Ash of Gods: Redemption looks a lot like The Banner Saga. Its story is a little familiar too, and its gameplay. But it’s just not as good.
The Reaping is coming. The last one occurred some 700 years ago and was stooped thanks to the sacrifice made by a group of brave heroes. Who’s going to stop this one? Can it even be stopped? Taking control of three separate protagonists, you’re going to find out.
Much like The Banner Saga, Ash of God: Redemption‘s story plays out primarily through static narrated scenes and bouts of dialogue between characters. And more often than not, you’ve got to direct the story with your dialogue choices. Most of the choices you make have little consequence, but some have major repercussions. To that end, there are multiple endings to discover, so you might find yourself playing though the game more than once.
For the most part the writing is pretty good. Occasionally though, you choose a dialogue option and are presented with a result that you could have never foreseen. Enquiring about someone’s intentions, for example, might actually result in you throwing a massive rager. There are some inconsistencies as well, but they’re pretty easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things.
With the only voice acting in the game being that of its narrator, breaking up all the clicking through text and dialogue options are small-scale turn-based battles. Again, Ash of Gods: Redemption very much apes The Banner Saga, with a battle system that is simple in comparison to fully-fledged turn-based strategy RPGs.
You can take up to six party members into any battle, and both you and the CPU take turns moving units rather than each character acting dependent on their speed. Each character has a range of actions available, and when attacking an opponent you can choose whether to reduce their health or energy. If any unit’s energy is reduced to zero, any subsequent attacks they receive will deal double damage.
With many powerful skills requiring units to sacrifice their health and/or energy to pull them off, battles in Ash of Gods: Redemption are tense. A unit can be taken out very easily if they’re ganged up on, and should any rack up four injuries during the course of the game, they’re gone for good. The way that combat plays out means it’s particularly hard to rescue party members that are in trouble when you vastly outnumber the enemy; you can’t perform actions with characters that have already had their turn until you’ve cycled through your whole party. In that time, an enemy close to the troubled unit might have had two or three turns. Or even more. If it’s a six-versus-one situation, for example, each of your party members will move once in the time the single enemy unit has moved six times.
With a range of difficulty to suit all skill levels, combat should never be something that stops you from progressing through Ash of Gods: Redemption though. In fact, I found the controls during combat to be more tiresome than the battles themselves. They’re convoluted and awkward. Sometimes it’s better to use the analogue stick and other times the d-pad without rhyme or reason. Selecting a character to move, for example, is nearly impossible unless you use the d-pad, but targeting an enemy to attack is awkward unless you use the analogue stick. Performing the simplest of actions feels like a hassle, and it really detracts from the whole experience.
There are other issues, too. If you’re playing on an Xbox One X, good luck reading the health and energy values above each character’s head; they’re so small you’d need a microscope to see them. Thankfully there’s another way to check up on each units stats. Small text is often also a problem outside of combat. While conversations between characters are granted nice big letters for you to consume with your eyes with ease, the narrator’s subtitled speech will have you squinting at the bottom of the screen. When presented with multiple options as to what to do/where to go next in certain areas, you’ll find that the text there is pretty much unreadable, too.
There are things to like about Ash of Gods: Redemption. Its music is beautiful, its art is pleasing to the eyes, and its story is interesting. Being able to choose your route from one location to another is also a nice touch, opening up yet more variables. And resource management via Strixes that can be sacrificed to heal injured characters adds yet more depth. It’s just a shame that its combat doesn’t hit all the right notes and that no-one has played it on Xbox One X before release and thought “that text is too small”.
If you’re after a story-driven game with lashings of simple turn-based combat, you should really play The Banner Saga if you haven’t already. If you have and are left wanting more, however, then consider giving Ash of Gods: Redemption a try. It lives in the shadow of The Banner Saga because it simply isn’t up to its standard, but it does have merits of its own. If you have an Xbox One X and sit a fair distance away from your TV to play though, definitely give it a wide berth until you know its text has been enlarged via a patch. Assuming one is ever delivered, that is.