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Ashes of Creation Hands-On Preview: Build Cities or Burn Them Down in This MMO

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Imagine an MMO where players can collectively build a settlement up from a small collection of tents and wagons to a sprawling city filled with people. Now imagine that rival factions can attack those settlements, steal off with the loot, and use the resources to build up a settlement of their own. That’s the ambition of the upcoming MMO Ashes of Creation, and recently I helped some of my fellow players turn a patch of land into a large town and it was absolutely bonkers. I also found that Ashes of Creation’s ambitions for an online, connected game world that’s affected by the choices of it’s players extends well beyond what we were able to do in a single weekend of play time.

On the surface, Ashes of Creation feels quite familiar as MMOs go. I spent most of my time picking off enemies, exploring new areas, completing quests, crafting items, and leveling up. But what separates it from the other online worlds is in how the players literally shape the world from the ground up.

Ashes of Creation Screenshots

As I explored and tackled quests, I was helping my faction establish and expand various settlements, called Nodes, on the world map. In fact, everything I did within a region’s borders gave that region XP in the same way that my individual character was earning it. The more that I and the other players accomplished, the bigger our settlements grew, and with growth came new vendors, better defenses, and access to better equipment and services. I could even make investments in these settlements, like by buying property for example.

As Nodes develop and get more complex, they also introduce politics in the form of governmental institutions — each settlement can even get a mayor who’s a real player that gets elected by a settlement’s citizens and controls how that Node gets developed. And depending on which faction or culture is most heavily involved in a settlement’s growth, the architecture, aesthetic, and access to certain resources and training is influenced by those variables. For example, because the settlement I spent most of my time in was built by lots of dwarves, the buildings were shorter and ornamental whereas if humans had built them they would have been taller and more familiar to real-life medieval structures.

But it’s how these settlements interact with one another and can be acted upon that takes this concept from an interesting idea to absolute insanity that feels like the Wild West. Because resources are limited and large settlements might encroach upon space occupied by neighboring settlements, each Node is in direct competition with its neighbor in a zero sum game. For your settlement to succeed and continue to grow, other settlements will need to be brought to heel or burned to the ground in a siege.

In addition to being a game about slaying monsters and leveling up, Ashes of Creation is an ongoing power struggle where forces are competing with one another on a macro level with incredibly high stakes. And some of these risky opportunities for PvP can have a direct and real impact on the player. After all, if I bought land in a settlement that was later sieged and destroyed, then my investment turns into a smoldering pile of rubble.

And any resources kept in a settlement need to be physically moved to another location via a caravan if you want to relocate it and with that undertaking comes the unenviable position of having to worry about your caravan being pilfered in transit by unscrupulous players. That’s something I never had to worry about in other games and the anxiety of this darwinian landscape made playing Ashes of Creation all weekend an incredibly stressful affair in the best possible way.

It’s still extremely early with Ashes of Creation and the Alpha I played was very unpolished and filled with bugs – as you’d expect at this stage from any game of this scale. But its premise is fascinating, exciting, and frankly a little bit scary. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.

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