Originality is a relative term, and in the case of Ash of Gods, this holds true more than many other games I’ve previously had the privilege of writing about. Inspired by Stoic Studios Banner Saga, Ash of Gods follows in the same vein of interactive story telling who’s stylistic and design routes can be found within the classic “laserdisc” games like Dragon’s Lair. Not only does the art style appear to be the same, but so do the game systems, combat mechanics and general design mechanics. While I’d usually class this as straight up plagiarism, Ash of Gods’ world design, mythos and characters all radiate originality that the artistic approach is one of taking a concept that works and going “Hey, this is how we want to do things differently.”
Let’s be honest if there was a design philosophy to take from, you could get worse than Banner Saga and if the world are seemingly okay with the over saturation of the battle royale genre right now, I think we can let this one slide.
Instead of the Viking inspired mythology of Banner Saga, Ash of Gods instead takes a European/Russian mythological angle with scents of King Arthur and the Holy Crusades. From what we know so far there are a force of big baddies known as Reapers who give off an aura of Death. They have the complete control of life and are able to decimate entire armies by just standing. Threatening and melancholic, the art style of the Reapers is fantastic. The attention to detail to create a being of pure resented evil usually produces a sort of maniacal being that takes pleasure in genocide. The Reapers appear some what different, original to the core, they don’t seem to possess emotions. They kill because, well, that’s just what they do, your whole village just got wiped out with me blinking? That’s just the way it is.
So who can stand against these beings of pure death? Turns out a bunch of immortal guys that can blow them selves up with a specific stone knife shoved in to their throat. This all happened once before as part of a cycle, but something goes wrong and all the Reapers unfortunately weren’t defeated. Where the story goes from here is not to certain due to the limited amount of time I had to play with the game, but the story seems to follow a man called Thorn Brenin after his village is wiped out, both him and his daughter seem unaffected by the Reapers magic, so it’s more than likely that these two are the Immortals built to destroy them.
Gameplay wise, we’re talking very similar to Banner Saga. Rogue-Like elements are at place here, if a party member dies, they’re dead for good, including the main protagonist. You may face decisions later in the game that involves a family member or a particular character you may have grown fond of requiring sacrifice to progress. I have in my head a point in the game where I would have to choose between the main characters life, or that of his daughters. That kind of emotional story telling is something I’m very fond of, to connect with characters through realistic relationships, get the player invested in those characters, and then ask the player to make the impossible choice of a friend, brother or father.
The combat is dealt in a tactical grid format with a health and energy system. An enemies (or players) energy serves as not only mana but as a form of armour. Do you take the gamble and cast all of your energy one specific skill to only have your energy stripped from you and leave the character completely vulnerable to being one shot or do you take the safe approach. I was pleased to see these kind of design decisions because the most important aspect of any turn based tactical game is punishment. Character out of position? They’re gone now, should have been checking, they’re also gone for good now too.
Characters can be customised with weapons, armour and skills while they level up, loot is a part of the game and (differing from the Banner Saga) a card system is in place. You may play certain cards during combat to gain a significant edge, buff your characters or lay down lightning from Zeus’ behind on your foes. How ever be careful how you play them as some may leave your party Vulnerable. We’re seeing shades of CCG and CRPG elements mixed in with Interactive Story telling here, and for me that’s pretty exciting.
To summarise, Ash of Gods looks to be shaping up to be a fantastic successor to the Banner Saga and any fans of the genre should definitely take a look at this game, if not for all the interesting game play mechanics, then at least for the story that pulled me in within the first ten minutes of the preview.