousin to Shadowrun, taking place on a post-apocalyptic “future-Earth” filled with a struggling remnant of humanity trying to tame a world gone feral using everything from swords to sorcery and sheer human ingenuity. From looking at the spec sheet, it would appear that Fallen Age has something for everyone – it attempts to be all genres to all people. Whether or not this can be done, and be done successfully, remains to be seen.

The landscape of Fallen Age is an interesting one. There is no pre-dawn dash to place houses on recently liberated real estate. Instead, each player will be apportioned a patch of land that is their own – one that is not part of the interactive persistent landscape of Fallen Age. It is on this parchment of private land that the Real-Time Strategy and the Turn-Based Colony Building aspects of Fallen Age take place. Upon reaching level 30 and completing a quest, a character will be able to access their lands and begin constructing a colony.

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Fallen Age, Colony mode.

Perhaps similar in design to Civilization or Age of Empires, a player’s colony can grow and develop, eventually producing an army which can be used to defend this colony and to wage war on opposing bases. While the development and management of one’s colony is turn-based (turns being earned through exploration and skill usage in the interactive persistent landscape), but the resolution and direction of one’s colonial armies is real-time. In addition to the colony map, guilds (referred to as Nations) will get their own territories within the interactive persistent landscape, and the warehouses they build here will be private and will contain secure storage. A guild will be able to assess dues to the membership roster, and use this money as the leaders see fit, perhaps to stock up on basic equipment, or perhaps used as wagers on guild wars.

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Have at thee, thou post-apocalyptic knave!

Player-versus-Player combat was originally planned to be an “open warfare” system for any character over level 30 (think Ultima Online’s Dread Lord Era). Considering how many various and unique ways that players can openly compete against one another, it was decided to create a few “open warfare” servers to accommodate those who prefer that form of interaction. For those who prefer a bit less mayhem and a bit more competition when they play online, players can compete in nation wars, or in the colony-versus-colony struggles. In both venues, alliances and confederations can be built up and torn down in a day, but those who manage to keep a strong bond with their neighbors will taste victory often. Deathmatches, not just 1 vs. 1 duels, but up to 6 vs. 6 and winners gain “DM Points” which are used in an in-game Ranking/Ladder system.

Keeping in line with the seemingly schizophrenic nature of the Fallen Age design, Trade Skills are not in Fallen Age but are, at the same time, a large part of Fallen Age – allow me to explain. In the current selection of MMOGs, trade skills are actions done by repetition to generate item after item that can then be sold or traded with other numb-fingered players. Instead of using this method, Fallen Age uses the Colony mode, where you develop and maintain factories, farms, schools, and so forth. If managed properly, these structures will produce high quality and sometimes unique equipment for your character to use, sell, or trade with others. This means instead of spending your hours in-game clicking on trees or bulls, your colony will produce your trade items and materials while you are out exploring the interactive persistent game world. Once you have yourself a measure of wealth, you can use this to purchase your spells and your skills from specific trainers. As you gain experience by adventuring and by fulfilling quests, your stats will raise by spending your accumulated experience points with each level you gain.

Fallen Age boasts an item system of over ten thousand unique items, each which can be upgraded or enhanced to the player’s preference. There are over 120 spells and skills, three classes of players each with six sub-classes. There is no penalty from death to those characters less than level thirty. All pretty simple stuff. However, here is where it gets interesting. If you are killed, your penalty for death is random, being either a loss of experience or a loss of gold. There will be no corpse loot and if you participate in PVP, there is no skill gain as a result of killing another player. Last but not least, bug abusers will be hand-held much as they are in Asheron’s Call, the policy being basically – no penalties for bug abuse unless you make us look foolish publicly, at which time we will probably ban you regardless of our no ban policy, oh and taking down the servers is a bad thing.

You can find all of this and more at the official website. I’ve requested a sneak-peek at the game itself but at press-time, I’ve not personally play-tested this product. I would list it as “anticipated” but I’ll save any review until I can actually touch the product.

As most of you know, Savant recently took leave of his role as updater to the website in order to pursue a career in the computer entertainment industry. With the announcment of Fallen Age and the soon-to-begin beta, we bid official farewell to Savant and wish him the best of luck doing what we’d all wish we were doing, deep down. Just don’t make a sucky game or else in the immortal words of Hank Hill, we’re going to have to come over there and kick your ass.