Judging a game before I even start playing it probably isn’t something that I should be doing as a reviewer, but I couldn’t help myself when it came to Ash of Gods: Redemption. As soon as I started a new file, the first thing that the game did was treat me to a beautifully animated and impressively in-depth cutscene. Ironically, the cutscene featured a gruesome war, so maybe I shouldn’t have used “beautiful” to describe it, but I digress. It was good. So good, that it set the bar for the rest of the game pretty darn high before I could so much as take control of my character. Fortunately, I can say that the rest of the game lived up to those expectations.
Don’t Fear the Reaping
Ash of Gods’ story begins right at the end of the Reaping — a catastrophic event which, if left unchallenged, would see the demonic creatures known as Reapers annihilate all of mankind. Hoping to stop the occurrence of the Reaping, humanity made its final stand against the Reapers which, in turn, was lead by a group of individuals known as Curros. Just as the Reapers were about to claim victory thanks to the overwhelming power of their leader Dorpkhal, the Curros attempted to turn the tide with one final attack. Though successful, the Curros’ power came at the cost of their own lives, reducing them all to crumbling statues. All except for a Curro named Hopper Rouley who, due to being hit with a volley of arrows, fell unconscious before he was able to help.
The rest of the game takes place approximately 700 years later. As of the demo, anyway. Although the game begins with Hopper, most of the demo revolves around a man by the name of Thorn Brenin. Thorn is a retired army captain who finds himself caught up in the second coming of the Reaping. If Ash of Gods has taught me anything, it’s that you need to pay attention to the story. This seems to be a very lore-heavy game. If you aren’t paying attention to everything that the game introduces you to, you risk falling behind rather quickly. Fortunately, the game seems to know what’s up and provides you with character bios about each party member — a much-needed addition, considering how quickly your party grows.
A Novel Idea
Being as narrative-heavy as it is, Ash of Gods features a lot of dialogue. But, to my surprise, I quickly realized that even the game’s storytelling requires player input. Rather than just sitting back and watching the story unfold, Ash of Gods (much to my delight) includes visual novel elements at its forefront. The player is frequently prompted to decide upon which characters they would like to talk to, and how they want to respond in conversation. These choices aren’t just there for flavor, either. Much of what you say or do during conversations will come back later. Siding with one character in an argument may result in them performing better in combat (and the other performing worse). Choices can also lead to things like the acquiring items, or sustaining pre-battle injuries. So much for words never being able to hurt you, huh?
Might Makes Right
Narrative and VN elements aside, you can’t ignore the fact that Ash of Gods is a tactical role-playing game at its core. In between all of that talking there’s plenty of fighting. And, if you want to live to see another day, you’re going to have to earn (or maintain) your TRPG chops very quickly. In most ways, combat in Ash of Gods works as you would expect it to. You and your opponent take turns moving characters and attacking one another. And, of course, the last team standing wins. As of the demo, outside elements such as terrain don’t exist. Because of this, you have to rely entirely on skill alone.
While most of Ash of Gods‘ tactical combat is what you would call traditional, it does add in a few unique elements. The most important of which being the fact that characters don’t move based on things like a Speed stat. Instead, you can move any one character per turn. On top of this, you must also complete a “cycle” (using every character once) before a character can be selected again. In all honesty, I don’t know that I’ve played a game that works this way before. It forces you to be very picky with your turn. Misusing characters often leads to them being hurt or dying, so it’s much better to play carefully than boldly.
Energy, this game’s equivalent to MP, also handles somewhat uniquely. Mechanically, Energy itself isn’t too unique. You need it in order to perform special skills, and you can also use it to increase your movement. Things are different when you completely run out, however, as a unit with zero energy has the capacity to take double damage. Not an issue if you don’t use skills though, right? Wrong! Characters are able to target either the HP or Energy of their opponent with an attack, meaning that, even if a character never uses their energy, they can still run out quickly if the player isn’t careful. The game’s heavy reliance on Energy in combat does take some getting used to, but it’s a solid mechanic overall.
Ashes to Ashes
Although my time with Ash of Gods has been brief, it’s more than enough to entice me. After successfully juggling storytelling, visual novel elements, and in-depth combat, Ash of Gods sets the bar high for itself. But it also, at least from what I’ve seen, never gets to the point where it has to lower it. From what I can tell, this is definitely going to be a game to watch out for. And you won’t even have to watch out for it that long, considering it releases next month!