Kicking Ash and Taking Names
By Eric, Getty, Gettinger
Some of the real issues that plague the world today are overpopulation, poor resource management, and the looming threat of war. Ashwalkers explore these avenues in a post-apocalyptic wasteland covered in mute gray tones. Through a mixture of point and click and text based adventure Ashwalker will push you to the limit as you are forced to choose your own path on the long road to save your dome. Characters are expendable and endings are plenty to slate the thirst of replayability. If you have the time and drive to give it several hours of your time you should be able to explore two endings or die trying.
Ashwalkers has you exploring the wastelands with a party of 4 members, each member also gives you the choices into their expertise. You can favor logic, stealth, brute force or diplomacy but again staying alive is paramount. These characters are your outlet to using those elements as well as your pack mules to hold resources. If someone falls then the squad may be unable to reason or diplomatically find their way through the wasteland. With the multiple ways to play however you can adapt your style. Ashwalkers lends itself to putting you in seemingly impossible situations where your choice can really make you wish for a mid-save function instead of the autosave that occurs at the start of each area.
As you follow the path, or multiple paths along the stages, you will be given prompts and options on how to react. If you react in a way where members get hurt or you lose resources you may find yourself in trouble. The resources you need are food, firewood, and healing kits. Stopping to recover warmth is essential as well as feeding your squad members but just to throw even more into the mix you can lose hope. Being out on the trail your squad may encounter or see things that cause them to become depressed or anxious. Losing hope can seriously hinder your ability to keep moving. On the camp screen you are able to start a fire, take a rest to sleep, talk (which will stave off loss of hope) and send the squad out for resources. Of course sending people out may or may not be successful and it takes a toll on them. It really is a balancing act as you navigate the wastelands. Do you try to search for items and potentially risk party members or think you will luck across some while exploring?
My time with Ashwalkers ended in two different ways. The first I was unlucky enough to make some bad choices. The squad slowly fell apart and I lost everyone. This was terrible to watch knowing that they were the ones who set out to save lives by reaching the ‘dome of domes’. Of course you can make the case that more scouts will come later, but after spending time with them you really don’t want them to fail. The other playthrough I was able to keep everyone alive to a resolution. It was close and wrought with a lot of tense moments, at times I was sure the party would die again. However, in the end I came to an ending that found the people of my dome relocated and surviving. A rather hopeful ending given the poor state of the world Ashwalkers is set in.
With the haunting melodies and the dangerous paths you will find in Ashwalkers. There is good mixed in with the bad. I felt at times that even with the different paths and choices I could make the story was still very linear. Ashwalkers is completely in black, white, and shades of gray making it difficult to see or even read some of the text prompts. Given the artistic direction taken with these elements the story itself is really good at times, as a choose your own adventure. The feeling of the squads success or failure stuck with me. I personally enjoyed the time I spent with Ashwalkers and I might come back later to see what other endings I can uncover.