You sit down, stick in the new game you’ve been excited to play ever since you first saw the trailer (FYI, for me it was two days before the game arrived). Because this is modern gaming, you can’t just play the game straightaway, are you mad!? So, you leave the game to install/update, and you find something else to kill time. Finally, it’s time. You load the game, work your way through the tutorial, all the time thinking how good this is and how you are really going to sink your teeth into this one. And then the worst feeling off all time hits you, hard…and it’s that what you are playing isn’t actually as good as you thought it would be. Ash of Gods: Redemption, I am afraid, is very much this kind of game: a game that isn’t so bad you wont finish it but also not something you will be shouting about to your friends any time soon. Why is this? Well, let’s dive straight in.
The story, at first (which is a reoccurring theme in Ash of Gods) is interesting and grips you right from the start. Set in the high fantasy world of Terminus, you will control three main protagonists who all have a separate story involving the “Reaping”, which is an apocalyptic event that is brought on by the return of some evil dudes called…Reapers. That’s fine, a lot of fantasy plots have unimaginative names for events or evil characters such as this, so that isn’t so much the issue. The main issue with the story as you get further through it is that all the characters, the ones you control and the ones you’ll talk with, know all about the Reapers and their antics, but nothing has been done to, you know, prepare for the damn thing!
Ash of Gods is a game very much like The Banner Saga, so there isn’t exploration in the sense that many of you may be familiar with if you haven’t played a title like this before. So, outside of combat (and we’ll get to that mess shortly), you will spend most of your time conversing with other characters in your party and with NPCs, and what you’ll learn rather early on in Ash of Gods is that there will be times where your choices in your responses will have potentially dire consequences. That in itself is fine, having these life or death situations adds a sense of urgency to the conversations you’ll have. Would have been nice for a heads up though in the early stages. The actual conversations can also be incredibly frustrating as characters talking after a major event, say, the death of a family member, will just act like nothing has happened. You will often find yourself either listening or reading the conversations thinking, “That’s not actually how people talk to each other.” It’s a shame that Ash of Gods is a game that relies heavily on conversations since a lot of the time they are dull, frustrating and a bit, well, dumb.
Combat (said with a deep sigh while face-palming) in Ash of Gods is, well, let’s start with a positive, shall we? You can see that developers AurumDust had the best of intentions in making a fun, tactical, turn-based combat system. So, the intentions were there; however, the result is far from their best intention, and the combat is, in a word, awful. The first few battles you’ll engage in, it seems like a standard grid tactical combat situation with units losing energy when you move/attack. Once you get deeper into it though and you move on from the tutorial battles where you can kill each enemy with a single blow, it becomes less about tactics and combat aptitude and more a game of chance. You just need to pray that the AI is having an off day because even if they sort of try, nearly all of the time you’ll find yourself at the load or continue screen. No matter what you do, if the AI chooses to actually try and beat you, it will. You could spend forever lining up all your units correctly: heavy attackers at the front, long-range units bringing up the rear, and you may think that you have a great set-up and the battle should go your way. What you’ll find instead though is that the AI will just wipe the floor with you in a matter of minutes. There is also a card system in Ash of Gods that can help you win battles with such power-ups like reducing enemy energy of just a basic attack card, but the AI also have these cards, if not better ones.
Now, this could just be put down to the difficulty setting, right? But even playing on normal mode, I really struggled with a lot of battles. Good news is that if you are just interested in the story of Ash of Gods, then there is a story mode difficulty setting which will allow you to breeze through the battles.
Shall we get onto what works well? The music, for one, is absolutely incredible, as it should be due to being composed by Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz, who was the genius behind the incredible soundtrack from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Fantasy games/movies/shows need an epic soundtrack to help you get lost in the worlds they created, and the soundtrack to Ash of Gods is brilliant, and as soon as the music appears on Spotify, it’ll be added to my fantasy music playlist.
Ash of Gods is also a gorgeous looking game. It has been incredibly animated and looks like a decadently produced cartoon. Add this with the incredible soundtrack, and you’d likely assume this would be an amazing fantasy adventure, and it would have been if it wasn’t for the frustrating combat and poor writing.
Developer: Aurum Dust
Publisher: Koch Media
Platform: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS4
Release Date: 31st January 2020