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Game Info:

Ashwalkers: A Survival Journey
Developed By: Nameless XIII
Published By: Dear Villagers
Released: March 10, 2022
Available: Switch, Windows
Genre: Adventure, Survival
ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Blood, Violence
Number of Players: Single player
Price: $19.99

Thank You Dear Villagers for providing us with a review code!

I’m glad to see that the “choose your own adventure” style of games are refusing to die out. I have a bit of nostalgia with them as I used to play both Oregon Trail and Organ Trail when I was in middle/high school. Developer Nameless XIII introduces Ashwalkers: A Survival Journey into the genre with a unique premise.

Post-apocalyptic settings aren’t exactly unique, but with Ashwalkers the weather is highly hostile to them. When it snows ash, rains acid, and the fog contains sulfur, it’s gonna be tough for anyone to live. The main premise of Ashwalkers is that an expedition squad is sent out into the harsh environment to locate the Dome of Domes, a fabled area that can hopefully lead the surviving people to salvation. The player will control Petra, Sinh, Kali, and Nadir as they trudge through the hostile world avoiding or engaging Savages, other survivors, and the somewhat mutated environment.

The entire world is displayed in a black, white, and grey palette. The combined colors create a dreary atmosphere that does a great job of selling the theme of hopelessness. Sometimes unknown beings are solid black, resembling a charred person or thing. Those two aspects of the world are done well. In contrast, it seems like the user interface wasn’t taken in consideration. As most of the world is a white color, everything resembling letters, numbers, and symbols is also white, making words hard to see. Often they blend into the world, making choices confusing.

Ashwalkers: A Survival Journey
Highlights:

Strong Points: Unique and interesting premise
Weak Points: Unfortunately that sense of “wow’ fades after a few endings; confusing and inconsistent controls; runs at a low frame rate; user interface blends in with the setting
Moral Warnings: Many morality choices from choosing to fight and kill other survivors, to outright disregarding your superiors; blood is displayed as a red stain on the ground or on a person’s clothing

The Switch version of Ashwalkers controls like any 3D action-adventure. You’ll use the left control stick to walk around the environment, picking up many goods that will aid in your squad’s survival such as kindling, food, and medical supplies. Kindling is used to make fires and fires allow your squad to rest. Food is for hunger, and medical supplies are to restore health. Heath is lowered by certain decisions made such as confronting a wild animal or group of survivors. Health will also decrease when any of your three gauges below the health bar (representing hunger, warmth, and energy) is empty. Each squad member has a limited number of items they can hold before they become encumbered, causing the energy gauge to decrease at a faster rate. What’s strange about the controls is that the PC version had movement controlled by point-and-click. Despite the Switch both having a touchscreen and infrared sensors, you can’t use the touch screen to navigate, nor can you use the infrared as a pointer. The way the control stick was programmed, sometimes your characters will lock up for no discernible reason, and sometimes pressing buttons causes the whole thing to lock up.

When seeking out the Dome of Domes, you’ll have to juggle your resources to make sure your squad survives. Whenever you’re low on your gauges, you can set up camp. Making campfires warms your characters up. In this menu, you can also feed the squad, send out members to search for supplies and rest up to restore energy. Depending on where you set up camp, danger can either be low, average, or high. You can have your squad guard the campsite to prevent any hostiles from attacking. There is also the talk function that is used to worldbuild, as well as increasing your squad’s motivation.

You’ll be making plenty of decisions in Ashwalkers as specific spots trigger events that will have you make a choice. Some of these choices will either harm or help your team. Making decisions will lead you anywhere to thirty-four “different” endings. The gameplay loop of navigating through the wasteland, selecting different choices, collecting resources, and setting up camp can be somewhat slow due to the general pace. It also becomes apparent that survival isn’t all that difficult as I was able to reach an ending on my very first playthrough.

Ashwalkers: A Survival Journey
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 54%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 2/5

Morality Score - 83%
Violence - 4.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

Unfortunately, the Switch version runs on average at 15 frames per second, while dropping to the single digits in specific areas. I wish I understood why the frame rate is so awful as the graphical fidelity of Ashwalkers isn’t that high. To me, it just seems like a poor optimization of the engine as there are moments where it can run at 30+FPS. I don't believe it was a "cinematic" choice either as the PC version runs at a consistent frame rate

Now with many decisions in a desolate setting come moral choices that can be seen as bad. Because the squad is fighting for survival, they may have to make tough choices. They may use a distracted survivor as bait against the wildlife so they can pass on safely. They may choose to kill others just to get on by or to steal their resources. Some endings may have you outright go against the order of seeking out the Dome of Domes and find something entirely different. You can be as equally selfish as you can be selfless in Ashwalkers. Other moral warnings include blood shown as a red bloodstain on the ground or a person’s article of clothing. As far as I am aware, language is kept clean but I also haven’t seen all thirty-four endings, let alone all branches of dialogue. Just keep in mind that language can be a possible factor.

An interesting premise hampered down by poor execution, Ashwalkers struggled to capture me. The Switch version especially runs terribly with inconsistent frame rate and unresponsive controls (while also taking no advantage of the Switch’s unique features), and it’s a shame because the handheld nature easily supports the typical two-hour runtime it takes for a run started from scratch. Obtaining other endings will be easier and faster as you gain the option not only to run after beating the game once, but also get to select from specific areas so certain endings can be reached by as short as five to ten minutes. Morality varies greatly due to the choices that can be made. The least you’ll probably see in a playthrough is some blood and violence. When I shortly found out that all thirty-four endings are just variations of six main endings, my curiosity all but vanished as you’ll see nearly everything Ashwalkers has to offer in just a few hours. Until major stability updates are made, I would advise avoiding the Switch version altogether.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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