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PAX West Exclusive: Interview with Jeffrey Bard

By: Mithrandiel

At PAX West there were quite a few booths that were bustling all weekend long: Square Enix and its Dissidia NT stations, Cuphead, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite… the list goes on. One booth in particular that had hopeful gamers eagerly waiting for 2+ hours was Intrepid Studios large presence alongside its Kickstarter phenomenon Ashes of Creation. 

The most successful MMO Kickstarter of all time, Ashes of Creation has already established a broad and devoted fanbase that is eagerly awaiting the soonest phase that they can enter this new world. We had the opportunity to interview Jeffrey Bard, Lead Game Designer of Ashes of Creation and a senior member of Intrepid Studios. Take a listen as he reviews what will make this new title unique, including the methodology surrounding PvP vs PvE scenarios, bringing the fun back to leveling, and why he hates the phrase “end-game” content.

Demo – First Impressions

A member of the Intrepid Studios team walked us through a 15-20 minute demo of the Pre-Alpha. The team was made up of a tank (myself), a ranger, a cleric and a mage. Our guide explained the concept surrounding nodes: as you adventure through the world, killing monsters, harvesting and such, the area you are in gains experience right along with you. Like players, these “nodes” can level up to a few different levels: camp, village, town, city and metropolis. As these nodes grow and civilizations are borne out of them, people might decide that a particular city is getting too big and can raid it and destroy it over time. This flow of towns being built up and torn down, with the tumultuous history that is created as a result, is certainly one of the defining characteristics of Ashes of Creation in how it wishes to revitalize the MMO genre.

After a brief explanation on nodes and our respective classes, we set off. For being in pre-alpha, the environments in the demo were gorgeous. Lots of lush effects drew you into this world, and even though we didn’t get to venture into the town nearby, it made me curious and excited for what the world of Ashes of Creation could eventually look like.

It wasn’t too long before we dove into combat, which, to be honest, was probably the most disappointing aspect of the demo. I appreciate the desire to revolve around a combo-based system. Moving my character around and positioning all felt good, and my tank skill-set was familiar based on my previous experience. However, there is no set “Auto-attack” in Ashes of Creation, and the result is a frustrating spam of your primary ability (a standard strike) while also hoping to time the combo meter precisely to possibly land a second hit. Some of the “sweet spots” on my combo bar were placed at the very front end, which meant a blink pretty much ruined my chances of extending that combo.

Now, I present this criticism knowing two things fully well:

  1. It’s in pre-alpha – which means that (for better or for worse), the system could be worlds apart from the system I used.
  2. There was some input lag, which may have been the result of the setup/servers/venue or some combination of the three and beyond.

Knowing this, I’m not panning the entire game based on a not-so-optimized combat experience. That being said, I sincerely hope they continue to get great feedback from the fans on how to tweak and optimize their combat system before the final product lands.

Our demo concluded with an epic boss fight within the heart of a mountain. Our guide explained that as nodes/areas become populated and activity picks up, various evils will awaken as well. This will present unique World Bosses, Raids and other opportunities for adventure. Furthermore, there may be a monster causing a blizzard, which in turn kills your crops and ruins your chances at leveling up your animal husbandry. Well, we can’t stand for that can we? Venturing out, you can seek to end the evil yourself (or with friends of course), and in doing so your avatar’s name will be entered into the history books of the world you inhabit.

Overall, for someone who missed the Kickstarter and wasn’t entirely familiar with the title going into this experience, the demo for Ashes of Creation has certainly piqued my interest. It’s got quite the development cycle ahead, which gives me hope that the nagging issues that kept it from being amazing will be addressed in due time.

Mithical Entertainment would like to thank Intrepid Studios for the opportunity, and Mr. Bard for taking the time to chat with us about this exciting game!

If you want to learn more, you can visit the Ashes of Creation site here!

Make sure to check out the rest of our PAX West 2017 coverage here!

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