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Ashen Empires Review
Over-look no longer, Ashen Empires has everything you're looking for
By: Blair Morris | Game Data | 8:55am, March 18, 2006
In a world where ogres roam the roadside, the dead rise from their graves and goblin hordes terrorize the local townsfolk, you’ll find an adventure filled with multiple dangers, heroism and the acts of villainy. Iron Will Game’s Ashen Empires doesn’t set out to reinvent gaming as we know it; instead, what the game does deliver is a game rich in adventure and a freewill experience in developing your character as you see fit. Surrounding the main principles of the game, you’ll find various features, interactive abilities and addicting experiences which makes Ashen Empires one of the more over-looked titles in the online gaming community.

Entitled Dransik by original developer Asylumsoft, then purchased by TKO Software who renamed the title to its current name, and finally finding itself in the hands of Iron Will Games in December 2004, Ashen Empires has seen its own eventful existences. In September 2005, Ashen Empires saw a major update named “Demon Spire” which added some major revamping of almost all of its systems. Following up “Demon Spire,” Iron Will Games quickly launched the first expansion pack for the game in October 2005, called “Talazar’s Revenge.” All of this adding more adventure and features for the player to experience.

The Basics: A Vast Experience
Ashen Empires currently has two servers, “Heroes” (player verse player allowed) and “Legends” (non-player verses player). No matter the server of your preference, you’ll be able to customize up to four character (for each server) to your liking, choosing between gender, three races -- night elf, human and orc -- and the look of your character from three options -- skin color, hair style and hair color. Your class, job and skills will be entirely up to once entering the game. Once starting off, you’ll be washed ashore just outside the city of Valinor. Valinor is basically the tutorial and free to play world of Ashen Empires. Here you’ll receive all the information and experience you’ll need to know to make it in the Ashen Empire world. The game does a good job in explaining what’s what and how to become this and that in this tutorial world. Right off the bat you’ll be set up with a quest to learn the ins and outs of the game as it relates to fighting.

In the free to play and beginners city of Valinor, your character level cap is 10, and the skill and crafting levels at 15. To advance further into the game, you’ll need to subscribe for a monthly fee ($8.95 for one month, $25.95 for three months and $49.95 for six months; client download is free of charger). Once you’ve purchased a subscription, you’ll be able to access the entire world of Ashen Empires. Once you choose to entire the outside world, you’ll be able to choose the race you want to be associated with (night elves, humans or orcs). Each choice offers a different stat bonus for your character and will affect interaction with NPC.

The classes in Ashen Empires are decided by simply what type of weapon(s) you choose to train in. From mage weapons, bows and thrown weapons to swords, axes and clubs, you’ll be able to choose from almost two-handfuls of different types. For mages, there are four different categories of runes to choose to train in -- body, mind, soul and nature. Though, you can choose to train you character in any number of these weapons/classes. Three of your stats, strength, intelligence and dexterity, will also influence how strong, or balanced you’ll be at the chosen class.

The crafting system within Ashen Empires is well detailed and vast in the requirements you’ll need to complete each craft. You’ll have available to you the blacksmith, carpentry, tailoring, leatherworks, and several more crafting abilities. Using blacksmithing as an example, you’ll need to mine for iron ore, talking the ore and create iron ingots and finally forge the ingot into whatever your blacksmithing level will allow you to craft. Other crafting abilities use two to three different processes, like blacksmithing, in order to complete your desired task. With crafting comes the ability to create needed armor, weapons, and items and gain experience as doing so.

The leveling system is based upon experience like most related games. A great deal of your actions gives you various amounts of experience, and all skills have their own leveling system that you’ll need to focus on to become better equipped at any certain one. To gain more choices in tailoring, you’ll need to level your sewing skill for new item to appear as an option; this is the same for most of the crafting skills (cooking, brew-making and potion mixing relies on combining the right amount of ingredients). Quests also delivers various experience points to you; as well as, entering experience into your experience pool (e-pool) which you can only use for the various skills, not your characters overall experience level. Each time your character increases in level, you’ll be able to choose two “orbs” to put into four different categories -- strength, dexterity, intelligence and constitution.

Other features and experiences that you’ll find within Ashen Empires will be a large amount of quests. From major to small quests, you’ll fine numerous amounts within Ashen Empires, some redundant and some unique. Also, the library of non-playable characters to fight is large. Well actually, you can fight about everything that moves in the game, and this is where the choice of alignment and reputation comes into affect. If you attack a non-aggressive NPC (aside from hunting deer, rabbits, and some other game) you’ll become a criminal, and unless you’re good at avoiding towns and guards, or you’re strong enough to take them on, you won’t enjoy your time spent as a criminal too much. When on the “Heroes” server, you’ll be able to attack other players at the risk of your reputation sliding toward the evil hearted. With so much other experiences, added to what has been mentioned, you’ll need a huge world to house all of these, and that’s what Ashen Empires has. In some cases, depending where your desired destination is, it can’t take 30-minutes or more of straight walking to reach your destination. That’s not to say every town is spread far apart, most towns or dungeons are within minutes of each other.

