Finished my first playthrough in about 20-25 hours and I'm not sure how to feel about the game. Yesterday something outrageous happened in the story which made me immediately want to leave a negative review on Steam and drop the game, but after cooling down and going through to the end I'd say my like/dislike ratio settled around 55% to 45%.
The story is intriguing, I liked the three narrative arcs and all of the protagonists. I was always excited to switch characters and continue the others' stories and switch things up in combat since all of them play differently. That's great. I have to say however that either the translation from Russian to English is absolute crap or the writing is quite bad to begin with. The game drops massive lore dumps even from the start, I usually don't have issues getting into the lore of a game but here for example there are I don't know how many kingdoms which are either allied or at war and there's no encyclopedia or highlighting of terms like in PoE to assist the player. Then there are several events where I just didn't understand what happened, at some point someone gets killed by some crossbow bolts which flew out of nowhere and the party has no reaction, they don't investigate, there is no surprise, nothing. Another example would be how two characters in Thorn's party disappeared in the final chapter without anyone mentioning this, just to find them in one of the final fights allied with someone they claimed they despised. No idea what happened there.. It also feels like emotions and subtle ideas are lost in translation, sometimes the replies to what characters are saying seem completely unrelated. It's disappointing and confusing because the overarching story is quite interesting and the protagonists are very different in personality, goals and objectives and that kept me excited to find out what's going to happen next.
The world exploration was alright, I liked having to manage strixes even though I never had any issues affording the items which granted them because I never spent gold on card fragments (which feel quite underwhelming in combat, by the way, although there are some interesting synergies between some). This and the possibility of choosing different routes to go through on the map made me prefer it to Banner Saga's approach. It's also great that time passed actually matters, there are some events which happen or can be missed if you get somewhere in time or are too late.
The combat was also pretty good, I thought it provided just the right level of challenge without changing the default Reaping level. There's a good variety of classes for party members, unfortunately the same cannot be said for enemies, you end up fighting the same enemy compositions way too many times. I also think that being able to take turns in combat in whichever way you choose is preferable to the fixed initiative order in Banner Saga. What I thought was both retarded and interesting in a certain way was that if you're fighting against a single enemy, he takes one turn for each one of your party member's turns. Obviously, this turns that unit into a monster which actually works wonders when playing with Lo Pheng or Hopper and makes the player feel great, but it doesn't work as well when regular units are involved. It is counter-intuitive that as you kill enemies the ones that remain alive get to act more and more often. Overall, I'd say I preferred the combat in Ash of Gods to Banner Saga's and this is one of the reasons I will be replaying the game in the distant future, to try some different party compositions and play another protagonist solo mode.
I loved the music, it is absolutely superb and I must've spent at least half an hour in the main menu just listening to that theme. There are some brilliant songs in the final chapter and the combat music is really good as well. Visuals are solid as well, from the art style to animations in "cutscenes" and fights too. Sadly, the UI is not great and lacks some basic functionality such as being able to scroll through conversations (really..?). The map exploration screen doesn't let you plan routes and sometimes doesn't even indicate the location of your main objective. Sometimes text pops up on top of conversation menus. The party member icons seem very low quality, almost at a pixel art level of detail, I'm not sure if that's an intentional effect or not because it isn't consistent with anything else in the game.
Now the thing which infuriated me to no end and which might be a bit spoilery. Lo Pheng died in my playthrough in chapter six because of a choice I made around five hours before when I refused to save someone from dying. Now, choices and consequences are excellent when implemented PROPERLY, and in this case there was zero correlation between the two. The game effectively kills Lo Pheng if you want to roleplay him as a Shadow Clan warrior instead of a feel-good character that saves people and makes good decisions. I even wasted one hour backtracking and doing something differently because I refused to believe that you could get locked out of an entire story arc on the basis of ONE CHOICE. It's unbelievable that someone gave the go ahead on the design of this crap.. so that really tanked my enjoyment of the game, otherwise I would strongly recommend this game. Instead, my final impression is lukewarm.
I will probably replay this at some point to make some different choices and see where the story goes, from what I've been reading the game is quite good in that aspect.