At a quick glance, you would not be blamed for confusing Ash of Gods: Redemption with Stoic Studio’s superb Banner Saga trilogy. From the extremely similar hand drawn art and animation, through to a familiar use of branching dialog scenes and isometric turn based combat, Ash of Gods: Redemption is certainly very well inspired by Stoic’s epic trilogy to say the least.
How does it stand on its own two feet however, when both compared to The Banner Saga and judged on its own merits? Well…
Ash Of Gods: Redemption PS4 Review
An Audiovisual Treat That Falls Short Of Its Inspiration
From the get go there’s no denying that audiovisually Ash of Gods: Redemption, like The Banner Saga, is something of a treat. Whether it’s the colorfully vibrant, painterly backgrounds and character designs, or the rangy orchestral score that oscillates deftly from delicate anthems to more epic fare, it’s clear that artistically at least, Ash of Gods: Redemption is something to behold. Unfortunately, a hefty dose of screen tearing when you scroll around during the turn based combat encounters does take the sheen off the visual presentation somewhat.
Ash of Gods: Redemption’s narrative setup will also prove familiar to those who have sampled the delights of The Banner Saga too, as it weaves a familiar fantasy tale about the end of the world and an ancient resurgent evil known as the Reapers that consume and corrupt everything in their path. While Ash of Gods: Redemption certainly mimics the plot of The Banner Saga to an extent then, it sadly possesses nowhere near the same calibre of writing, with poorly fleshed out characters and often cringeworthy dialogue.
Equally, the world building leaves a lot to be desired too, not least because the story bombards players with too much jargon in the early going with convoluted names, places and events in such quick succession that it can be easy to get confused as to who anyone really is, or indeed, what points of interest in the world and lore are worth taking note of.
Again, much like The Banner Saga, Ash of Gods follows an almost identical structure, with the game being split into chapters as the player ventures across a map of considerable size, encountering situations that can be resolved in a number of ways and, of course, fighting enemies in a variety of turn-based encounters.
Pleasingly when it comes to the non-linear creativity that Ash of Gods: Redemption lays claim to, it’s refreshing to discover that the decisions which the player makes throughout the game actually mean something in both the short and long term. Whether it’s choosing to spare a wayward merchant under attack or electing to take one character with you on your journey in lieu of another, Ash of Gods: Redemption certainly provides the player with ample room for meaningful choice.
When it comes to the combat side of things, noted similarities with Stoic’s magnum opus are keenly felt here too. Adopting the same isometric square grid that The Banner Saga employs, combat in Ash of Gods: Redemption also unfolds in a familiar turn-based fashion with players alternating between different characters, attacking or using their abilities and then ending the turn in order to let the enemy do the same.
Ash Of Gods: Redemption Can Be Far Too Punishing For Its Own Good
Where Ash of Gods: Redemption diverges from The Banner Saga when it comes to combat however, is in the employ of cards that can be used in each battle. Offering a range of different effects such as increasing your attack power or dealing damage to a random enemy, only one card can be used in each turn. The problem is, the range of abilities that these cards offer are rarely compelling and often you’re just better off using the standard attack and ability commands that each character possesses.
Another issue with the combat in Ash of Gods is that it is horrendously punishing on even the easier levels of difficulty. Each time a character falls in combat they gain a wound – reach four wounds and that character is considered ‘dead’ and gone forever. However, cleansing wounds is only really possible if you have magical substances known as ‘Strixes’ and opportunities to do so are few and far between, causing you to spend most of the game with your top heroes limping around with two or three wounds and on the brink of death.
Though Ash of Gods provides something of a generous set of skill trees to accomodate player progression, obtaining new skills and abilities still does little to stem the tide of the game’s seemingly relentless difficulty level.
The developer has said previously that the intention is to always make you feel like you’re one mistake away from total failure, and while that seems all well and good in principle for hardcore strategists who live and breathe the genre exclusively, it does not translate well for those players who are typically less compelled to endure such unforgiving turn-based scraps.
Then there’s the sense of scale. If The Banner Saga is a sprawling HBO epic stuffed with top drawer talent, then Ash of Gods feels more akin to a SyFy show, with a curtailed sense of scope and setting in which the stakes seem not nearly as high (which is ironic considering both games share a love for world ending scenarios). Though it must be said, that the sub-par writing hardly helps Ash of Gods in this regard.
And that really is Ash of Gods: Redemption in a nutshell. A frequently beautiful but heavily flawed tactical adventure that is far too challenging to appeal to a wider audience, it might look and seeming play like The Banner Saga but it is, most assuredly, not The Banner Saga. All the same, Ash of Gods nonetheless provides a worthwhile diversion for those who have a more robust tolerance of punishment and overly challenging encounters.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.
Ash of Gods: Redemption is out now on PS4, PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.