Have you ever dreamed of flying on the back of a dragon and fighting others in the sky like something out of Game of Thrones?
While surprisingly few games let you fly a dragon, Century: Age of Ashes is a multiplayer game solely focused on just that.
Whenever you do get the chance to within games like Panzer Dragoon or Lair, it is exhilarating. Still, no one has attempted a fast-paced multiplayer game with this concept until now. Century: Age of Ashes is a new competitive multiplayer game by Playwing, and it fulfills the dragon rider fantasy like Star Wars: Squadrons does for space pilot fans.
A Century: Age of Ashes closed beta was held January 29 to 31 ahead of its free-to-play early access launch later this month. While there’s still a lot of room for improvement, Century: Age of Ashes has the potential to deliver an experience unlike anything else that has been done before.
Century: Age of Ashes is easy to pick up and play, which is a major boon. Even though the game doesn’t have a playable tutorial, the controls are intuitive. Like other flight combat games, turning and targeting are the main focus. Players don’t have to worry about acceleration as they shoot out fireballs and breathe flames on their enemies.
Century: Age of Ashes features three character classes right now, which fall into the classic fighter, cleric, and rogue archetypes. But more classes are on the way after launch! The Marauder is an attack-focused class, while the Windguard can heal, and the Phantom is stealthy with an invisibility power. No one class felt overpowered, even if the Marauders’ pure attack power makes them an easy choice for newcomers.
Controls are simple either with a controller or on keyboard and mouse, with the only surprising exclusion being the conspicuous lack of a dodge to more easily escape bad situations. Even if you hit a wall, it’s pretty easy to get turned around and back in the fight. The snappy pace keeps matches frantic and short, so Century: Age of Ashes never overstays its welcome.
Two modes were available in this beta: Carnage and Gates of Fire. Carnage is a straightforward 6v6 team deathmatch mode where players kill each other to score points before the end of the time limit. To keep the match engaging, Century: Age of Ashes includes the Bounty, Drakepiercer, and Berserk systems.
With every kill they get, a player’s bounty level will go up, making them worth more points if killed. That means you have to still play carefully as you rack up kills because your death could turn that match in the enemy’s favor. My most exciting Century: Age of Ashes match concluded with a win where my team was behind by three points, but we eliminated someone worth four at the last second for the win.
After several points are scored, The Berserk Wraith will spawn. Whichever player manages to kill it will become much more powerful, though they can be killed with the instakill “Drakepiercer" item that will eventually spawn in the late stages of a match.
While it’s easy to pick up and play, Carnage also has a high skill ceiling thanks to the unique abilities of each and these additional systems. Century: Age of Ashes should maintain a healthy competitive scene if its early access release is successful.
Meanwhile, the Gates of Fire mode is a twist on Capture the Flag where players must pick up a flag and fly through 8 gates within a time limit. This lasts two rounds and is for those who prefer the game’s flying to its combat. A third mode, Survival, a competitive round-based mode with permanent elimination, is also in the pipeline for the game’s early access release, but it was not available in this beta.
Century: Age of Ashes lives up to the expectations for a multiplayer Panzer Dragoon. It takes the right cues from flight combat games like Star Wars: Squadrons, so its controls are intuitive and its matches are fast-paced.
Room for Improvement
Unfortunately, the game’s user interface is underwhelming. While small on-screen indicators let you know you’re being targeted or fired upon, these can be hard to spot as they blend into the game’s snowy, Game of Thrones-inspired backgrounds. The environments are beautiful, but they can sometimes get in the way of important UI elements.
Coupled with the lack of a dodge move, it can be pretty tough to outmaneuver or escape death once an enemy locks onto you. Adding a better indicator or clearer sound effect for this situation will make the game even more accessible and enjoyable for both new and veteran players.
While this is a multiplayer-focused beta, the world of Century: Age of Ashes also deserves to be fleshed out more outside of loading screen prompts. While a single-player campaign isn’t planned, hopefully, the developers can find some dynamic way to tell a story around the game as Overwatch and Fortnite have.
Though it remains to be seen if Century: Age of Ashes will find widespread success beyond its niche genre, it manages to fulfill a very specific fantasy that some people surely had watching Daenerys riding Drogon into battle on Game of Thrones. If you’re one of those people there’s no reason to not give Century: Age of Ashes a shot — it’ll be free-to-play in early access.
Just don’t forget about the Iron Fleet.
Century: Age of Ashes will be released for PC in February 2021.