I suppose that the game is meant to reflect an "older" time, or perhaps it was literally made during those older times, but I'm not sure I care. I've seen handfuls of games that are "Ultima Online-like" and frankly, they were not that impressive from the beginning. I have to say, though, that with a game like Ashen Empires, the surprises are well-hidden, and despite real-life migraines and technical issues (the older PC might be having death fits) that cut into my playtime, I stumbled across several of these surprises.
Click past the cut and I'll tell you all about it.
Unfortunately I found out about the "you better write quests down" thing after stumbling across in on the forums. I snagged a Post-it pad and wrote down every quest I took. I sort of enjoyed it, actually, as it related to how I play under my Immersion Rules. Still, finding simple NPCs is not that simple. The newbie island isn't as large as it is confusing, and with no instructions at all (except on the website), I eventually gave up on finding my target.
Fighting is pretty basic, but I enjoy the style. You press Q to go into "combat mode" and then choose your target. Archery was fun, and it was once again super-cute to see tiny little arrows PWING! into their targets. Looting was standard, and I even took some time to learn how to make my own arrows so I didn't have to hunt down the NPC that typically sells them. In fact, everything worked pretty much how you would expect it to if you'd played Ultima Online or other older-style games. If not, you might be confused because the game provides hardly any in-game documentation on how to do things. Yes, there is an NPC to explain it, and yes the website provides information, but again the question is: How do you memorize everything? If you don't write much of it down (and you won't because you aren't warned to), then you will not remember whom you talked to in the first place and you'll forget all of it.
Maybe I'm just old. Perhaps I have just seen one too many games. As I mentioned before, I did not get nearly as much time in the game as I wanted, either. I had planned blocks of time to dedicate to it, and some just fell through, so I must note that in this record. Still, I just don't buy the reasoning behind the lack of certain, basic instruction in almost any game. I would only buy it if the game were so intuitive that there was no need for it. Ashen Empires is not that intuitive.
Anyway, Ashen Empires is perfect for a laptop jaunt or for a group of friends who want to try something new. Jump in, figure things out, and kill some goblins. I plan on keeping it around simply because I want to get further for a possible future recap. While the game did its part to confuse and bore me, it needs to be given more time for a fair shake-down. In fact, my screenshots were so bland that I decided to just borrow some from the main website. At least you'll get a better look at what might be possible in the game.
Next week I am going to play it really safe and look at a game that is neither indie nor free-to-play. Forgive me, but I need a nice week of destroying stuff. Join me in PlanetSide -- my character's name is Beauhindman.
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Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!