Deck of Ashes – Review
Follow Genre: Deck-building adventure game
Developer: AYGames
Publisher: Buka Entertainment, WhisperGames
Platform: PC, Mac
Tested on: PC

Deck of Ashes – Review

Site Score
8.5
Good: Great deck-building mechanic, Dark fantasy art
Bad: Poorly designed UI and text
User Score
9.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Turn-based combat in video games can be utilized in so many different ways that each developer has the opportunity to give their own flair to the concept. One increasingly popular genre is the deck-building one, a type of gameplay where the battles revolve around building a collection of cards and combining them to devastating effects to blow your enemies away. You can imagine it as a type of one-player Magic The Gathering, and Deck of the Ashes is a solid little gem of the genre.

Story

Even before we encounter the main menu we are treated to a cutscene which details the story of the world we will soon find ourselves in. It involves The Outcasts, a group of fierce combatants who wreaked havoc on the world, stealing from the rich and poor alike and murdering everywhere they went. Soon the group became interested in the greatest treasure of all, a mysterious artifact called The Ash Box which is held by Lady Death herself. They successfully make their way into her domain, but infighting causes the box to fall and shatter, unleashing a horrible curse on the land which causes monsters to roam free and The Outcasts to be permanently altered. In the story, you take control of one of them in a bid to undo what the curse has caused and achieve their personal desires.

Graphics

The art style is definitely one of the bigger selling points for Deck of Ashes. There are a lot of dark fantasy elements going on and you can just tell how much effort and time was poured into the designs. The main cast of characters – both The Outcasts and the various NPCs they encounter – look great and there are a lot of fun monster designs. Every map has its own environment, which also changes the look of the backgrounds and the many horrible critters you encounter. The cutscenes use a simple form of animation, where most elements stay still and only certain ones move. The only complaint would be the clunky design of the UI, with text often overlapping or being spaced awkwardly, which can be hard to read.

Sound

In terms of sound, Deck of Ashes also does well. There’s plenty of good music to go around, with enough variety to switch things up between fast-paced battle music or more whimsical tunes to idle in your camp. The sound effects during combat can be a tad repetitive, though not enough to become maddening. All the cutscenes have good voice acting, as well as some voiced lines being dropped during other parts of gameplay.

Gameplay

Deck of Ashes is a deck-building adventure game with elements of resource management. There are a lot of options to customize the experience to your preference, such as difficulty levels for beginners or veterans, the ability to turn off the game’s standard permadeath mechanic, and the option to start with a self-assembled deck from the get-go instead of the default one. After picking a character you are quickly dropped on the world’s map, given an objective and allowed to roam free.

Roaming is done simply by moving your character over the map, divided into tiles. Just looking at a tile will tell you what you can expect to find there, with blank tiles being places for collecting resources, tiles in the image of swords to show where you can engage in battles, and question marks signifying special events. Events lead to a small text-based segment where you might have to make a choice and they can have both positive or negative effects outcomes for your character. However, be wary of being ambushed and pulled into battle at inconvenient times.

The battles play out in turn-based fashion. You start with a full hand of randomly drawn cards from your battle deck, each of which needs a certain amount of mana to be played. You have five mana points per turn, so it’s important to play strategically. When you’re done, you simply end your turn, discard up to three cards back into your battle deck if you want, and your opponent gets to attack. Cards that you have played will be put into the ash deck, a sort of graveyard. Reshuffling these lost cards back into your battle deck costs HP, but will be necessary as you can run out of cards otherwise. During the battle, you are also able to use items, such as potions to restore your health or gain extra mana.

Should you encounter a battle you can’t get through, this probably means you will need to get a better deck before proceeding. Recipes for new cards can be found all across the world and they can be crafted in your camp and added to your deck. In the camp, you will also find other NPCs such as a herbalist who will heal you up for the right price, a merchant who will gladly trade with you, and a mechanic who can upgrade your cards for you to make them more powerful. All of these things take different resources, and it’s impossible to max out everything in one run, so you will need to take your time and think about which strategies work for you.

Conclusion

Deck of Ashes offers a lot to both newcomers and experienced players. An extensive tutorial and easy difficulty allow for a more relaxed game if you’re just starting out, while the more advanced mode with its permadeath is ideal for those seeking a challenge. With four unique characters to play, each with their own cards and skills to combine to your preference, it’s unlikely you won’t find some setting that will feel right for you, and the narrative ties everything together nicely. Some slight design mistakes aside, Deck of Ashes forms a solid game with lots of interesting gameplay mechanics to explore.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Deck of Ashes - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Jessica
Jessica


Games are my escape and writing is my passion.

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