Not So Massively: Impressions of Century Age of Ashes’ new PvE mode

    
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Back in 2021, I took a look at an early version of dragon-riding arena shooter Century: Age of Ashes. I found that its core gameplay held promise, but the game was at the time far too unfinished to deliver on that promise.

Since then, Century has launched out of early access, and it’s recently added a new PvE mode called The Last Bastion. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to check up on how the game has progressed.

As a PvP not-enjoyer, I was of course eager to dive into the new co-op mode. The gameplay of the Last Bastion is pretty simple: A team of four players flies into a small valley home to two towers. Waves of eel-like enemies will fly in and attempt kamikaze runs against the towers. If the towers are destroyed, the players lose. If they can make it to the end of all waves with the towers intact, they win.

Over the course of the match, players earn gold, and in between waves, each player can spend that gold on one of two random upgrades that will persist until the end of the match, including options like reduced ability cooldowns or more powerful flame breath for their dragon.

I do feel like the enemies could stand to have a bit more variety. All enemies use the same model, with just different sizes and colours differentiating them, and they mostly behave the same way. A few enemies have special abilities, like periodically firing projectiles at players or detonating an AoE on death, but for the most part it all kind of feels like more of the same.

The Last Bastion also suffers a bit from the fact the game wasn’t originally designed with this kind of PvE mode in mind. Some abilities and classes are just vastly superior to others in this mode.

For example, I continued playing as the Windguard, the game’s support-ish class. With almost nothing in the Last Bastion damaging players, I found my heal felt nearly useless a lot of the time. On the other hand, my blast ability, which is one of the game’s only sources of AoE damage, was overwhelmingly powerful against the swarms of enemy sky-eels. Despite being ostensibly a support class, I could dominate the kill charts with judicious use of my AoE.

One final criticism I have of this PvE mode is that it is a little on the long side for my taste. With 10 waves to fight off, I found matches tend to be upward of 30 minutes, which is just slightly longer than I find comfortable for this type of content. It just edges it out of that “hmm, I have 20 minutes to kill, might as well bang out a quick match” sweet spot.

All that said, I do still find the Last Bastion to be a pretty enjoyable experience. Century‘s core gameplay is still very strong, and while I may not be great at it, the moments when everything clicks feel amazing. Dive into the midst of the enemy, set off my AoE to slay a dozen at once, corkscrew into the air, execute a bombing run on the back of a larger foe… all in the span of a few seconds. It just feels good.

I was also glad to see that PvE is not being treated as a second-class citizen by the game. You can still earn XP and complete daily quests in the Last Bastion, bar those that have objectives specific to PvP modes (but there are also PvE-specific dailies). I did note that some objectives for raising dragons — a mechanic to unlock new cosmetic dragon customizations — are still PvP-only, but perhaps that will change in time. PvE is still a new addition to the game, after all.

While sampling the PvE was my focus, I did also take this opportunity to see how Century has progressed in general since I last played. It has grown… but not by as much as I’d expected or hoped.

On the plus side, there’s an actual tutorial now. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

On the other hand, one of my biggest criticisms — that the classes are so similar — has not been addressed. All classes still have the same core gameplay, with a just a few long cooldown abilities separating them.

And on the subject of classes, a fourth — the Stormraiser — has been added, but it’s not available by default. You need to unlock it via the cash shop, or by grinding out a rather considerable sum of in-game currency.┬áNormally locking classes in this way leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I don’t love it here, but given how little difference your choice of class makes, I suppose it’s not the end of the world.

Aside from that, Century does deliver on its promise of cosmetic-only micro-transactions. The cash shop offers a wealth of skins for both dragons and their riders, and as in so many games these days, there’s a battlepass with both free and premium tiers.

There’s also a new bestiary tab that offers a wealth of lore on the dragons you ride and the world they dwell in. It’s unlocked as you play — both by earning new dragons yourself and encountering them new ones ridden by other players. I have to be honest, though, as one of the biggest video game lore nerds you’ll ever meet, even I struggle to take an interest in lore that is so divorced from the gameplay. There is no story outside this bestiary to make me care enough to delve deeper.

Regretfully, my conclusion is that Century is still a game that isn’t developed enough to deliver on its potential. There’s still very little depth or content here, and while the new PvE mode is fun, it’s not enough to carry the game if you’re not also invested in its PvP modes.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.
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