Gameplay: Ashen Empires Beckons You
With so many experiences and features within Ashen Empires, the game really does beckon to what most players are looking for in a MMORPG. The quests within the game are abundant and varies in the time it‘ll take to complete, as well as the difficulty. You will run into some quests and task that are the same that’s been completed before, but benefits to easy experience in your “e-pool.” The crafting is rather fun to experiment with, and leveling to see which new item(s) you can craft becomes somewhat a thrill at first. The enemies to fight are vast within the game, and most have their own unique look; however, the difficulty of battle can become overwhelming. In that case, or in other cases, joining into groups or guilds can help aid in taking down desired NPC and completing certain quests in relation.

Laced throughout much of the game’s lands are books that explain the history of the people. The back story is quite entertaining and creative, and discovering the books to further your knowledge of the history is a quest itself. Even though the game has a solid historical story, the active storyline of the game is pretty none existent. Quests, exploring the lands, interacting with other players and just to the desire to level everything will be what fuel the direction of the game, instead of a story.

Overall, the gameplay is pretty solid, anything you could want in a MMORPG to play around with is present, and in some ways consists of a surplus in the total experience. All the various little things to experiment around with will keep the fun factor high. The only thing that leaves you wanting is a more direct storyline to compliment the back story of the game. Grade: 9

Replayabiltiy: The Only Problem, a Paradox
Ashen Empires consists of multiple little things that keep you coming back for more. With the desire of leveling your skills, crafting and character, to gathering different armors and weapons to improve your character, you’ll not only find yourself playing almost daily, but for hours a day, time permitting. Even after three months, you still have the desire to keep coming back daily, or at least wish you had the time to play daily. As dull as just leveling sounds as an excuse to keep coming back, it really does get addicting. The only problem with this is, leveling becomes awfully long in between of each other, and on some days can make you question your desire. When I say awfully long, the only reassurance needed to this is talking to other players that have been playing for months upon months and have only managed a level of 50 thus far. Then again, maxing out quickly doesn’t really give you too much to leave desired, here lies a paradox.

There won’t be much that will cause you to want to stay away. Even the community is an attracting draw to continue. If you have the time, patience and desire, you may find yourself playing for years to come. Grade: 10

Interface: Takes Nothing Away
One of the great things about Ashen Empires is a customizable interface in many ways. From placement and size to adding and taking away windows you can really adjust the game to your liking, adding more freewill even outside the game play. The controls and chat commands are rather simple to learn. You will not run into anything that is not explained, or find a complex cross-key control. You will be using your keyboard and mouse regularly, depending on your preference.

The visuals of the game consist mainly of 2D, but doesn’t offer anything earth shattering. That’s not to say you’ll be unable to find some impressing sights, but if you’re a new generation graphics fan, and if judge a game solely on the visuals, look elsewhere. In a good amount of the case the style of the art you’ll find does fit this game. There’s nothing noticeably that is taken away because of the visuals. You’ll also find the sound effects with the game can become a distraction at times. You may not want your speakers turned up to max because there are some sharp loud noises when you’re least expecting it. Though just like the visuals, the sound doesn’t take anything away from the game.

You’ll experience a pretty solid interface and navigation for the game. Not too much to label groundbreaking, but it does bring some freewill outside of the gameplay with the customization. As always, freewill, no matter the case, is a plus. Grade: 8

Community: Top Notch Attribute
Though you can go through some areas of the game without running into the players for a day or two, the size is quite efficient if you’re around some of the popular towns. As a whole, the community is very friendly to most, and you’ll find someone that will be eager to help you out by answering question, showing you around or just partying up for various reasons. Though the size of the community may not be jaw dropping at the current time, it has been on a constant upswing since Iron Will Games has taken over development. Possibly the most appealing characteristic of the community is their activeness within the game.

When it comes aiding newcomers or any with a question, the selected Game Masters (GM) are friendly and willing to help you out. The developers are particular active with the community. You can find developers answering questions and taking suggestions more frequently in the official forums than in the game. Also to aid with newcomers to the Ashen Empires world, a committee was developed that has regular gamers appearing in the free to play or beginners world to answer any question, or advise on any problems. So within your first visit to Ashen Empires, look for anyone from the Valinor Welcoming Committee (VWC) and you’ll get some great help.

You’ll probably have to search hard around the internet for another game that offers a top notch community like Ashen Empires. From its helpfulness to being knowledgeable about the game, the community is a great addition to the Ashen Empires experience. Grade: 10

Overall: A Definite Must
Ashen Empires is a high quality game that every MMORPG fan should try. For those that have yet to try an MMORPG, Ashen Empires is a great introduction to the genre as you’ll experience multiple features that are frequent to the genre; and some that most games just don’t include. It gets over-looked greatly because of it’s independent development, lack of promotion compared to other titles, but you get more than you pay for with Ashen Empires than most related games. There are some things that can become tiring, but for the most part, there are those features that make up for that. Overall, Ashen Empires is a very addicting game and produce a high quality experience. A definite must for anyone.

9.4 Gameplay 999 9
Replayability 101010 10
Interface 888 8
Community 101010 10
Reviewer's Tilt 101010 10
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