It’s safe to say we’re excited about Ashes of Creation. It's also safe to say we’re not alone - the game received nearly 20,000 Kickstarter backers back in 2017, and the high-fantasy sandbox endeavour is the talk of the town - ‘the town’ in this case being the MMO gamers of the internet.
If you haven’t read too much about the game and fancy a ‘best bits’ summary then you’ve come to the right place. Ahead of the Alpha-1 release scheduled for December 18th, we decided to run through which Ashes of Creation features have us most excited. Mainly because we just wanted to talk about it ;).
So we're here to concisely convey what we think is going to set Ashes of Creation apart from all other titles for years to come. Because so deep runs the game’s mechanics and so vast its vision that it’s impossible to look at all the many cogs in this MMO machine in just one article. Which brings us neatly on to our first positive:
We’re all used to being promised the world only to have the proverbial rug pulled from underneath our feet. We get it - you don’t want to get your hopes up. But the road to perfection isn’t paved with low expectations - and Creative Director Steven Sharif’s notoriously high expectations of MMORPGs are, at this point, well documented.
Having begun his love affair with the genre over 25 years ago with the legendary Neverwinter Nights (not to be confused with the equally brilliant Neverwinter), Sharif has had many years to dwell on what works, what doesn’t, and what might drastically improve our favourite massively multiplayer worlds. And what’s more, the majority of us seem to agree with him.
From the sceptical voices on Reddit to the cautiously optimistic MMO aficionados on Twitch, Ashes has garnered the most attention for its grandiose promises. Promises of an MMORPG that so far existed only in our collective dreams. But in all cases the response is universal: if Ashes can deliver on its promises, then we’re in for a literal game-changer. Which makes sense as the Intrepid team’s M.O. is ‘to change the face of the genre’.
Every facet of this title has been meticulously agonised over to ensure the ultimate sandbox experience. Among many other things, it promises 64 classes, politics and city management, 500-player PvP battles, religions, ‘hybrid’ combat and player housing. It’s a tall order, but Intrepid’s candid approach to development, including constant development updates, and lack of NDA attached to its upcoming Alpha-1 release leave us feeling particularly optimistic. Despite knowing how ruthless the gaming community can sometimes be, Intrepid’s invitation of the lucky few with Alpha-1 access to ‘come at me bro’ is a ballsy move, and we’re all for it.
Ah, nodes - if you have read anything about the Ashes of Creation features then the chances are you’ve heard about the nodes. Chances also are you’re sick of reading the word. Sorry about that.
It is the nodal system that is set to define Ashes of Creation, keeping the servers distinct, the world advancing, and the players forever occupied with content; and we’re only slightly exaggerating.
On launch, the world is set to comprise 103 regular nodes (not including the 15 castle nodes) - each one identifying as either Divine, Economic, Militaristic or Scientific and each with their own ‘zones of influence’ (ZOI). Starting out as pure wilderness, these nodes will grow into Expeditions, Encampments, Villages, Towns, Cities and, finally, Metropolises as players earn experience within their ZOI.
By developing an Encampment into a Village into a City and so on, players will then unlock more of that node’s unique content - we’re talking everything from available quests to the creatures that you can encounter to the very landscape itself changing.
Think of it this way - as more people arrive to populate the new city, so do the archaeologists. The archaeologists get to doing what they do best (digging holes? I don’t know, I’m not an archaeologist) et voila! A brand new dungeon has appeared! Combine this with the fact that each node contains unique quests and experiences, and holy crap that’s a lot of freshly-baked content.
So just by carrying out such familiar MMO tasks as questing, raiding and a simple spot of fishing, you will be contributing directly to the development of the node and the content within it. You’re doing your part! That is, until the node is swallowed by another node’s ZOI, which halts its growth entirely.
Then what if you want to develop your favourite Scientific City to Metropolis level, but it falls within the zone of influence of a pesky Economic Metropolis? The answer is clear - just gather a mob of like-minded fellow citizens, declare war and burn it to the ground! Remember - violence is sometimes the answer.
