Developed by Nameless XIII, the new studio from Dontnod co-founder Hervé Bonin, Ashwalkers thrusts players into a harsh world filled with decisions, branching paths, and lurking danger around every corner. I recently went hands-on with the latest demo for the game, and so far, it’s reminding me a lot of the brutal and unforgiving gameplay of dungeon crawlers like Darkest Dungeon.
Set 200 years after a massive geological disaster which has turned the planet into a wasteland, Ashwalkers puts players in control of a four-person party as they explore and try to find the “Dome of Domes”, a place that can stand against the constant waves that have left the world covered in ash. The current demo that I had a chance to try out only offers a small piece of the world that the developers have put together, but it was more than enough to remind me just how brutal games can be when they want to be.
Dungeon crawler controls meet in the middle with resource management, blending to create a unique drive as you dive deeper into the world and learn more about the characters in your party. You’ll need to rest, keep watch, and even decide how to make your way through various encounters as you search for the Dome of Domes.
Energy, food, and health are all stats that you’ll need to keep in mind and managing them is already tough in the opening moments of the game that the demo provides. This difficult and harshness reminds me a lot of Frostpunk, a city builder focused around building up one of the last colonies of the world in a frozen world.
It only took around fifteen to twenty minutes to play through the demo once, though there were additional paths I could have taken, which could have led to entirely different instances. Player choice looks to be a very big component of the game, with players often having to decide whether they should fight, sneak, or try to negotiate with others they come across.
During my playthrough, I came across a lonely man at a campfire. Approaching cautiously, I was able to earn myself a place at his fire for the night. This allowed me to let my party rest some, and we left quietly in the morning without any incident. Another interaction, though, found me trapped inside of a mansion with a group of savages who wanted me to fight to the death in one-on-one combat to prove my worth.
Instead of fighting I decided to run deeper into the mansion, soon finding myself backed into a corner with only two options for escape—head through a dark tunnel filled with signs of danger or light the mansion on fire to drive the savages away. I chose the latter and soon found myself rushing to get out of the burning mansion before it collapsed upon me. All of your decisions help shape who your party is and can even change the dynamic relationships between them.
If you love dungeon crawlers, then Ashwalkers looks to offer a solid entry in the genre, filled with choices that help change the overall direction your characters take. The game is currently planned for a 2021 release and the developers say that it will feature 34 different endings, giving players plenty of reason to play through it again and again.