Developed and Published by AurumDust and Buka Entertainment, Ash of Gods: Redemption is turn-based strategy RPG. There are a lot of story impacting decisions to be made with paths, people and supplies which adds some survival elements to the game. Written by Russian award-winning author Sergey Malitsky, you really feel the many levels of story permeate the gameplay. It is very much lacking an in-depth scene-setting intro or a source to understand the lore, as you are getting the feeling you missed something throughout the game, or you are just expected to know certain things. Not knowing the full story does have its positive points, as it makes the storyline suffering all the more mysterious. But for those who like to immerse themselves in a game, it is too easy to get detached by a lot of things that don’t make sense.
The game is played from 3 different perspectives simultaneously and the storyline weaves through the stories of 3 groups as they try to tackle the suspected Reaping. The Reaping seems to be a great calamity which threatens to end all life in the world of Terminus. People have sacrificed themselves in the past to put a stop the Reaping for good. However, 700 or so years later it seems that it has returned, and those without sufficient Strixes – items imbued with a certain magic to ward off the evil – are consumed by the calamity. This then causes them to either perish or turn mad and start rampaging, attacking everyone around them. The 3 groups you play as are Thorn Brenin, a retired royal guard, Hopper Rouley, an immortal being called a Curos who has lived for centuries and Lo Pheng, an assassin.
Things start off with a gripping introduction cutscene, showing a class between an army standing up to those responsible for the Reaping. The animation and art style is interesting and well designed, and the music accompanies it very well, although there are occasional screaming sound bites which sound familiar. In the cutscene, you see a group of elite soldiers from Curos standing alone in the battlefield where all those around them have perished, who then sacrifice themselves in order to end the Reaping. One Curo soldier is shot with arrows before he could sacrifice himself; as an immortal, he eventually comes round to discover his friends sacrificed, but the Reaping has stopped. You start off with a tutorial battle using Hopper the remaining Curo many years later. He senses something is not right with the world and has come to see a Seeress to confirm if the Reaping is coming back. A bunch of bandits intercept his journey, and so, the battle commences.
You are shown the basics of battle and things are not as simple as you’d expect. You have a standard grid which governs the movement and range of battle. You and the enemy take turns to make an action. Only one character can be used to make an action per turn. On your next turn however, you cannot use the same character again until you have performed an action with every other character in your party. This means you need to consider how many people to take to battle as taking a full squad may not be the best answer. Every character has a health and energy bar; if your health bar is depleted then you are felled in battle. The energy bar is used to perform certain skills, but this can also be the target of attack. All’s fair here though, as you can attack the enemies health or energy just as they can yours. You’d think this would be an obvious choice, but if you deplete the enemy’s energy bar not only will that block their use of certain skills, but they will also take twice the amount of damage to their health. There are some skills that are very high damage but come at the cost of health; when you are trying hard to make sure your party member doesn’t succumb to injuries it can leading the battles to be very difficult. Alongside this, there are also magical cards that you set prior to the battle which can have an impact. These cards can have minor effects such as lowering an enemy’s defence, inflicting a game-changing effect or swap everyone’s health and energy bar on the battlefield. Using these cards wisely can turn the tide of the battle. You are likely to mess up many times in battle and you can’t always afford to suffer the injuries if you play it badly. Handily, you can press start at any point and restart the battle to try a different strategy.
The battle aspect is designed that you can never just wipe out an enemy. You cannot grind your characters to gain an edge so it’s always a level playing field. This does mean that some of your party will fall in battle but that is not the end. Every time someone falls in battle, they gain an injury once the battle has been won. To add an insult to the obtained injury, they will also suffer a penalty to their stats which makes them weaker. If someone has 3 injuries, then the next time they fall it will be for good! This also applies to the main protagonists which will strongly impact the story, so being cautious in battle is a must. There are opportunities to rest at the cost of your Strixes level to recover from injuries, but you soon realise that your Strixes level is very precious. It’s what keeps your party safe from the Reaping, so it needs to be maintained. You can gain Strixes by winning battles, buying certain items in stores or by either helping or robbing people on your travels.
Between each battle, you are on a screen which shows a map of the world. Here, you choose a path for the current party you control to follow. Some paths are easier than others and some will cost more Strixes to battle, but you cannot foresee the outcome, so there is some risk – and luck – involved. Occasionally whilst travelling the paths you are faced with storyline decisions to make. Do you save a child in need at the expense of your Strixes or do you look the other way to preserve them, as you fear you can’t afford to spare any Strixes to make the whole journey? So being a white knight and saving everyone as well as resting to heal your wounds could end up seeing your story cut very short, as you will likely run out of Strixes early and fall to the Reaping.
AoG does have some features to alter the gaming experience as well. You can choose to play the game in the story mode, meaning the battles will be played out automatically and you merely make all the decisions in the game, from the paths to choose, whether to rest and what to do at each event. There is also a difficulty modifier to raise or lower the difficulty as you play to find the balance that suits yourself.
From the number of different elements in battle, the amount of choices in paths and story, the maintenance of your party and making sure you keep a supply of Strixes for survival, Ash of Gods: Redemption is designed for those with a tactical mind. The story is well written and makes you try hard to keep your characters alive to survive the Reaping. But it is quite unforgiving and can be too difficult, which could be quite frustrating for some.