It’s good to have heroes. Having someone to look up to can be a beacon in the darkness, guiding us along the way through scary times. They can be a great comfort, especially when you’re embarking on a new project, like, say, a sprawling strategic role playing game, but there often comes a time when you should step out of your hero’s shadow and do something all your own. This is a lesson AurumDust, the developers of Ash of Gods: Redemption will need to learn.
Ash of Gods: Redemption is a beautiful strategic role playing game with stylish hand crafted visuals and an exquisite soundtrack. The world is packed with a deep backstory rooted in ancient wars and magic, making the player feel as though they are swept away in a grand conflict that they have little hope to weather. Fans of tactical role playing games and indie darlings probably see where this is going; Ash of Gods: Redemption is uncomfortably similar in every aspect to Versus Evil’s The Banner Saga.
Keep in mind, the obvious and multiple similarities between Ash of Gods and The Banner Saga does not make it a bad game. You could find far worse titles to mimic than that one, and it is definitely a game I hold in high regard, but the sheer thoroughness Ash of Gods displays in its replication is something that needs to be talked about from the start. Now, I understand not everyone in the whole wide world has played the aforementioned tale of giants and men, all of whom fly various banners, which is a bit of a shame, so I’ll try not to harp on this point much further.
So, off the bat, the art in this game is astounding. It utilizes a bevy of evocative visual elements from the character art to the backgrounds that are sure to impress and stay with you for a long time. In combat, the movements, attacks, and skills are displayed in pleasantly smooth animations with brutal results. Similarly, the music in Ash of Gods is jaw dropping. Upon loading the initial menu I literally gasped at just how much they were bringing to the table sound wise, and it certainly keeps it up during the game proper. Ash of Gods: Redemption: good on looks, good on sounds.
From there, things start heading downhill. The story is fine, with a deep and interesting world jam-packed with lore and an ancient presence once thought to be vanquished reemerging to pillage and murder. As luck would have it, said ancient presence really dislikes certain bits of jewellery, which our protagonist rocks on a regular basis. Sadly, other members of his family are not in possession of this life-saving bling and their lives remain unsaved. The whole thing is presented in a much more tonally consistent way than that, with all the necessary mysticism and fantasy, but I can’t say that it’s presented well. The tone is that of inescapable melancholy and most of the dialogue sounds like it was written by a kid who just learned about swear words.
The actual gameplay breaks down into two main sections. First, there are the more narrative, adventure style sections, where players are given choices as to how they proceed. Search this thing over here, open the gate to stop that insufferable knocking, talk to that guy for more of that dour, sweary dialogue. These sequences are usually pretty interesting and you learn more about the world and it’s goings on, even if your compatriots are sad and could do with a better vocabulary. Other than that, there’s the combat, because of course there’s combat. For each combat encounter, the player will be able to choose from their ever-growing potty-mouthed coterie and place them on the grid as they see fit. What proceeds is your typical tactical RPG combat where you move a dude on the grid and whack a guy, then the enemy moves a guy on the grid and whacks a dude. To spice things up, rather than just whacking at your enemy’s life pool, you can also attack their stamina, depleting their combat options and doing double damage in the event that said stamina pool is empty. It starts off as a fairly novel concept but eventually becomes repetitive and boring. There are also cards with various effects that go off during battle, throwing a hurdle your way or giving you a bit of an edge, but the effects never really feel like they make much of a meaningful difference.
At the end of the day, Ash of Gods: Redemption is an all right game. The story is interesting, if a bit poorly told at times. The game certainly looks and sounds amazing; it’s just not always the best thing to play. Regardless, if you enjoyed The Banner Saga you might want to give this a look until number three comes out.