This review of Ash Of Gods was conducted using a code from the game’s PR company, This does not affect my judgement of the game and is explained for the purpose of transparency.
A few months back, when I first saw the announcement trailer for Ash Of Gods, I was immediately amazed by the art style. Something about it was so striking that I was interested from the get-go. Before this, I had never heard of Banner Saga, but people in the comments were discussing the similarities between the two games art styles; and it’s easy to see why. The similarity is uncanny. But does Ash of Gods offer anything that Banner Saga doesn’t?
The story of the game is set on the backdrop of an event known as The Reaping. Formidable creatures known as Reapers wreak havoc, laying waste to any human who crosses them. Residents of towns are driven mad, entering a frenzy and attacking their fellow citizens. It seems The Reaping cannot be stopped. The story and its lore runs very deep, and the choices you make impact the outcome of the story.
The story itself follows three separate characters. Thorn Brenin is the first you encounter. A captain in the military, Thorn’s story begins when The Reaping enters his town. A Reaper begins laying waste to the town, yet somehow Thorn and his daughter Gleda escape the Reaper; something that no human has done before. Forced to flee his home, with his daughter in toe, Thorn bands together with another captain; Kreiger. Now with a sizeable party, Thorn journeys out to find a way to stop The Reaping. If that is at all possible.
The second character you encounter is Hopper. Scribe, healer, warrior, Hopper is a jack of all trades. He is tasked with tracking down Thorn as, unbeknownst to him, Thorn is travelling with Prince Hode in his party. As Hopper you spend you’re time following after Thorn, but as the game progresses Hopper’s story begins to broaden and his past starts to reveal itself.
The last character is Lo Pheng. An Eikon from the Clan of Shadows, Lo Pheng is a powerful and skilled assassin. The Eikon are revered as the most highly skilled warriors in the land, and as such their services cost a pretty penny. Lo Pheng’s story begins while he is a bodyguard for a king’s brother. Pheng learns of The Reaping and is sworn to try and stop it. He deserts his employer and sets out to kill the Reapers.
In terms of gameplay, there is a lot to Ash Of Gods. Let’s start with the combat system. The combat system uses a turn-based tile system. Each character in your team has health and energy. Health is obvious, if they hit 0 they die and are out of that fight. Energy is the meter used for movement and certain attacks/moves. The combat area in a fight is set out in a grid, with every character moving along the columns and rows of said grid. This becomes relevant with attacks from classes like archers, who can fire arrows at enemies in the same row or column as them. The combat system, at its surface level, is fairly straight forward. However, as the game progresses, the combat system starts to show its flaws.
In a reoccurring them throughout my playthrough of Ash Of Gods, much of the combat system is inadequately explained. For example, the energy bar. While yes it does play a vital role in character movement and attacks, it does also play a role in damage. It is never explained why but it is possible to attack an enemy’s health bar or energy bar. I assumed that it was to deplete the enemy’s energy so movement and attacking became harder.
During one battle, I accidentally attacked an opponents energy bar. The enemy had zero energy, so I was frustrated that I had misclicked. Imagine my surprise when the attack did double the damage I was told it would. I later repeated this to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and sure enough once again I dealt double damage. This is not something that was explained. I, the player, had to work this out.
The same principle applies to levelling up characters. Through decision making in the game, and combat, characters earn skill points. These are used to purchase skills, and you would do in any RPG. However, early on in the game when you don’t know which skill does what, the skills are not explained to you. For example, Archers have a skill called Focus which allows them to recover health in exchange for some energy.
Yet, before you unlock this, the skill tree just says “Unlocks Focus”. When deciding which of the three skills I wish to buy with my one skill point, it would be nice to know what said skill does. I can only discuss the Xbox One version, as this is the one I reviewed. I’m unsure if in the PC version, hovering over the skill displays its effect. But for the Xbox One edition, this is a major inconvenience.
Traversing The World
Outside of combat, the game plays as a text-based RPG, which is very narrative-heavy and emphasises decision making and consequences. The game promises that consequences affect your story, and I felt that to be true 75% of the time. Some decisions seem irrelevant, whereas others are very obviously important.
Much of the gameplay consists of traversing the world. This is done via a map. Each character will have a specific destination in that chapter of the game. As the player, you must select the route the character takes. The route to the destination will be made up of a number of roads. You may have a single path you have to take, you may have a choice. Along the roads, you may encounter other people. Some may be travellers, some may be villagers. You might even get the odd bandit or two.
How you deal with each situation, determines the loyalty of your fellow party members. Loyalty is a factor that either increases or decreases the stats of your party members. You can also gain skill points for your character. Each path will use up a certain amount of strixes. Strixes are a small stone in the game that ward off the curse of The Reaping. As you travel, stored up strixes are used as the in-game days pass. This is something that, once again, isn’t openly explained by the game. You can see your strix count going down, and you put two and two together. Yet I feel that something this important to the player is something that should be properly explained.
Should you reach a point where you don’t have enough strixes to travel a path, members of your party may start to acquire injuries. These are shown as skulls underneath the character’s icon. Three skulls and the next injury is death. Permadeath. Learnt that lesson the hard way. I lost one of my party members to injuries and a cutscene played to show me that he was truly gone forever. It is possible to relieve your party of some injuries by healing them with a rest. This removes one of the skulls from all members but also uses up strixes and one day in-game. Time is a factor in the game and does come in to play so it’s something you should be wary of.
It’s also worth noting that main story characters can actually die. In my playthrough, I lost Lo Pheng to injuries, mainly as I wanted to test whether or not he could die. Losing a battle results in you simply replaying the battle. However, it is possible to win a fight with a main character, such as Lo Pheng, downed. This simply ended Pheng’s story arc. So be careful with your characters, or you may not see how their story plays out.
Graphics & Audio
I said this at the beginning of this review, but graphically Ash Of Gods is stunning. The art style is very impressive and instantly gripping. The cutscenes are well animated to match the art style, and there isn’t really much I can complain about in the graphics department. There are some things I wish that were animated or shown, but aren’t. In one part of the game, a party member becomes gravely injured yet the only way you know is thanks to the text on the screen describing the situation. It made it hard for me to connect with what was a very troubling time for my party. This happens now and then throughout the game and is something I wish wasn’t an issue.
What audio there is is, for the most part, very fitting and adds to the immersion of the game. The battle roar of soldiers, ominous music to add to a tense situation. All very fitting. Then there’s the other side of it. The game features no character dialogue whatsoever. When a character comes on-screen, they will grunt, or go “ha!” to signify it is them talking now. This adds to the difficulty of connecting with the characters. When you have so many characters, in such a vast story, it’s hard enough to care about them all. Remove the audio, and they stop being characters in a game. They become little more than 2D drawings on a screen, which is a shame. Something like character dialogue really would have helped this game.
To wrap this up, could I suggest Ash Of Gods to you? It would depend. This game is for a very specific fan. Someone looking for a narrative-heavy experience, rich in lore. Unfortunately, there are quite a few things you are going to have to overlook. It is not exactly an immersive game, and the learning curve is very high. You’ll have to teach yourself most of what to do, but if you are okay with those things then this is a game you can enjoy.
Ash Of Gods Xbox One Review
Ash Of Gods is a lore heavy story-driven RPG, which delivers a rich narrative. However, it’s hindered by next to no tutorials and characters that are hard to connect with. There are many interesting features to the game, yet there are many shortcomings to look past. One to consider if you can look past the shortcomings, but it may be hard to do.