Bold in scope, but limited in absorbing game play, Ashes of Empire is a logisticians battleground. The enormous depth of the game notwithstanding, Ashes of Empire provides a multitude of options to juggle in order to restore balance to this fictitious world -- and therein lies the problem.
Although ambitious in design, actual gameplay eventually devolves into weighty exercises in logistics. Even if designed for diplomacy, military supremacy, or resource management, the fact remains that the game tries to do too much and thus, fails to absorb players because it never reaches out to grab you with intense action or gut-wrenching decision making. In your peacemaker role, you spend most time hopping from location to location looking for VIPs for assigning management resource duties and ensuring facility acquisition. With control over resources a major factor in pleasing the local populace, you'll need to concentrate on this aspect throughout the game. Occasional forays into a sticky military situation crop up, at which time you get to employ a variety of aircraft, underwater craft, sea-going vessels, or ground vehicles. Unfortunately, these glimpses of life in the fast lane are too few and far between, while the lack of decent sound does nothing to provide anything approaching stimulating action.
Headway in Ashes of Empire is nearly assured by anyone with a firm grasp of the skills and the tenacity required to monitor and manage accumulated statistics and details, such as supply inventories, locations and names of contacts and various strengths, weaknesses and needs (e.g., surpluses, shortages, clothing, food, etc.) of various populations. Since contact with individuals scattered over the regional sites plays such a large role in successfully molding these rebuilding societies, the time limit imposed to accomplish tasks is annoying and serves no useful purpose. At times, the game boils down to a simplified supply and demand prospect requiring constant knowledge of your inventory base. As emissary of peace, you have eight persuasion "tools" (e.g., charm) to fall back on when trading isn't feasible -- unfortunately, there are no clues available to determine how to approach any one individual so time is wasted searching through your choices in an unsatisfactory trial and error method.
Even with all the shortcomings, including flaws in execution, the game provides an interesting look at global unrest albeit not one you'd want to spend much time with. The challenge factor just isn't there and the game falls short of riveting gameplay. Unfortunately, there's not enough fire here to stir the Ashes of Empire into a blaze.
Graphics: Fairly limited and definitely dated.
Sound: Few and far between.
Enjoyment: Might appeal to number crunchers and the resource management crowd, but don't expect "action" sequences to spice it up.
Replay Value: Oddly enough, replay value is one of the game's stronger points due to the sheer number of locations and individuals encountered.
The Confederation of Syndicalist Republics is the setting for this strategy and combat game. Much like the similar looking USSR at the time, the society is crumbling, and you are an upstart aiming to take over power for yourself ..... erm, I mean, aiming to bring peace, harmony, prosperity and happiness.
You start off in a small coastal province, and must progress by meeting people and negotiating to get them on your side - sometimes the sword is mightier than the pen, sometimes not. You must ensure that the more militant locals are pacified, and that ethnic minorities are looked after.
While those sections are all strategic, there are also some vector-based combat sections. These ensure that brawns are required along with brains, and give the game some variety.
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Ascendancy, Assault Trooper, Atrox, Ata: Extracts from the American Civil War, Axis & Allies, Arrakis, Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory, Atlas
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