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Published on April 15th, 2019 | by Michael Newman

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Deck of Ashes Early Access Preview

One of my favorite and most addicting games to come out in 2016 wasn’t some AAA title with a huge development budget, but a little gem by small developer Red Hook Studios named Darkest Dungeon. Released initially as early access on Windows and OS X it has seen a full release on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. Starting up Deck of Ashes for the first time brought me back to what it felt like to play Darkest Dungeon. Graphically the two titles share a similar look and feel, with the game set across a dark and unforgiving fantasy setting. The game play however is very different…

Deck of Ashes is a deck building card/turn based role-playing game developed by AYGames and released on Steam Early Access on Friday April 12th. The game is set in a dark fantasy setting where you play one of the villainous characters who released the Ash Curse on the world. While the early access version only has one character to play, we expect to see more when the game makes it to final release.

Game play in Deck of Ashes is fairly straight forward (although there is an excellent prologue to take new players through the ins and outs of it). You begin the game at camp where you are introduced to the various characters, such as the Blacksmith who can help you craft new cards from recipes you’ll discover along the way, the Herbalist who provides healing, the Merchant who can sell you recipes or trade other resources and last but not least the Ash Master, who can renew all your used cards.

Leaving camp, you will be provided with a randomly generated map with various roads that lead to numerous icons scattered throughout. Each icon represents an action that will occur if you land on that space. The various icons indicate chance encounters, treasure chests, battles, etc. In some cases, you’ll land on a space which will contain an “Event”. Events are special encounters that can be either positive or negative, everything from gaining additional gold to slowing your character down in combat. Every so often an “Ash Storm” will occur that provides added bonuses to various spaces on the map, but a limited amount of time to get to them. Typically requiring you to make a decision as to which bonus is more advantageous and collect it before the Ash Storm dissipates.

When a battle begins, your character will face off against one (or more) humans, undead and monsters, each with their own health and special abilities.   The battles take place over a series of rounds where each character/monster takes turns to defeat their opponent. Battles take place utilizing a deck of cards in your hand referred to as the Battle Deck. You are allowed to draw up to six cards to be played against your opponents varying in both offensive and defensive capabilities. When “most” cards are used they go into the Deck of Ashes and are not able to be reused during that battle. The exception to this however is to utilize a special card which sacrifices some of your characters health in order to revive cards at random. Each card has a mana cost to use and your character starts with a number of mana points that can grow as you progress throughout the game. Once a battle is completed your character will have the opportunity to rest. During rest you are given a number of rest points which can be spent to resurrect used cards from your burn deck, learn additional cards, or to heal your character. Rest points are limited however, so choose what you wish to do with them wisely.

One of the more unique events that occur as you play the game, is that each chapter has an end boss. As you work your way around the map, fighting battles and acquiring items a meter at the top of the map will continue to work its way from left to right. Once the meter reaches the far right you will be forced to fight the boss of that chapter. You will be given an opportunity to buff up in camp and then the boss battle will begin. The boss battles will pit you against a randomly generated end boss who will have significantly higher stats then the other creatures you have encountered along the way. Defeat the boss and you will move on to the next chapter, with increased difficulty and new beasts to discover.

There are various difficulties that can be chosen, however the game defaults to Adventurer which not only starts your character at “normal” health (essentially on par with the creatures you will be fighting) but if your character dies you start the game over…from the beginning, losing all progress you have made. There are easier difficulties that can be chosen, such as the Raider difficulty which doubles your starting health and death means only losing the progress of the chapter you are currently playing. It certainly adds a level of permadeath to your character and forces you to choose your actions wisely.

While the game is in early access, it’s already one of my new favorites to play. The dreary setting and variety of creatures ensures that each game has a different feel to it. At a price of only $14.99 USD it provides a ton of play through time with more development still in the works. You can check it out on Steam or at AYGames website https://aygamesco.com/ can’t wait to see what the future holds for it.

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