There’s always a line between inspiration and outright copying. It’s the difference between an artist taking references and outright tracing. It’s finer than many would believe, and the likes of Ash of Gods: Redemption shows that more than most. Even a simple glance brings to mind the Banner Saga, and that doesn’t stop with the visuals.
The story follows the novels of Sergey Malitsky. A long era of peace in a fantasy setting is broken by the invasion of a reaper horde seeking to awaken their slumbering gods. Your task is to keep as many people alive as possible, including the protagonists.
The game is divided up into two segments - Travelling across the landscape while managing resources and tile based combat. Both are handled well, as the former proves to be harsh and unpredictable but never unfairly so. It constantly introduces moral decisions to keep things interesting, while avoiding easy choices. Failing to maintain your supplies will cost you troops, and carelessness will lead only to an early grave.
Melee meanwhile is handled by a grid-based combat system. While it sticks to turn-based engagements, things are kept interesting by an extremely varied number of classes and allowing losses to have genuine impact. Wounds take more than a potion to fix, and losing someone can cost you for battles to come. In some cases, those downed never recover. Equally, armour does more than merely lessen damage. It’s tough but brittle, and unless you crack it open with the right person, your attacks with do nothing. This creates an extremely engaging environment where the same tactic never works twice.
Unfortunately, Ash of Gods: Redemption stumbles in terms of storytelling, and falls flat on its face when it comes to executing an effective narrative. When the writing isn’t generic it can be cringe inducing. This is especially evident of the dialogue, which often devolves into “as you know” speeches. Worse still, it drops multiple Chekhov's Guns, only to never use them. These seemingly aren’t even sequel bait or story building moments, they just exist and are never followed up on.
There’s no denying that Ash of Gods: Redemption was going to have an uphill battle. With so many inspirations and clear similarities to the Banner Saga, it’s difficult to decide where inspiration ends and outright imitation begins. The game still shines in its combat, musical presentation and animation style, and the survival mechanics remain a harsh but fair trial for any player. Yet, with multiple narrative shortcomings, it lacks the strong mythology to bring those elements together. RPG enthusiasts who can forgive that will still get a kick out of playing this, but otherwise you may wish to give this one a pass.
ASH OF GODS: REDEMPTION / DEVELOPER: AURUMDUST / PUBLISHER: AURUMDUST, WHISPERGAMES / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW