It’s been a bit over five years since the release of Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind, a game that I loved just as much as its predecessor The King of Dragon Pass. That might seem like a bit of a wait for a sequel, but the gap between the first and second game was almost twenty years, so I think we’re doing alright here. Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out ($9.99) once again returns to the fictional setting of Glorantha, a world where gods and goddesses hold major sway over the happenings of the mortal world. Or at least they did, because in Lights Going Out, the ca-ca has hit the fan. A clash between gods has put the world in the brink of ruin, and you have to somehow survive in the fallout of this fierce struggle.
The setting is the biggest change in Six Ages 2. Previous games saw you guiding a tribe in relatively prosperous times. Sure, there were plenty of dangers and risks, and it wasn’t unusual to fall afoul of the gods or spirits and get wiped out. But the smart leader could find a great bounty in the land and its offerings, leading their tribe to an unprecedented level of comfort and happiness. That won’t be the case here. The gods of Chaos have been uncorked, and many of the familiar gods from the previous game are straight-up dead. The land is ailing, the trade routes have crumbled, and everyone is filled with the tension and dread of an uncertain future.
We can’t choose the times we’re born into, and we can’t choose the setting of the game we’re playing. All we can do is play our hand as best we can, and that’s just what you’ll do in Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out. Despite the grimmer setting, this follow-up isn’t any more difficult than the previous games. The good outcomes are generally less good and the bad outcomes are quite a bit worse, but your ability to achieve either remains the same. It’s an interesting twist that helps this game stand out despite sharing almost everything mechanically with its predecessors. You really feel like you’re barely surviving in this harsh world, and just seeing the names of gods crossed out on the usual list has a heavy impact for those who have been following along with the series.
For those new to these games, this is a blend of two kinds of games. On the one hand, it is a simulation game. You are leading your tribe, managing your resources, making diplomatic choices, and dealing with attacks. You have to try to forge and maintain uneasy alliances with other tribes, keep your people well-fed, and avoid bringing down the wrath of as many gods as you can. It’s not quite as detailed as the likes of Civilization, but it holds a similar appeal. Not a whole lot has changed here when compared to the last game, but there is a sense of scarcity and you certainly don’t have as many gods to appeal to. It’s also a bit harder to adhere to the principles of your tribe, given the circumstances.
The other half of the game is a choice-based narrative adventure. Events will occur where you’ll have to make a decision. Your advisers will offer their input and you can choose which of them you want to listen to, if any. Sometimes there is a clear best answer, but it’s rarely that simple. Indeed, in this game you’re often faced with a choice between seemingly equally unpleasant outcomes. And sometimes you might think you made a good choice but it comes around later to bite you in the hindquarters. There are pleasant surprises too, though they’re not something you should count on. A lot of strange things can happen in the world of Glorantha, especially in the state it’s in, and a lot of the fun of the game is in seeing what happens in these events. The writing is really sharp, and it certainly has its own sense of humor at times.
Naturally, these scenes are all accompanied by some terrific artwork. Always a highlight of the series, and as good as it’s ever been here. It’s a little extra spice that helps bring this unusual world to life and helps sell some of the bizarre things that can occur. As with the other games in the series, there are hundreds of these events and they’re largely random in terms of when or if they will appear. This introduces an element of chaos into the game no matter how well you organize things on the simulation end, and ensures that the game can be almost endlessly replayed without covering the same ground.
One cool feature in this game is the ability to continue on your story from Ride Like the Wind. You don’t have to do this, and it’s easy enough to roll up a new tribe’s history just by jumping into Lights Going Out, but I love it when games allow this kind of thing. It makes the games feel even more connected despite the considerable amount of time between the two, and it increases your feeling of ownership over your own story. And for those dipping in for the first time, there’s a good tutorial here that will teach you the ropes, plus lots of tool tips as you play if you want them. I don’t think these are the easiest of games to get into due to their complexity and capricious nature, but it’s never been easier to do so.
It’s funny, but I think despite largely standing still in the mechanical sense, Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out might be positioned for the widest appreciation that series has seen yet. The world of gaming is now a lot more willing to accept random twists that disrupt your strategy, and I feel like the vibe is a lot friendlier towards games with strong narrative elements. The premise makes this feel more like a survival game, and those are pretty hot these days too.
If you enjoyed either of the previous games, Six Ages 2: Lights Going Out is a no-brainer. You’ll love it. Newcomers will have to climb over a bit of a wall to find the treasure that lay beyond, but that wall is easier to get over now than ever before. A real winner, and I’ll happily play it for however many years it takes for the next one to arrive.