Published on April 16th, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
Ash of Gods: Redemption
Ever notice how in games and movies there is always something trying to wipe humanity off the planet? Sometimes it’s a 5-mile long asteroid plummeting to Earth, or alien invaders who wish to enslave or eat us (or both!), or in this case its some otherworldly beings who have come to spread the Reaping. The Reaping involves a group of Reapers (you’d be forgiven if you suddenly had the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” pop into your head…if not, you’re welcome) who have come to spread disease and death across the world.
The story is split initially into three very distinct character adventures, which feel like a mix of Game of Thrones, Into the Badlands, and Highlander. We begin with Hopper Rouley, an immortal who feels responsible for not completing a ritual over 700 years ago which would have prevented any further Reapings. After a brief introduction to Hopper we are introduced to the second of our three main characters Thorn Brenin, a retired army captain who is personally and tragically effected by the onset of the new Reaping. Finally, we are introduced to Lo Pheng a professional bodyguard/assassin from the Clan of Shadows. Lo is known for his silent and brutal killings as dictated in his contract.
The gameplay is a mix of tactical combat and story driven role-playing, and there is a large map that provides your characters a choice of several destinations to explore. When you select a path to follow it requires you to use your collection of magic gems known as Strix. If you run out of Strix along the way you can choose to sacrifice individuals in your party to acquire the necessary amount to complete your journey. As you can see it’s important to ensure that your supply of Strix is up to the adventure. Luckily Strix are won in combat or can be purchased from vendors, so you can keep your stockpile as high as possible. Strix can also be used when making camp to heal the party, removing one death marker from each party member.
Death, or more importantly Permadeath, is a very real concern while playing through Ash. Each character is allowed a total of four deaths before they permanently die. This is true for every character, including the main characters, so it’s important to plan your battles appropriately or you will be left with a party that continues to dwindle. Each time a party member falls in combat (or if you run out of Strix along your path), that character receives a skull next to its name. The skull acts not only as a counter before the character dies permanently but impacts their skills as well. As mentioned above death markers can be removed by spending Strix to “heal” the party, or through various encounters along the way. It gives a sense of mortality to each of your characters and plays an important factor in deciding who you take into battle. Your characters will die in battle, a lot, so it’s imperative that careful planning is made to prevent untimely deaths as the game progresses.
Combat is played out in a turn-based fashion on a gridded gameboard. Selecting a character will highlight how far they can move in blue with additional movement options highlighted in yellow. The player must use some their energy to move to the yellow squares. Each character has both Health (in red) and Energy (in yellow). If a character‘s damage is taken to 0, that character dies and is removed from battle. If the character‘s energy falls to 0, any additional attacks on that character will do twice as much health damage. Each character has a selection of offensive and defensive capabilities, and they can to do damage to either energy or health. Some special abilities allow the character to do additional damage to their foe, but the character must take some damage in return. Other special abilities increase your armor (making you take less damage) or allow you an instant counter-attack when attacked. During battle you also have five special ability cards that can be played during specific rounds of combat. The cards act as special weapons that can have a massive impact on the outcome of the battle. The one main complaint I have about the combat is that the attacks never miss. The problem with this is no matter what combo you pick, you always know what the results will be, there is no variance or chance involved in each attack.
As you progress through the game you will swap between the various characters which allows you to see how each one is bringing an end to the Reaping. It’s interesting to see how each of the main characters are affected differently and provides a unique perspective to the story. The story itself is interesting with lots of lore to absorb, but the dialog and the telling of the story I think is where the game falters the most. Some of the dialog will throw out a curse word for seemingly no reason, and a lot of the conversations feel emotionless and vacant. This could simply be that the translation of the game into English doesn’t quite mesh as well as it should. It certainly isn’t terrible, and it’s perfectly serviceable, it just doesn’t convey the dire situation of the Reaping as well as it could.
Graphically this game is beautiful, with its hand drawn characters and environments. In many ways its art style mimics that of a comic book or full featured animated movie. The map that your group travels on is beautifully presented, and the numerous cities, vistas, and paths travelled are highly detailed and bursting with vibrant colors. It appears a lot of the graphical inspiration comes from another similar style game The Banner Saga, and if that art style appeals to you, you will be in for a real treat here. This is certainly one of the nicest looking games I’ve seen in a while.
Ash of Gods: Redemption is a fun tactical RPG that is beautiful to look at and easy to learn. While the story does stumble at times with the dialog between characters, the fun combat and interesting lore helps to pick it up and put it back on its feet. The game takes a little while to get into, and after the first hour or so it really picks up the pace. I admire the work that has gone into the immense amount of dialog presented in the game, but the game would have benefitted from having voice acting throughout. Ash of Gods: Redemption offers a dramatic tale of loss and triumph and is one that is well worth the journey for those willing to live with its minor quirks. Now go with honor and defeat the Reapers before it’s too late.
What I liked: Beautiful artwork, Fun tactical combat, Game played from various character perspectives
What I liked less: Dialog a bit uneven, Odd grunts and noises from characters
4 out of 5 stars