I have always enjoyed games set in a fantasy setting. The genre need not matter, though RPG has always been a favourite of mine. The classic RPG has been blended with other genres over the years, and one such mixture that has always intrigued me is the tactics based model. Ash of Gods: Redemption (AoG: R) is one game that combines all these elements and asks the player to experience a part visual novel, part Rogue-lite experience.
Developed by AurumDust and published by AurumDust and Buka Entertainment, this fantasy genre collaboration will have you planning every moment of your gameplay. Alongside some lengthy battles, you will be stuck with some weird and oddly written text cutscenes that are pivotal to the plot. Gamers who don’t like to involve themselves deeply in lore, or choice-based dialogue best turn back now, because this makes up the core of a strange fantasy title.
A plot based on a Russian author.
AoG: R uses the work of Russian author Sergey Malitsky at its core. It also has heavy influences from the much-loved game The Banner Saga. Being heavily influenced by another game isn’t a new or a bad thing, but in this case it reduces the originality. The story revolves around a group of heroes who follow their subplots to face the Reapers. These ungodly creatures lay waste to everyone and everything in their path. They curse humanity with a plague that infects its host and sends them into a demonic rage.
Slow gameplay and odd battle choices.
I’ve played enough games to know that developers want to build up to their key ideas slowly. There is no need to blow all their good ideas in the first chapter, and it never shocks me to discover a gradual build-up to the pivotal moment. Unfortunately, it takes an age for AoG: R to kick into life. The multitude of minor and major characters does not help. The story constantly flip flops between characters and political stances. It felt like a sitcom, but with no clear path to an end goal.
Three main areas form the backbone for this title; the world map, the choice based cutscenes and turn-based battles. Though each flowed into one another well enough, in playing terms, it felt bitty and disconnected. Freedom of choice allowed you to select where you want the adventure to take you, though I’m not sure if it altered the course of the game. As with most visual novels, decisions have consequences. In AoG: R this was loosely explained with little understanding of the impact to the storyline. Your decisions affect peoples lives, and frustratingly you never know this until it’s too late. The best part has to be the battles, but even this has odd mechanics.
Magical cards for you and your foes!
Two elements make up the key parts of any battle; health and energy. Each character that you choose also has its stats that can be levelled up in true RPG fashion. But what makes this stand out from others in its field is the use of odd magical cards. During part of the dialogue these are explained away as a relic, and a worthless item that’s sold for pence, that is until the troubles begin! Once the world is in danger, then the cards have another use apart from being sold as tat at the local flea market. They add a tactical advantage to you and your foes.
Add; health, energy, attack power, defensive strength and more with each card. But remember, you don’t hold all the cards, and your enemies can use them against you. This unknown element added an extra level of intrigue and difficulty to an already challenging tactical experience. The cards are ever-present, but once used in a fight, they do not replenish until you finish the battle. Another tactical layer is added, as you must consider the best time to use each card to give you an advantage.
Nothing new, but well delivered.
The plot isn’t particularly original; a demonic group attempts to wipe out humanity by using its people against one another (we’ve heard it all before.) If you can forgive it for its lack of originality, what you soon discover is a title that is slow to get started, but enjoyable to play. The depth in the tactics, character selection, levelling up, and other choices available to you mean you can approach each battle how you wish. Each of the main protagonists; The Captain of the Guard, Thorn Brenin and Hopper Rouley have their narrative that ebb and flows alongside one another towards the game’s conclusion.
Familiar graphics and a mixed bag audio.
I’ve touched upon the influence of The Banner Saga, and this is apparent in the artistic approach taken by the developers. A distinct comic book art style has been implemented for the cutscenes. The clean lines and earthy colours create a nice, if not familiar game to look at. The turn-based combat plays out from a birds-eye perspective, allowing you a clear view of the action.
Frustratingly, you cannot rotate or pan the camera. This restriction isn’t game-breaking, but I would have liked the freedom to view from different angles. Another annoyance was the use of the camera during any conversation. It would jump from each person and felt like a game of verbal tennis. A fixed position would have been more suitable.
On the whole, the audio was presented brilliantly. Atmospheric music plays throughout, and the tunes step up to match the energy of each of the battles. Sombre and melancholy tones play alongside troubling times, and upbeat songs get you ready to jump into action. What I found strange and unnecessary was the relentless sounds of bells tolling, or doors being hammered upon. I wanted to take my time enjoying the dialogue, but this constant noise was irritating and distracting. It would be more interesting and pleasant if it was dialled back considerably.
I imagine that this would be great on a PC. The keyboard with all its keys to use, and the accuracy of the mouse to select each space with ease. Unfortunately, I had to use a controller and my experience of the game was tainted because of it. Selecting your party is time-consuming, and the lack of camera movement impacts the line of sight. I was never sure of the square I had selected when an obstacle or person blocked my view. Selecting attacks required several steps, which prevented the action from flowing. Though none of these things ruin the game, and you get used to it, I just wish it was smoother.
What makes this stand out from others in its field is its replay value because of the rogue-lite influence. No game would ever be the same, and you are free to level up, and select which character goes to war. Your party will lose its members because of death, so planning is a must if you don’t want this to happen. 3 difficulty modes are available at the start; An easy story focused option, the middle ground that challenges all skill sets, and the hardcore mode. Each of these increases the replay value, as does the challenging achievement list.
It’s all too familiar, yet an enjoyable experience.
For all the negatives that I’ve noted, and the all too familiar plot and game style, I enjoyed myself. The artistry is fantastic, and the world that is created is both beautiful and daunting in equal measure. The audio is fantastic, mostly and will transport you to the fantasy setting with ease. The dialogue is badly translated in places and leads to some odd moments that are devoid of emotion or sense. Is this worth adding to your library? I think so. Not a classic by any stretch, but it does enough to warrant being part of your library if you are a fan of the RPG genre. If you want a copy, it can be purchased here! Can you survive the Reaping? Plan your every move and hope for luck in this world that the gods have forgotten.