Ashes of Creation is an upcoming MMORPG, originally funded through Kickstarter, that’s poised to take the genre by storm.
The MMORPG genre is a well-treaded space. Titans such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV stand tall above their competition, leaving other titles to stay relatively small in comparison. Ashes of Creation by Intrepid Studios, however, aims to rise above the rest. With a nearly 5-year long and running development cycle that prioritizes transparency to its players, this past weekend was the first time the world got to see what could be the next big MMORPG in action.
While Ashes of Creation was opened up for the first time to the public, the experience the players got was a very rough one. Those who made new characters were given a prompt upon login that serves as a mission statement of sorts, with the details and development goals of this test put front-and-center. The prompt is a welcome write-up and does well to ground the players expectations.Even though the clear intent of this Alpha was to test systems and not necessarily content, the world of Ashes of Creation slowly stole my heart.
The character creation options were limited to only 4 races, each with bare-bones customization options. Ashes of Creations’ take on classes comes in the form of archetypes, of which this test had 3. During the test you were able to roll a Tank, Cleric or Wizard archetype to give the player the choice to focus on ranged or melee play styles, with Cleric being a hybrid melee/caster style. Cleric was the archetype of choice this weekend and felt great from start to finish. Each level rewards you with two skill points for you to spend in one of three trees, with the only available trees being ‘active’ and ‘passive’. A weapon tree was also shown, but was inaccessible.
Decisions concerning skill points always felt like they had weight, even if you could instantly re-specialize at any moment during play. Each time you’re awarded with more it could prompt an entire change of play style, especially when you begin to unlock more skills. It was easy to create a solid playstyle by level 4 and have it filled out nicely by level 8. With an action-based combat system to back it up, fighting enemies feels visceral and intense. This is especially true when fighting multiple enemies, as your basic weapon swings attack a small arc in front of you to help you manage groups of enemies.
The world in the Alpha Test may have been buggy and full of holes, but it was still a complete joy to explore. The general idea of the world is that the players are using a portal to come back to it after a long time away, only to find it filled with corrupted monsters. This means it’s up to you and everyone else to reclaim the world using the various nodes you find in it. Players were given a large map that was roughly about 20% of the size of the full world, with a variety of different environments to explore. While movement felt speedy, the world felt big enough to accommodate it through its vast landscapes that stretch as far as the eye could see. Even though the world was teeming with monsters, glitches, and dead-end quests, it was always hard to put the game down simply because you wanted to see it all.
This exploration and environmental interaction always felt rewarding. From forests and canyons that housed small bosses to deep open-world dungeons filled with monsters, it felt as though there was always something waiting for those who traveled off the beaten path. When combined with a fantastic minimalist soundtrack, it was easy to get lost in the huge world for hours. Your grinding also felt meaningful to the world and not just you, as the more players engaged in an area, they were rewarded with upgrades to the corresponding node. It was fascinating to see the world evolve day after day, with nodes that were empty the night before housing small crossroads the next morning with NPC citizens now setting up shop there.
This node system was a stand-out feature and one that always demanded attention. Early in the weekend, notices of crossroads popping up were frequent and gave the game a natural feel in retrospect as players set them up for people like me just by playing. It wasn’t until crossroads began to become encampments and settlements did the effect on the world become apparent, while other nodes stayed small or empty. This feeling of world progression came full circle when I witnessed a raid group successfully form in chat to kill a dungeon boss and after the team succeeded, the corresponding node upgraded itself to a crossroads. The moment inspired a sense of wonder as it felt as though the world itself acknowledged the achievement, not just some quest giving NPC.
These moments were met with plenty more of predictable frustrations, however. Dead-end quests, holes in the world, and other quirks were everywhere but never took away from the charm of experiencing the systems. That doesn’t mean each one was perfect or worked, however. Logging was broken for about a day with no trees available to chop down, along with crafting blueprints being incredibly hard to find. This made testing crafting as a whole quite challenging while gathering materials was based solely on the quality of the tool being used. This made crafting feel a tad shallow and bare-bones. Combat also felt clunky at times, with error messages popping up if you or the enemy were just slightly out of place when you hit the button.
While very limited in both availability and functionality, the Ashes of Creation Alpha Preview was one to be remembered. Every day brought new experiences and good reasons to retread old ground. Whether that be to go back into a dungeon after getting stronger or to see the progress on a node, each session felt meaningful and rewarding. Levelling up felt powerful and by the end of the test everything felt like it clicked. Those looking for a new MMORPG experience should have their eyes glued to Ashes of Creation, as this test proves the power behind this title.