25/06/2022

Century: Age of Ashes review: A fiery breath of fresh air

Playwing delivers an intense and unique arena battler with Century: Age of Ashes.

Developed and Published by Playwing, Century: Age of Ashes is an arena combat game in which players ride on the backs of powerful dragons. This fantasy multiplayer experience has a handful of different game modes, classes, and roles to dig into. While the game has an excellent foundation, there are some clear areas where the developers can improve in the future.

How to train your dragon

The entirety of Century: Age of Ashes sees players on the back of a dragon, using the beast to take out enemies and traverse the world. Age of Ashes has a really helpful tutorial that introduces you to movement, combat, and abilities. You’re then eased into online play with “Rookie” matches, a scaled-down version of the full experience. It’s a great onboarding process for new players, as to not be overwhelmed when going head-to-head with veterans.

Playing on PC, I loved how the game controlled. Having to pull on my mouse and make sharp turns around structures was similar to the feel of piloting a jet or military aircraft. There’s an actual weight to the dragons that makes movement feel authentic.

The aerial combat in Century: Age of Ashes is incredibly fast-paced, and is probably the best “dragon dog fighting” I’ve experienced in a game. There’s an extreme intensity weaving between obstacles, dodging enemy attacks, and chasing after objectives. There were times where I found myself ducking or leaning forward in my seat as I piloted my dragon.

The game also has a very clear and easy to follow UI. There’s often a lot going on on-screen, but the player-circling and comprehensive HUD made it pretty simple to keep up with what was happening.

Dueling dragons

6v6 online matches is where Century: Age of Ashes really shines. The game has a few different game modes, including Carnage (Team Deathmatch), Spoils of War (6v6 gold collecting mode), and Raid (Capture the Flag). I found the objective-based modes to be much more exciting than standard team deathmatch, which feels a bit boring and slow in comparison.

There’s a great team dynamic that plays into Century: Age of Ashes’ two objective modes. In Raid, I would often take a defensive role, protecting my team’s flag as my allies went after the opponent’s. Then, I would usually meet them halfway and escort them back to our base, sending fireballs and bolts towards any pursuers. In Spoils of War, momentum can swing heavily at the drop of the hat. Instead of aimlessly collecting small amounts of coins, I’d group up with teammates and go after gems or enemies that had already accumulated an abundance of gold.

A lot of the team dynamic in Century: Age of Ashes is informed by the three classes: Windguard, Marauder, and Phantom. The Windguard excels at playing a supportive role, deploying shields and disorienting enemies. The Marauder is an assault class, with a focus on dealing damage and eliminating foes. The Phantom prioritizes stealth, flying under the radar and setting traps for the opposition.

The arena combat of Century: Age of Ashes is quite enjoyable, but it does feel a bit barebones, particularly after extended sessions of play. There’s only two objective-based modes, and although they’re enjoyable, it can get repetitive. I’d also love to see additional classes come to the game to shake things up and give players more team compositions to experiment with.

One particular aspect of the combat that frustrated me was the fire breath. When you’re close enough to a target, you can lock onto them and breathe a steady stream of flames. It’s near impossible to escape and feels like a death sentence once an enemy has gotten close enough to start doing it. I wish there was a way to punish enemies for getting too close, something that could work as a counter for fire breath.

A song of ice and fire

One of the subtler details that Century: Age of Ashes nails is sound design. The roar of the dragons, wings chopping the air, fireballs blasting in the skies, it all feels incredibly authentic. Even the sounds and verbal callouts of my human character helps to increase the immersion of it all. The sound is all bolstered by an epic score. The music sounds like something you would hear during a climactic battle in Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings.

For a game built with a small midsize team, I was also pleasantly surprised with how good Age of Ashes looked. The dragons have a realistic design, with enough detail to make every creature distinct from the next. A lot of this is thanks to the game’s gorgeous art style. It’s classic fantasy with exaggerated armor designs, sophisticated structures, and a network of rivers and mountains to navigate.

Soaring above

Century: Age of Ashes is an enjoyable spin on the arena shooter genre. An original concept and a solid gameplay foundation will surely get a lot of newcomers through the door, but I’m not quite sure how long they’ll stay. The small offering of game modes prove to be repetitive after a while, and there’s not too much variety in character builds or team composition. Luckily, these are all issues that I’m hoping will be addressed as times goes on and the developers at Playwing make Century: Age of Ashes an even better experience.


This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Century: Age of Ashes is available now for free on Steam.