Ashwalkers Review – Walk and Talk
Developed by Nameless XIII
Published by Dear Villagers
Available on PC
I’m a sucker for “walking simulators.” I know it’s usually used to be mean to games, but I really do just love exploring a world and seeing whats up. Ashwalkers is, in a way, a real walking simulator. You play as a team of scouts leaving a safe haven in an effort to find another safe haven. To do so they must walk across the Ashlands, in a journey that will take them months and comes full of difficult choices. Should you chose to play the game? You can read our review and find out.
The game stars four characters who are on a quest to walk across the Ashlands in an effort to find the Dome of Domes and save civilization. There’s Petra, the team’s captain, Sinh, the punchy fighter man, Kali, the team’s diplomat, and Nadir, the sneaky scout. Each of the characters has their own personality traits and offers up different ideas and solutions to each problem. For example, coming across a wolf will see Sinh suggest killing it, Kali attempt to just scare it away, Nadir wanting to run, and Petra suggests lighting a fire to distract it. You can pick which actions you carry out, and each of them has different rewards and consequences that only become obvious after your move.
For as much good writing as Ashwalkers has, there’s one detail that really bothered me about it. As you walk around the world, you’ll meet natives you can interact with. For some reason, the game decides to call them “savages.” It’s a loaded derogatory term, one that has a long history of being used against native cultures. It really should have been swapped out for basically anything else.
Awful word choice aside, however, there’s still a lot to like in Ashwalkers. Your journey will take you across multiple situations and provide several different options on how to handle them, with each situation leading to more and more branching paths. For example, early on I stumbled across an mansion with a group of natives hanging out inside of it. They said I could stay, but wanted one of my scouts to challenge their warrior in a one on one fight, not to the death, to prove we’re worthy. I decide to send in Sinh, since he is my puncher after all, and instruct him to go all out. The result? Sinh accidentally kills the leader and the natives force us to leave with no supplies or information, though at least we’re also unharmed.
But I could also have just denied the challenge. Or I could have sent Petra into the arena and try to have her outsmart the champion. Maybe I could have had Kali talk her way through it. Or Nadir could have danced around the arena and tire him out. There’s plenty of options, and each of them lead to different paths that lead to one of the game’s 34 endings. It only takes a couple of hours to play through Ashwalkers, and once you finish the game you can chose to start in any of the game’s six levels and with different results from the past levels, so it’s always possible to explore and try for those options you didn’t see before.
Of course, if you actually want to reach the Dome of Domes, you have to survive the wastelands. While there are sometimes monsters in the way, Ashwalkers lacks combat of any kind. Instead everything is determined by four stats: energy, hunger, warmth, and moral. As you walk your energy, hunger, and warmth will all slowly fall, and they fall more if you perform certain actions. If any fall to zero, then that character’s health begins to slowly drain, and should that hit zero the character dies. When a character dies they are dead for good, but you can continue your quest without them. Its only game over should you find yourself down to one character.
If you want to restore those stats then you need to make a camp. In camp you can start a fire, pass out food and medkits, and assign camp tasks like sleeping, talking, exploring, or taking a watch shift. You can stay in camp for as long as you need, though the longer you stay the more the fire dwindles and the higher chance of a negative random event befalling you after assigning tasks. Before long it becomes a balancing game, with you having to figure out how many of your resources you can afford to spend while still keeping your team alive and having more for any emergencies you may run into in the future.
Morale is a little different. As events happen, there’s a chance that it could raise or lower your team’s morale. You can also have your squad talk at camp, which has a chance of restoring it as well. High or low morale won’t heal or hurt them, but some actions could have their outcome changed depending on which one you have. It’s a little more vague, and you can pay less attention to it than the important stats, but its worth keeping an eye on.
It’s tense, if a bit on the easy side. By the end of most runs I either had all my squad members alive, or only lost one due to poor choices that resulted in an instant death. It feels like you usually have to be trying to actually lose someone due to supply problems. Considering it usually takes 2 to 3 hours to get to an ending, this is at least something of a blessing, as you won’t feel like a ton of progress got lost thanks to supply issues.
I found the trip I took in Ashwalkers to be well worth taking. While I wish some of the language was altered, it doesn’t change the fact that I still enjoyed the story by the end. If you’re looking for something to replay several times, in the hopes of finding many different endings, then Ashwalkers is for you. Even if you’re just a one and done gamer, the story and setting is still rather fantastic.