The end is come.

Reviewed on PC

A good strategy RPG is difficult to find. Final Fantasy Tactics really set the bar high when it debuted on the PS1 in the 90s, and a few other SRPGs have found similar successes (the Disgaea series being one). More recently, The Banner Saga and its sequel performed well on current gen consoles and PC, opening a new window into what good strategy RPGs can look like. Released recently, Ash of Gods seeks to build on the successes of games like The Banner Saga by adding innovative gameplay mechanics to a sound overall system.

Ash of Gods is a story that revolves around three playable “main” characters in the world of Terminus, a place on the verge of annihilation.Your characters each face different challenges – Thorn Brenin, for example, is a retired guard captain who, along with his daughter and some guardsman, must flee his city after it is cursed with a maddening blight and find the nearest menhir (or healer) – and progress through different parts of a large world map. The story is intriguing, and your choices can change the outcome of your future endeavors. You must weigh tough choices and make bold decisions in order to survive.

What makes Ash of Gods stand out in a sea of contemporaries is its unique roguelike system that allows for the death of any character. Yes, if your main character dies, the game doesn’t end; the story can and will continue. If you’re like me, that would make the remainder of the game more difficult, as I always utilize my main characters the most. The idea of permadeath for any character is great, however, and really caused me to strategize all the more in order to keep them alive. Sadly (in a matter of opinion, I suppose), that meant I used lesser guardsmen or those whose loyalty found itself waning to absorb attacks and, in some cases, find eternal slumber.

Combat and visuals go hand-in-hand in Ash of Gods, as the beautiful hand drawn aesthetics enhance the battles and makes every attack, riposte, and motion truly breathtaking. There’s something that The Banner Saga and now Ash of Gods really nailed with these visuals, as it only improves the already addicting strategic gameplay. I can’t quite put a finger on why, but I believe it stems from the fluidity of motion and the natural appearance of every character movement. Battles take place on smallish maps that use your typical SRPG block movements. Each character has an HP and stamina attack, and by decreasing the latter, you can weaken and eventually damage an enemy (often with higher levels of damage). You also come across magical cards that work as a one-time-use per battle magic spell that can cast buffs, heal, cause damage, and more that allows for a little more strategic freedom. Outside of combat, you move along a wide open map with multiple travel options that lead to the next part of the story. Each way comes with different obstacles and perils, most of which affect the outcome of the plot. Your characters have separate loyalty and strix counters (a charm that wards off a deadly disease) that increase and decrease based on your actions and supplies. As far as sound goes, the effects of combat and character strikes is on point, and the soundtrack is pretty good. It fits the tone, that of, say, medieval times, well and ties every aspect of the game together.

While Ash of Gods is an enjoyable feat of gameplay, two factors dock it some points. The lesser of the two gripes is how similar Ash of Gods feels to The Banner Saga, from gameplay to travel (morale/hunger vs. morale/strixes {a charm that wards away impending death and weakens with travel}) to combat similarities and story choice importances. Luckily, Ash of Gods adds enough of its own unique flavors into the overall experience that the game still stands on its own even with multiple drawbacks to The Banner Saga (and if I’m being quite honest, the visuals in Ash of God flowed and felt much better). The second issue I have with Ash of Gods is its typically poor writing style. I’m not sure if there was much lost in translation or if the writer isn’t fully proficient in English, but dialogue often came across as stiff, unbelievable, and sometimes baffling as it often didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Still, aside from its few flaws, Ash of Gods is a great strategy RPG that knocks its gameplay out of the park. While the writing leaves much to be desired, the overall experience is reminiscent enough of other great RPGs while innovating more to keep it fresh and unique that I was often able to overlook those deficiencies. Combat is strategic and fun, and the threat of losing main characters permanently ups those antes to the highest of levels. Should you be in the mood for a great new SRPG, you can do much, much worse than Ash of Gods.

GameStop, Inc.

Ash of Gods: Redemption Review
Solid, rewarding, and strategic RPG gameplayChoices truly impact story tellingNo character is safe from death
It really does suck to lose a character permanentlyMultiple offenses in poor writingPacing is kind of slow
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