Century: Age of Ashes comes from developer Playwing and appeals to everyone’s burning desire to ride dragons. The game is a multiplayer, competitive arena combat game that allows players to customize their characters and dragons, and compete against other players in a handful of different game modes.
First and foremost we should talk about the dragon flying. As a play on the dogfighting genre, knowing what/how you’re dogfighting is pretty important. The dragons maneuver more or less how you would expect: pretty standard aerial flight mechanics with a dash to gain speed and a brake to help you slow down and turn on a dime. In terms of combat, each class has fireball and fire breath attacks, which work exactly as they sound, and then two special abilities that depend on your class. A Windguard for example might have a smoke trail they can use, while a Phantom can turn invisible for a short period of time, and the Marauder has frost bolts that work similarly to the fireballs but with more powers.
Combat and flying in Century: Age of Ashes might seem pretty neat, and at least at first it really is, but the combat quickly loses some of its magic. The flying is fun but really pretty simple, and the combat relies heavily on auto-aiming, often making it hard to see where the skill really comes into the game. Additionally, the camera hugs too tightly to the back of the dragon for my liking, making it hard to tell what’s happening, especially once you actually get into a dogfight and can’t determine who is attacking you or where they are coming from. The biggest issue though is just how similar everything is. You can customize the dragons and your gear, but it’s all cosmetic, which means that the only differences between you and your opponents are the two special abilities afforded to each class. But when there are only three classes and the special abilities have cooldowns, there is a disappointing lack of uniqueness to the classes, and it’s often impossible to get out of a dogfight once someone starts chasing you because you both have the exact same maneuverability.
To explain the game modes for a moment, the game’s first mode, Spoils of War, has two teams of six battle against each other to see who can gain the most gold. Players collect gold by attacking yellow dragons that fly around the map. Dealing damage to them will cause them to release coins into the air that you can collect. Once you collect the gold, you take it back to the base to your base/spawn point to add it to your team’s total. Carnage, the second mode, pits two teams of six in a deathmatch, where each team scores points for killing an opponent. It’s a much more intuitive mode than Spoils of War. The final mode, Gates of Fire, is a sort of capture-the-flag where each team competes for possession of a flag, that they then fly through various gates to score points.
While Century: Age of Ashes has three modes, Spoils of War is overwhelmingly the best. It just has the best balance of goal and combat. The other two modes lean so heavily on combat that they just get incomprehensible and impossible to track at a certain point, as the relatively small maps quickly devolve into chaos. Especially considering how similar all of the different classes are, the combat-focused modes often just come down to seeing the opponent first, because the auto-aim and the opponents’ lack of unique movement abilities makes it incredibly difficult to gain an advantage once the matchup has begun.
The visuals of Century: Age of Ashes have a similar story as the gameplay. Obviously, as you’ve seen from the images so far, the game is simply gorgeous. The models and textures of the dragons, the characters, the maps, and all the other objects look incredible, and the effects and lighting are similarly masterful. The visuals demonstrate a level of skill that few other games do, but I can’t help but feel uninspired by them. Sure, they technically look great, but the game feels lacking in style. While there’s something to be said about realistic graphics, especially in a dogfighting game, I wish that they had a little more fun with the lighting and the effects to really lean into the fantasy elements of the game. This Skyrim-eqsue visual approach looks nice enough, but it doesn’t really distinguish the game from the countless other medieval fantasy games out there.
Ultimately Century: Age of Ashes struggles to find what makes it distinct. It comes in with good ideas and a genuine interest in presenting a new and unique game, but it just struggles to find the fun. The gameplay focuses too heavily on symmetrical balance, with all the players having the same abilities and skills, forgetting that arena games (and especially dogfighting games) need to instead have a wide variety of skills and abilities that all balance out nicely. The visuals look great but don’t have any real identity, and the game modes often fail to find creative uses of the unique aerial combat systems. The game isn’t bad, though. I have plenty of gripes and nitpicks with it, but really the game just fails to grab my attention and make me want to learn more about it and get better.
Score: 5 out of 10
Reviewed on PC