Century: Age of Ashes is a multiplayer dragon dogfighting delight

From Smaug to Spyro, dragons are the coolest of all fantasy creatures. Combining the power of flight with fiery breath to rain death from above opens up a multitude of potential set pieces and epic gaming moments. It is therefore surprising how rarely games let you play as the dragon. Aside from the aforementioned Spyro terrorising sheep and gnorcs whilst wisecracking and generally being obnoxious, the only other standout examples are either flawed disasters like Lair or underappreciated gems like 2013’s Divinity: Dragon Commander. I was therefore really excited by the early footage of Century: Age of Ashes that started to appear last year. Culminating in a high profile spot at the Game Awards 2020, the promise of fully controllable free to play aerial dragon fights seemed tailor-made for me.

The first thing to hit you about Century: Age of Ashes is the level of polish in the presentation. Graphics are crisp and detailed with a good range of different dragons already in place. For a game that’s still at an early stage, I was especially impressed with the performance on show. I have a good system but it was pretty clear that optimisation has been a real priority for developers Playwing. Any new multiplayer game needs to aim for a wider user base so this is a wise move. I can definitely see this being a big hit on Twitch streams as it offers a very different option to the many competing gunplay-based battle royales out there.

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The Beta included three game modes alongside a free-for-all beginners’ area that doubled as a much-needed tutorial. One major improvement that Playwing could make would be a proper playable tutorial rather than the text-based one currently provided. Getting to grips with your dragon’s abilities takes a little time and the first few attempts, even in the beginners’ zone, were met with quick fiery death. Once you have got a hang of the controls though the main modes offer a larger play area and more strategic potential. The three classes used the same overall controls but with class-specific special abilities.

Team Battle, Free For All and Catch The Flag Modes are classic favourites in multiplayer games but the aerial combat here manages to give them a fresh feel. Catch the Flag in particular was my favourite as it required a combination of manoeuvrability and strategy with your team having to support or defeat whoever was flying through the rings. As with all the modes, though, there was an element of randomness in team setups and it was easy to quickly find yourself too far behind on points. This is one area that will surely improve once team matchmaking is properly set up.

One area that is always a worry with free to play games is the spectre of microtransactions and the threat of pay-to-win. While there were store purchases in the Beta build they are mostly cosmetic (with the obligatory XP bonuses as well) with unlocks also being available through levelling up. This is a tried and tested approach for free to play titles but with the added draw of pimping your dragon mount. Alternative mounts were also available through raising dragon eggs but this involved sacrificing some of your XP so may tempt some to speed up the process.

After getting a hands-on look at Century during the first Beta weekend a couple of weeks back I am happy to report that everything is shaping up well. There is obviously a lot more work to be done and extra features to be added but the early signs are good. As a multiplayer combat game a lot will depend on the player base but there was a healthy number of participants in the Beta trial with little downtime between matches. You can hop into the second beta today before the short wait until Century releases in April.

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