Let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room. Yes, Ash of Gods is heavily reminiscent of studio Stoic’s Banner Saga games. From the style of the gameplay; the art direction, the choice & consequence mechanics, and even similar character designs, it all brings to mind the critically-acclaimed Banner Saga series. When I first saw it, I could have sworn it was made by the same people. After a little bit of searching, it turns out that it wasn’t. Aurum Dust is run by completely different people. When Aurum Dust started off the Kickstarter for Ash of Gods, they were very clear about the fact that they were heavily inspired by Banner Saga. The co-owners of Stoic even encouraged them by backing and commenting on the Kickstarter page, leading Aurum Dust to include a special little easter egg in the game that I won’t spoil here. I’ve seen a few people complaining about the similarities online, but hey, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery and if both parties concerned have no issues with it, then neither do I.
Now Banner Saga aside, the art direction for Ash of Gods was inspired by vintage cartoons from people like Ralph Bakshi (the Lord of the Rings animation from the 70’s) and even more interestingly, SoyuzMultFilm movies from the 60’s era. It’s a great look, the smooth flow of the combat animations make it a real eye pleaser. While the in-game animations are wonderful, there are a few cutscenes to be seen at important moments and I feel like they can look a little bit crude in comparison. Considering the inspirations, though, it could be possible that they intended it to be this way. The game isn’t just nice to look at, but it sounds great as well, thanks to a group of awesome Polish musicians who worked on games like the Witcher and Shadow Warrior series. The soundtrack was created using a bunch of traditional string and percussion instruments mostly used in European folk music. My favorite tracks include some haunting vocals, which I assume is either Russian or Polish (I don’t speak either, sooo I’m not 100% sure) I always get a kick out of them whenever they pop up!
A lot of familiar gameplay mechanics are at play here, if you’ll pardon the pun. After choosing the direction you want to travel in on the world map, days pass by and your strixes are consumed. You will need to keep a steady supply of them by finding or purchasing them throughout the game because once they run out; it’s The Big Sleep for your party. But don’t worry: there are plenty other ways to lose your party members. Decisions you make can have lasting consequences, they can even lead to the maiming and/or deaths of your closest companions. When a person falls in battle (or gets injured during a dialog choice) they gain an injury mark next to their portrait. Each mark lowers that character’s stats: four marks leads to permanent death. Luckily you can choose to rest at the camp menu but this costs you time and strixes. As if that weren’t enough to contend with, you also have to worry about morale and curse power. Morale is a straightforward concept. Low morale negatively affects your party while high morale provides bonuses (plus it makes you feel great about yourself). Curse power is unique to Hopper only. There is a number on the corner of the world map that denotes the current strength of the Reaping. Generally speaking, the higher the number the harder the game is. As Hopper travels around the world map, he will occasionally be given a choice to either succumb to the curse and stop the Reaping from becoming stronger, or refuse to give in to the curse, which increases the Reaping level but keeps the curse power meter from rising. The higher the curse power, the lower Hopper’s stats are. So you can either keep Hopper strong and healthy or you can let the world burn. Choices, choices.
So, I have a bit of a conundrum here. Ash of Gods looks great, it has a solid soundtrack, and the battles are challenging and enjoyable. The story and dialog, however, are a mixed bag. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal if it were any other genre, but I’d say most gamers are usually looking for a great story when jumping into a roleplaying game. So I would have to say that if you’re the kind of person who is looking for satisfying strategic battles and a passable storyline, then snatch it up. If you’re in it solely for the story, it can be a hit or miss so tread carefully.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final SCore: 7.5/10
+Quality Tactical Gameplay
+Nice Vintage Cartoon Aesthetic
-Uneven dialog quality
-Story lacks cohesion