Sometimes it feels rude to reference a game’s influences in a headline like this, but it’s hard to talk about AurumDust’s debut RPG, Ash of Gods without drawing some comparisons to Stoic’s continuing pseudo-Viking saga, especially in terms of art style and combat engine.
Originally funded through Kickstarter, Ash of Gods seems to have made good on its early crowdfunding promises, up to and including a March release date, and the small Russian studio have released a dramatic story-focused trailer reconfirming their launch plans.
Set in a slightly more traditional dark fantasy world than Banner Saga, you’ll apparently be playing as a trio of protagonists – a retired town guard-captain, a healer and an assassin – each with their own parties and crossing plot threads. Similar to its inspirations, there’ll be a heavy focus on decision making as you lead the three protagonists and their respective parties through their respective story arcs.
One interesting note is that the plot is designed to continue even if the protagonists manage to get themselves killed through decisions, although this will presumably lead to a somewhat less-than-happy conclusion to the story.
Unlike The Banner Saga, the combat engine seeks to differentiate itself somewhat through a tried-and-tested alternate route by making combat partially card-based, with each turn’s possible actions being defined by the hand you’ve been dealt. There’s also no dice-rolling, so all attacks will hit and do a fixed amount of damage, reducing the amount of chaos and guess-work involved in basic movement and engagement.
As easy as it would be to dismiss the efforts of this game, given its visual similarities to The Banner Saga, I feel the studio should be applauded for even coming close to matching the style and visual clarity. Combat animations in particular are very smooth and natural, although that’s in part due to rotoscoping – drawing animation frames directly over live-action footage. Motion capture for the cel-animation generation.
It’ll be interesting to see exactly how Ash of Gods sets itself apart from The Banner Saga, and whether its writing can survive the oft-treacherous journey from Russian to English. We’ll hopefully be digging deeper into this one closer to its release next month.