Brought to us by a new studio created by Hervé Bonin (a co-founder of whomnod, creator of Life Is Strange), Ashwalkers is a Maudlin trip that intrigued me as much as me exasperated by her stubborn devotion to browse long expanses of nothingness..
A few hundred years in the future, the world is now a vague ground mainly filled with ashes. You are a team of four people who undertake a trip to help your citizen in the citadel find a new home before it’s too late. Your main trip is to find and get in touch with the dome dome, in the hope that it will welcome your people. It is an intriguing configuration that fails to take full advantage of its promise.
Your trip involves long walks from A to B hoping to find a tag that will allow you to continue your trip. On the way, you will meet wild, wild animals and some other events that will present you a handful of choice to make. Make the wrong choice and you could lose resources, harm the morale of your team or even hurt or die.
Although I found my first incredibly easy race (I played it directly like a rather nice diplomat), most of the choices themselves tend to be fighting or not. Save someone or sail any1. Be aggressive or peaceful. The nuance of what could have been very interesting dilemmas is often left on the table and the consequences are usually quite easy to understand (except for my end, which I found shocking considering the way my global history S ‘ is unrolled, but I move away from the subject).
I was surprised that even though Ashwalkers is dark, the story itself expresses the hope and the people trying to help each other. After what looks like a decade of Walking Dead desperation, it was nice to have small moments when people helped people.
Beyond the choices, the gameplay comes down to a very simple loop. You click to move your team to the field. By moving on earth, you must keep an eye over 3 meters: hungry, energy and heat. If one of them becomes too low, this team member will begin to suffer health damage. Along the path you will find resources such as food, wood and medicine. The looting of one of these caches will spend the energy of one of your teammates, adding a slight, but especially ignoring, the cost compared to the reward.
In order to reconstruct your three counters, you must make the camp. Similar to Darkest Dungeon, you have to stir up your fire, you spend rations, then assign activities to your squad. You can choose to rest to retrieve energy, ask a teammate to mount the custody or ask a few people to explore the region for more resources. You can also match teammates to talk, what I rarely found, as this provides knowledge and context to the greatest story, but it only improved morale and heat. Both that I found easier ways to reconstruct.
What is strange is how much it is relatively easy to ignore all these counters while traveling in the Ashwalkers world. I did not do much other than gather resources, walk, rest and repeat. The morale fluctuated here and there, but I arrived at the end with about a full backpack and a healthy team. I always waited for the tension to increase, but it is never the case. Je me suis même retrouvé à brûler des ressources juste pour rééquilibrer ce dont j’avais plus besoin, qu’il s’agisse de nourriture ou de bois. Cela a encore dégonflé toute excitation ou stress alors que je continuais simplement dans de longs couloirs en espérant que quelque chose de grand se produise.
Là où Ashwalkers trébuche le plus, au-delà de ses choix simples et de ses systèmes ignorables, c’est son adhésion à simplement cliquer sur votre souris et à regarder votre équipe simplement… marcher. Et marchez. Et marchez encore. Il n’y a rien pour le briser. L’histoire est à travers des gribouillis de texte, l’équipe ne bavarde pas beaucoup et la musique est ambiante mais principalement Jane. Les personnes ou les bêtes que vous rencontrez sont présentées comme des silhouettes, qui vont à l’encontre de ce qui aurait pu être des découvertes plus passionnantes. Parfois (comme un ours dans la toundra) vous ne voyez même pas la chose dans laquelle vous rencontrez.
This overwhelming amount of dead space is further aggravated by the artistic decision of Ashwalkers to dress the world in black and white. What could have been a visual treatment of color and contrast while I clique on, I especially zone completely while I was moving through banal landscapes in a deaturation washing. You have deserts, tundras and urban ruins, but everything blurs together. The snow and the desert are very similar without color and the areas to which you are supposed to go on the horizon can often not be clear since everything is in a tone, which leads me to go back without reason.
When I reached the end of my trip, I could not help but ask me what could have been. What if the team expressed more in history? And if the survival mechanisms were a little more complicated to manage? And if they interrupted the whole march or were just going on, condensing the story to allow us to focus on the choices and management of resources?
In the current state of things, I finished the game without much desire to repeat the trip to expand the many purposes (34 in total). Because if there are pleasant moments, it is distributed in a sparse and long corridor to move. Ashwalkers has the bones of some good ideas. I hope to see more about this studio because there are unique things to find here, Nameless XIII never really makes their brand. There are many walking simulators that make you forget what they are. Ashwalkers, unfortunately, is not part of it.