Ash of Gods: Redemption Review

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2018-03-23
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Introduction

Ash of Gods: Redemption is a narrative RPG from AurumDust Studio based on a novel series by Sergey Malitsky and the first thing everyone notices about it, is how similar it looks to Stoic Studio's The Banner Saga. From presentation and combat to the world map and even some of the characters, the similarities are clear and obvious.

However, keep in mind that Banner Saga-like is not exactly an oversaturated genre. And in fact, the Stoic developers themselves have endorsed this game. A couple of them even appear within Ash of Gods during a random event and joke about the perceived similarities. So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Ash of Gods and see what it's all about.

Story

Ash of Gods is set in a fantasy world of Terminum during what's known as the Reaping. The game opens with a brief prologue that introduces us to the Umbra, a race of immensely powerful humanoid beings from another world. Some of the Umbra try to coexist with the humans of Terminum, while the others transform into Reapers in an attempt to resurrect their dead gods by sacrificing the humans.

When the game starts proper, seven hundred years have passed since the previous Reaping and the Terminum people have forgotten all about it. This allows the Umbra to plot, scheme, and manipulate everything and everyone, resulting in a story filled with political intrigue, large-scale conflicts, and double-crossing.

We'll be experiencing this story by following three separate protagonists with their own unique storylines that all converge at the end. Hopper is an Umbra who failed his mission during the previous Reaping and now seeks atonement by acting as a healer. Thorn is a former guard captain of a rural town and a decorated war hero. And Lo Pheng is an emotionless hired blade who's a ninja in all but name.

Surprisingly, the frequent perspective shifts are handled extremely well and don't make you grit your teeth every time they happen. The interconnected stories don't feel disjointed and offer a nice change of pace.

Just like in The Banner Saga, the story is told through a series of vignettes where the characters talk with one another or move from place to place. AurumDust's artists are top notch and their animations are a joy to look at, which immediately pulls you into the story and makes you want to learn more.

On top of that, as the player you get to chose how the story unfolds by deciding which paths your characters and their respective companions take. And the limited, and constantly dwindling, resources create some nice tension and add a welcome layer of resource management.

Now, before I get to the bad parts, allow me to stress that I greatly enjoyed Ash of Gods' overall story, pacing and presentation. There are definitely plenty of talented people over at AurumDust. However, their translators and writers, or rather whoever adapted Sergey Malitsky's writing for a video game, leave a lot to be desired.

The translation is far from perfect and has plenty of easy to spot typos and some odd word choices, but it's not terrible. With the developers not being native English speakers, I can understand how they wouldn't be able to gauge the quality of the translation themselves. And considering that they seem determined to fix the issues based on user reports, I can't really fault them there.

Now, when it comes to the actual moment-to-moment writing, the best thing I can say about it, is that it's uneven. Some of it is quite good, namely the chapter subtitles and scene descriptions. The dialogues, on the other hand, oftentimes make little to no sense and are painful to read. Every single line is more akin to a long-winded monologue. A very stiff, redundant, and needlessly verbose monologue.

There's no distinction between character voices, every conversation takes several unnecessary detours before getting to the point, and so on. It's like the antithesis of what good video game dialogue should be. Getting through Ash of Gods' bloated dialogue feels like a chore. There's no consistency and characters often act in inexplicably contradictory ways.

In one scene, Thorn's friend berates him for killing what's essentially a bunch of ravenous zombies because they used to be people. In the next, he advocates cold-blooded murder of one of his sane and quite friendly underlings for next to no reason. And that's just one example on a very long list.