Aside from the camaraderie that follows when a plucky band of 250 players unify against a tyrannical metropolis, and aside from the guilds, religions, organisations and politics that will encapsulate your Ashes of Creation experience - the profession system, of all things, has been specifically designed to hammer home the need to interact with fellow players.
Players can choose to pursue professions in one of three overarching artisan skill trees: gathering, processing or crafting. Gathering incorporates such jobs as mining, whilst smelting falls under processing and finally blacksmithing equates to crafting. Players can master only one artisan skill, which creates the need for a supply chain in order to meet the demands for that badass handmade sword that everyone’s talking about.
So if you’re an ambitious alchemist looking to become a master crafter, then it’s time to get pally with a savvy herbalist, as your concoctions will require only the finest ingredients. Similarly, if you’re not keeping the supply chain local then you’ll need a caravan to take your things from one node to another. And caravans, which are always surrounded by PvP zones, require protection from opportunistic highwaymen.
Also be prepared to meet fellow players out on the road a lot as the ability to fast travel is nigh-on nonexistent, restricted only to teleportation within the zone of influence of a Science Metropolis. Well, at least you’ll have time to take in the views, which is just dandy because...
A few months ago we published the definitive list of the most beautiful MMORPGs available. Well it’s probably back to the drawing board once Ashes of Creation finally hits the scene. We still love you BDO - but just look at it.
From the many gameplay videos, stills, and pieces of artwork released by Intrepid up until now, the beauty of Ashes is already plain to see. Powered by Unreal Engine 4, the team has opted out of stylised or cartoonish graphics in place of a more realistic take - or at least as realistic as a rendering of a glowing griffon allows. But its majesty is undeniable.
Speaking of mounts, the sky’s the limit with its animal husbandry system that allows professional husband-ers to breed fantastical beasts into being, the likes of which will make even FFIX’s Kirin jealous. Then, of course, there’s the flying crystals (a.k.a the ‘glimmering geode’) you can ride. Hey, everyone thinks crystals are pretty.
Aside from its diverse biomes and outlandish bestiary, the nodes themselves will take on their own characteristics depending on which race contributed the most to its progression, meaning we’re in for a smorgasbord of architectural delights within each village, city and metropolis which, if starting from scratch once ransacked, could morph into something entirely new next time round.
Griefers. Trolls in elf, dwarf, orc or...troll form who prowl our favourite MMOs like parasites looking to leech off your enjoyment to feed their own. Forget mobs, these sleazy fun-sponges are the real villains, preying on unsuspecting noobs and veterans alike and reminding us that all MMORPGs have their downsides. However some titles go above and beyond to ensure that these inevitable scoundrels receive their comeuppance.
The corruption system in Ashes not only dissuades griefers from haranguing innocent bystanders, but also offers a boon to those who prefer a PvE playthrough. Though the game still encourages a healthy bit of PvP (you can’t renovate your Divine Node without smashing down a neighbour’s walls, after all) this system - which inflicts progressively game-breaking penalties on aggressive players - helps to ensure that every duel is consensual. And who said chivalry was dead?
In a nutshell, players can voluntarily flag themselves as combatants or non-combatants by attacking or defending themselves against attack. If a combatant kills a non-combatant, however, then the murderer will become corrupt. Should they resume their killing spree, this increasingly dampens their combat ability, leaves them open to being attacked without a penalty for the attacker, reveals their location to bounty hunters and risks them losing raw materials and gear upon death. Sadists beware.
Additionally, bringing it back to the ever-changing nodal system, the constant changes in the sizes and content of nodes will ensure that no matter how late to the party they are, players will be dropping into a game that is constantly new.
While we can’t rest on our laurels as the game is yet to receive its final release date and, as is always the case with such huge projects, anything can happen - it’s a great time to be an MMORPG fan with Ashes of Creation on the horizon. With its aim to reinvent the genre Ashes may even convert gamers from across the gaming landscape with its ambitious vision and we await the first impressions with bated breath.