The survival genre of gaming nowadays is usually a first-person, resource-gathering frenzy in order to make it through a horde of flesh-eating creatures. There’s sometimes a narrative and sometimes there’s not. Well, a new developer, Nameless XIII, created a mashup of a survival and a choose-your-own adventure game with Ashwalkers. And when we’re talking about story, we should expect greatness, since this developer is one of co-founders of DONTNOD, you know, the ones who were behind the Life is Strange series.
In Ashwalkers, the world is gray. Set in a post-apocalyptic world (like most survival games), a team of four members are tasked to find a new haven for the minuscule population that’s survived a volcanic eruption. The members must work together with their strengths and weaknesses to combat not only the harsh environment, but also the inhabitants–be it creatures or humans.
The trailer for Ashwalkers may make it seem like this is a game with intricate elements, but rest assured this is not. It’s actually a very simplistic game of walking, gathering resources, and camping. In short, the game is mostly just sauntering around and making decisions, and the decisions you make can be about life and death.
Like other survival games, you have limited space for resources that are already scarce. The four members have their own statistics, like hunger and warmth, that decline over time. If you neglect keeping their statistics up, a member can die on you.
In order to refresh the statistics, you must camp and luckily in this world, you can pretty much do that at any time. In camp, you can distribute the gathered resources, pick who will get rest, guard the camp, talk amongst each other, or look for more resources. Keep in mind that, camp’s not a safe haven; things can happen during the six-hour assignments that can be random.
Over the course of walking, at certain points, the team is faced in a situation where a choice must be made. The team’s individual expertise comes to play here: the team’s direct leader Petra, the aggressive warrior Sinh, the diplomatic scholar Kali, and the stealthy scout Nadir. While you can certainly always pick the same stance in every decisions you make, it’s always often not going to result in the way you want it to be; that’s just the nature of Ashwalkers. It’s meant to have replayability. Hence why it has 34 different endings.
The thing is though, it’s really hard to focus on the story or the gameplay elements of Ashwalkers, when the controls are janky. There are plenty of times when I am not sure that my controller is working on picking choices or even just walking around. There is also no way of controlling the camera, and the worst part of the journey is when I have my team walking through corridors and it keeps going back in and out of it, because the camera decided to pan in reverse for the other room.
Ashwalkers is also a slow game. No, really. While a full run should only take you an hour and a half to two hours max, you may be seeing your run go up to three. That’s because there’s no way to speed up walking, the loading times are a little sluggish, plus the annoyances you will be facing just controlling everything in the game. This sucked, because I really wanted to like this game. It looked cool, it had a good story, but the gameplay was just not executed well. However, if you’re really into survival games and enjoy a good story, you should maybe think about picking this up.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Journey with a Squad to Find a New Haven
+ Mashup of survival and storytelling + Decisions are critical with unexpected outcomes
– Controls area janky – No camera controls means frustrations in controls