March 23, 2018
There is a lot to love with tactical gameplay. Measuring the playing field, choosing your party and taking your time to pick apart the enemy in the most efficient way. With only a few titles that fill that in the AAA industry, fans of the genre find themselves turning to the world of indie titles to quench their thirst. The latest title looking to fill that gap is AurumDust’s Ash of Gods: Redemption.
Set in the world of Terminus, you play as a variety of protagonists as you lead your different bands of warriors, rangers and mages against an apocalyptic force. The Umbra, essentially gods, live amongst us and while some live peaceful and reclusive lives others become Reapers who have their eyes set on ending civilisation. The Reaping is an ancient myth by this point in the timeline however one of our heroes is one of the few remaining Umbra that successfully stood against the last Reaping and survived, unlike his kin.
After an attack on a small village, the world is thrust into the beginning of the end as these different groups do what they can to survive. This is a solid starting point for the tale that is about to be spun. Across your time with the game you’ll definitely see glimpses of solid storytelling but unfortunately it’s the story where Ash of Gods: Redemption first falls down.
While originally written in Russian, the translation to English might be to blame but it could also be the trope of creating a fantasy world from the ground up. If you know me at all you know the thing that turns me off the most is exposition, and guess who has come along the ride? So much exposition you might get whiplash.
While a portion of the gameplay is about the tactical battles you will also be spending a fair amount of time navigating dialogue with a cast of teammates and NPCs. Unfortunately you can often be asked to make some choices but it is never really clear what effect these choices are having if any and sometimes one choice can result in a completely different response.
It’s in these dialogue exchanges that you learn about the world around you and what everything means, unfortunately this can often lead to clunky dialogue. This happens a lot in fantasy worlds, concepts and ideas need to be taught to players to invest them in the world, but when a single line of dialogue from a shop keep hits three completely off topic points about the protagonist you’re left feeling like the encounter is completely manufactured. This experience doesn’t take you by the hand to lead you to the world but instead grabs three appendixes of lore and hurls them at your face.
In terms of combat you’ll be familiar with the play style. Moving characters across the grid battlefield you’ll be monitoring both your health but also your stamina. Should your stamina drop to zero you will take increased damage but the same can be said for your enemies. This leaves you with making a choice with your attacks, do I damage their health or do I damage their stamina? Each has tactical advantages for different enemies. During combat you’ll also have a deck of cards that will more or less cast spells across the battlefield for buffs, debuffs or damage. These mix up gameplay and when paired with building and maintaining a team with their own strengths and weaknesses, you find some good levels of strategy.
If combat and the game’s perma-death system for characters has you concerned there is the option to switch to a Story focused mode. This lowers the difficulty and battles become initiated with an auto-battle function. With such a massive fantasy world this is perfect for those that are looking to experience the story. That story is really fleshed out for two of the three characters, unfortunately the third (a stretch goal on their Kickstarter) can feel a little tacked on. This split also takes effect on the battle with battles ranging from a group barely keeping it together to a lone warrior that doesn’t seem to need to take a breath as he blurs through the enemies.
“The shots of your band travelling against a gorgeous backdrop help calm and subdue you, even if they appear a little familiar.”
Visually the game is lovely. A soft hand drawn feel to the backdrops and characters means that there is a feeling of levity to the aggressive nature of the topic. The shots of your band travelling against a gorgeous backdrop help calm and subdue you, even if they appear a little familiar.
The art style is accompanied by a soundtrack filled with drums and horns as well as vocals that embody a very Nordic vibe. It meshes well with the visuals and creates a cohesive feel to the the world that the game is creating. The small snippets of voice acting can be a little jarring after spending a fair amount of time in text based conversations and you question their worth as the tale jumps around.
While there is a lot going for Ash of Gods: Revelation I didn’t feel as engrossed with this title as I have with other titles from the genre. I feel this may have come from the fact that I found the world and characters hard to connect to. There seemed to be a wall up that was barring me from getting invested. I personally think this fell to the writing. While expositionally heavy, some of the characters would also come across as unlikable with a touch of toxic masculinity — this however was a believable aspect of the world they exist within, although not the freshest take on a fantasy setting.
- Lovely 2D hand drawn art direction
- Multiple narratives frame the world well
- Exposition heavy with some poor script choices
- Some pacing issues
- Combat can feel uneven between characters
As a fan of narrative based games and world building, Ash of Gods: Redemption is both a blessing and curse to itself. While new fantasy worlds are a lot of fun it can be difficult to naturally invest newcomers to your world. Unfortunately I was not invested in this world, which is a make or break moment for these games. With fairly familiar gameplay and a world I wasn’t invested in, I found working through the events more of a chore than an enjoyment. It’s a shame too because I’m sure there would have been a lot to enjoy had the game managed to hook me.