The first question we need to ask is: What am I, the sheepiest of all PvE sheep, doing in a PvP battle royale game? The second question follows: How quick will it be until my inevitable death?
The answer to the second question is pretty simple, as I have a lifespan measured in microseconds. But as for the first, there’s a very good reason why I downloaded, registered for, and played Ashes of Creation Apocalypse. Like many other MMO fans, I’m terribly curious about this ambitious upcoming MMORPG and will leap at any opportunity to check out its combat, world, and design — even if it means a death sentence.
This battle royale mode, which started up earlier this week, is ostensibly designed to test the game’s systems and be an ongoing companion to the MMO. While some fans and backers are concerned that this might take an H1Z1 route for the worse, for others it’ll provide some idea of what we might expect when Ashes of Creation emerges from development.
I admit it: This is my very first battle royale match in my very first battle royale game. I know the concept behind this game mode (having covered countless battle royale titles over the past years for MOP), which is good because the game spends zero time explaining any of it. After fiddling with a slightly obtuse lobby screen, I jumped into a match and found myself in a square with other people who were hacking away at each other with axes.
Turns out they were Nerf axes or something because this was a pre-show staging area and nobody could be hurt. Then the “apocalypse” happens, we get a psychedelic light show, and then we’re on griffons gliding down to our choice of a landing on the battlefield. I’ve had dreams that make more sense than this.
If you’re not familiar with these games, you just need to know that battle royale is a PvP mode in which you and everyone else in the match is thrown onto a map that’s ringed by a circle of death (here it’s an ominous red wall). Every minute or so, the circle grows smaller and players are gradually corralled together. If you die, you’re out of the match, and it becomes an issue of last person to survive while scavenging for weapons, killing quickly, and trying to stay ahead of the wall.
Naturally, I’m there solely to be a sight-seeing tourist, which means that I’m easy pickings for anyone with half an inkling for PvP. So let’s talk about what I saw, shall we?
At this point and confined to this particular battlefield, Ashes of Creation is reasonably pretty… but not quite done. It was really hard for me to put my finger on why the visuals weren’t clicking for me, and the best I can explain is that they have a slightly muddled look like how graphics can get when a computer is still loading in the full textures. The closest visual analogue to this game might be Elder Scrolls Online, and that’s not a terrible insult.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I died a lot. In my first match, I died to “gravity” when I jumped off a ledge that was a tad too high. In my second, I made it all the way down a stairwell before some jumpy, jittery player with a spear lunged at me and hacked me to shreds.
Try three! This time I was bound and determined to run away and hide, like any good sheep would. Here I hunkered down in a hut for a while, contemplating the future of player housing in this game and hoping that I wouldn’t die an inglorious…
…well, I died. Obviously. To this guy above. You see, to add insult to injury, whenever you’re killed in this game, the camera starts following around your killer. All you can do is seethe and call down curses and pray that he’ll be killed (which he was) so that you can start following around his killer. And so the pattern goes.
At least all of this started to give me a feel for Ashes of Creation’s combat system, which as far as I could figure out was “lunge at each other, swing away wildly, and hope that you one-shot the other guy before you get one-shotted.” It wasn’t that inspiring, to say the least. There was so little feedback or ability to take multiple hits that I honestly didn’t care about making it to the end. Every encounter felt like a random flip of the coin between a winner and loser, and while the weapon names and effects were impressive, there’s no time during a match to figure out what each does or how effective they’re being.
Of course, you’ll want to help yourself to a grain or two of salt along with this preview. It’s an early build of a side game of a main MMO in development, and I can’t gauge how effective and fun it is compared to other battle royale titles. At least the matches were functional start to finish and showed us some pretty scenery, fluid animations, and wicked-looking instruments of death.
I’ll look forward to trying out the Ashes’ PvE side when that’s released to public for consumption — and I’ll give wide berth to any PvP activities when the game launches for good.