Review by Tim Turner
Ash of Gods: Redemption is a turn-based RPG that combines tactical combat, CCG elements, and a constantly evolving story in which no one is safe from death, including the main characters.
You can choose to play in a battle mode which focuses more on combat or story mode which allows you to control combat yourself or auto battle and focus more on the plot of the story.
You take control of three different characters and their parties as they progress through the ever-evolving storyline. Every choice you make will affect the course of the story sometimes resulting in death even of the main protagonist. This still does not mean you are unable to finish the game, rather a different ending will occur. This is refreshing as most games of this type would just say bad luck and make you start again. Also playing as three different parties is a change from the norm but personally I found this rather confusing due to the fact you don’t get notified that you have changed characters. A few times I was reading the dialogue for several paragraphs before I realised I was no longer playing as Thorn Brenin but as Hopper Rouley who is in pursuit of Thorn. An animation to signify the change would be a welcome addition.
As for the storyline itself, it was written by the award-winning fantasy author, Sergey Malitsky and is your typical fantasy story where the protagonist tries to save the kingdom from an unknown cure. Nothing new there then. Well, there is something new. Badly translated dialogue! It seems to me like the translation was done by an American teenager with a penchant for modern swear words which have no place in the time period of the story.
“Combat in Ash of Gods is a blend of both traditional turn-based strategy and CCG gameplay. While individual tactics will depend upon the skills and classes of your characters, you will unlock and accumulate cards that have the power to unleash powerful abilities, sometimes altering the course of an entire battle.”
Well, that is what the developers say but in my humble opinion, most of the cards are useless as they have too much of a negative impact on your party. Also, the skill tree is difficult to fathom due to the characters skill definitions being on a separate page to the skill levelling page. I found this incredibly frustrating as changing the page requires yet another loading screen featuring a black screen with two little skeleton minstrels in the bottom right corner. Why are they there? There are no skeletons in the game, at least not as far as I’ve got which is around halfway I think. Anyway, they appear that often they are now burned into my retinas happily marching away in the bottom right corner of my everyday life!
The combat itself is pretty much the same as any other turn based strategy game so not much else to say about that.
WHAT MAKES ASH OF GODS UNIQUE
Every decision you make has the capacity to alter the course of events and the fate of your party with major repercussions. But, even the death of your leader is not the end of your journey. Although this is what the developers say it is difficult to know what decision to make due to the fact you often have no information on which to make the decision. For example, early in the game you need to choose a gift from the marketplace but are not given any information about the person the gift is for. If it’s a game-changing decision surely you should be given the knowledge to make an informed choice. Other times you have a list of choices all seemingly the same but worded slightly differently leaving you confused as to which to choose. This usually results in you picking what seems to be the least offensive thing for your character to say and yet the outcome invariably causes a terrible curse or something of the sort.
“Inspired by the works of Ralph Bakshi (The Lord of the Rings), classic Disney animation, and the prolific Soviet studio, Soyuzmultfilm (The Snow Queen), Ash of Gods features intricately hand-drawn illustration and animation. Rotoscoping, a technique in which a scene is first filmed with a live actor to use as a reference, instils every frame of animation with incredible detail and a true sense of life.”
Yes yes yes! The developers have got that right! The artwork is beautifully drawn and really captures the mood of the game. It is definitely one of the games most redeeming features and is what kept me playing despite the frustrating elements I’ve already discussed. If you think of the game as an interactive graphic novel then you will not be disappointed.
“The original soundtrack is a collaboration of Adam Skorupa, Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz, and Michal Cielecki, whose previous work includes The Witcher, Bulletstorm, Painkiller, EVE Online, Call of Juarez, and Shadow Warrior. Every track was recorded live by professional musicians, often using traditional instruments rarely encountered in contemporary recordings.”
Ethereal and seemingly Celtic inspired the music is great and fits really well with the style of the artwork and the mood of the game. The music changes depending on the choices you make which is a great feature so when you take a more dangerous path to save resources the music will become more foreboding signalling an impending attack.
At first, I struggled with the game finding it irritating due to the sloppy dialogue translation but this has been updated and is definitely better but still needs some work. The devs have stated on steam that they are continuing to work on this so it’s not really going to be an issue in the future.
The loading screen, however, is a different matter. For a game that is not GPU or RAM heavy, there should not be a need for such a long wait to load a different page. This definitely needs work but there is no mention of optimization from the devs. Even with 16GB RAM and a high-speed SSD, I was sometimes waiting 30 seconds for pages to load which to me is not acceptable.
The lists of dialogue choices really need looking at also as currently the options to choose from are too similar to possibly trigger such different outcomes and the game-changing decisions need more background information for you to make an informed choice.
Despite these flaws, I did find the game engaging and became drawn into the storyline and actually started to care about the characters I was controlling. As the game progresses the combat becomes more difficult and therefore more enjoyable because early game it is boringly easy.
There is longevity in the game too, due to the many possible outcomes, meaning you can play through several times and have a different experience which reminded me a lot of the choose your own adventure books I used to read as a child. Combine this with the multiplayer aspect where you can collect more cards and battle other players in the arena and the game can be enjoyed for a long time. Just playing the story mode once is worth the price of the game as I’m about halfway through and have invested 13 hours of gameplay. By the time I’m finished I’m sure it will work out to be less than a pound an hour which in my book is pretty good value. Especially when you consider how much it costs to watch a film at the cinema these days.
All in all, I would give the game a thumbs up with a solid core of 7/10 and if the flaws are addressed then I’d probably go as high as 8.5/10