Century: Age of Ashes Review

I began my preview of Century: Age of Ashes a few months back with a lengthy discussion of dragons in gaming from Spyro to Lair. However, having spent some time reading through fan discussions of the game it turns out that the creatures in Century are actually wyverns. The key difference between the two fantasy species is that wyverns have two legs and wings whilst a dragon is quadrupedal with separate wings on their back. Every day is a school day around here. Whatever the species specifics, it’s still true that controlling a flying, fire breathing and giant lizard is hella cool and a welcome change from the ubiquitous shooty man of so many other multiplayer titles.

It’s perhaps just as well that Century: Age of Ashes is aiming for such a different audience as it is entering the world of free to play multiplayer at the same time as the mighty Halo: Infinity (despite its less than impressive battle pass implementation), not to mention the many other long-running successes in the field. While very different in tone and setting than its many competitors the mechanics of Century’s economy and progression are overly familiar. There are multiple levels of currencies and a multitude of cosmetic upgrades to work towards. These are, of course, optional and primarily exist to enable players to support the game’s upkeep but there are the usual ridiculously priced options to tempt potential whales (or the nearest fantasy equivalent). There is a very slow drip feed of currency and XP to build your character and equipment so you don’t have to pay but the temptation is always there.

The presentation here is pretty polished for a relatively small release with decent performance and a graphical style that has echoes of Game of Thrones. There are an impressive range of dragons to unlock and raise from eggs (although doing so splits XP between your character and the egg so slows your progress) and the three different classes available at launch looking distinctive. Audio is fine but nothing particularly memorable and the relatively small number of soundbites soon become repetitive. Likewise, the dramatic player reveal at the start of every round gets old pretty quickly, but this is a generic rather than individual issue.

The beta build suffered from a lack of a tutorial, meaning that you had to learn the basics when under attack from other players. I’m pleased to report that this has been remedied here and a functioning tutorial is included. This served as a useful refresher for me and felt like it covered the controls in a sensible way. I never quite got the hang of controls on mouse and keyboard though, as I found myself instinctively pressing W to go forward when it isn’t needed. Controller felt more natural here but I imaging that mouse will provide the most precise control when mastered.

There is no real backstory here which feels like a missed opportunity, as does the lack of any bot style practice modes. There is a simplified 3 vs 3 mode only available to players under level 5 but this can still result in very quick deaths for new players. Appropriately enough getting started here is a real trial by fire. Once you get going, there are 3 regular game modes at present with all being variations of team-based action. Carnage is Century’s Team Deathmatch and sees 2 opposing teams of 6 slugging it out across the sky.

Some kind of narrative here could have been achieved through teams made up of the same class but there is no restriction. This can result in a lack of balance as experienced teams work out the best way to min-max their way to victory – an issue only made worse by the original matchmaking system that often resulted in 2 against 6 matches with the 6 being high level organised teams. This was a morale sapping experience to say the least. The other modes are familiar too, with Gates of Fire being a capture the flag affair, and Spoils of War requiring you to collect gold and return it to your base.

These game modes sound varied but the lack of many particularly distinct environments and any kind of narrative make them feel very similar after several plays. There are plans for more classes and game modes to be added but it is debatable what the player base will be when these appear. This past weekend saw a battle royale style free-for-all Chaos mode – an approach which seemed far more fitting for the lack of ingame voice communication but this was a limited event. More of these events will be needed to keep more than a hardcore of highly skilled players interested.

In more positive news, a new patch has introduced an improved matchmaking system which apparently goes some way to remedy the issues with unbalanced teams and widely different skill levels being paired against one another but my interest has already waned by this point. In part due to the competing Halo: Infinite which has a much larger player base and therefore quicker game matching but also due to the fact that playing Century is often an exercise in frustration. Without an organised squad of players you’ll find yourself being shot out of the air with little chance of improvement and team games are generally ridiculously one-sided. I’m willing to admit that I clearly suck at the game itself but the whole setup doesn’t encourage perseverance with it’s samey locations and glacial level progress.

All in all I’ve found myself disappointed with Century: Age of Ashes. There is a fairly solid central PvP F2P game here but nothing to make it stand out aside from the presentation. The modes are basic and repetitive and levelling up takes so long it seems set to encourage spending real money on cosmetic upgrades. On the surface this looked like the game my teenage self dreamed of, but like most teenage dreams, this mainly results in sore wrists and a feeling of shame and disappointment.
  • Nice fantasy twist on PvP
  • The wyverns look great
  • Decent performance
  • No narrative hook
  • Limited game modes
  • Difficult to improve as individual
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Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.