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ASH of GODS: REDEMPTION
This is a story-driven game no matter which of the three options of 'difficulty' you choose.

 

This is mainly a reading game with some minor player interaction. Actually you can make it even less interactive by putting the auto-combat on. Then you just sit and watch as the fight ensues through to its conclusion. So far I haven't been on the losing side, but I'm pretty sure that will happen soon. I have seen a couple of my men die, but after the battle they seem to be back alive and fit again, though they have failed to gather any experience points to spend on upgrades. My suggestion is to spend these points whenever you can, the better you make yourself and your followers the least chance you have of losing.

 

Once you get into the game you will be reading a lot, listening to grunts and groans (as far as I have got so far no one speaks only grunts), and then ask or answer questions that arrive onscreen for you to select from. Most of the time you are asking and answering simple questions, quries about where you are, what is required etc, but then every so often you get a symbol appear onscreen which means that your answer will most definitely change the way the game plays from then on, so please do read the answers carefully before making your selection; there is no taking back.

 

You are playing a member of the King's Guard  called Thorn. You have followed your wayward daughter, Gleda, to town, where you discover she is secretly hunting for manuscripts and learning new languages. It is your wife, Liki, birthdasy and you have to make a game changing choice what to buy her. I chose jewellery and requested an expensive Strix Amulet, Strix being some kind of 'magical' ore that has protective qualities; hence the Guardian Badge on your King's armour. Gleda is also passionate about blades and is quite adept with them - something that may come in handy later on. You also have a son who is on the frontline fighting in one of the many wars.

 

There is a virus like plague affecting the citizens of Albius which turns people against each other, violently fighting to their deaths. This virus is known as the Reaping and it causes Thorn's friend's wife/baby-sitter to kill Liki, leaving Thorn and Gleda to vacate the town before they too are victims. But before they can three Reaping victims, mad with blood-lust, (acting as if possessed) stand in their way - a fight then begins. This is your first fight and you will learn about combat as you go. The thing to remember is that this will not be an easy entry into battles to come and that if you aren't careful it could be your last; it shouldn't be as odds are in your favour but dumb decisions cost lives.

 

Most characters can take 4 wounds, though enemies usually die with one good hit. You have a number of magic cards you can play during the combat, these giving you and your friends various aids, such as extra health/healing, additional damage or other short-term boosts. You are given a certain number of cards and can choose the ones you want before the fight. You can see what each does and then add it to your small, but potent, deck. During the fight you can select a card to use by clicking on it. Some cards need to be aimed directly at a character, others affect more than one characters, either friends or enemies. 

 

Playing on the PC via Steam I found targeting specific characters when they were in close to each other was difficult, in fact on a couple of occasions I didn't 'hit' what I was trying to. Other times an arrow directed me to my target, but not every time and this I found to be frustrating. After several poorly fought, but victorious, battles, I settled on using the auto-combat button. This took away the frustration but also half of the game.

 

Visually this is good, I've seen a lot worse but also a lot similar, some better. It has a good story and you are always part of it, through your actions, choices and conversing. If you have ever played a 'Fighting Fantasy' ™ or similar game book then you'll know how the game works. You can almost feel the pages flipping back and forth with the changes you make by your decisions. Instead of just reading the pages as you do with the books you are now reading them while seeing the actions you are reading about.

 

What I find annoying during the story telling and questions and answers screens is that the character portraits never change. It doesn't matter if the conversation is sad, angry, fearful, whatever emotion you can think of, the character on-screen doesn't change. The other annoying thing has already been mentioned; the grunts and groans instead of actual speaking.

 

Speaking of in-game conversation and story-telling there comes a point when the niceties are left behind to be replaced by what is often referred to as Adult language, thus removing it from the ventures of under 12s (or whatever the age is now for accepting swearing as the norm).

 

At times the animation can be sped up by double or treble times its usual speed, which is helpful as the game can otherwise be quite laborious.

 

ASH of GODS has that page-turner feel about it, like a good book, once started you do not want to put it down. 

 

It does have a super interactive map. When you want to go from A to wherever you select your destination and are shown one or more paths you could take. You select one and then watch the map as your journey unfolds. If it reaches a place where there are enemies then the screen changes to a battle scene and combat ensues. If it reaches a river where the bridge is down you have to return back the way you came and take another route, there is no opportunity to go on from the downed bridge.

 

Life and power comes from great menhirs that are found in various places, marked on the map, all you have to do is reach them. There are times when you need to split your party, sending one lot off to open a door, find someone etc while your party holds off the enemy. This is exceptionally well handled within the games mechanics.

 

When you come to different areas where there are things that may be done you are generally given options - small circles with illustrations in them that you can hover the cursor over to view what and where they are. Clicking on one of these will guide you to that position where you can act or react as necessary. Afterwards you may return to the previous place where the other options are, but not always, and then continue from there.

 

Can I recommend ASH of Gods? That's a question readers of this review may ask. The answer isn't simple though. Yes, if you like more reading than doing, Yes, if you prefer reaction to pro-action, and Yes, if you like a story driven adventure you can part-play part read. If you feel you wouldn't be happy with any of those, then No!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015