A dragon rider is in some regards the perfect power fantasy. In a world that is increasingly crazier by the day, there’s something to be said for embracing the chaos. Sometimes, strapping a saddle to a five-tonne flying fire-breathing lizard’s back and going nuts, is all it takes. Alas, dragons are not real, but Century: Age of Ashes certainly is. A new free-to-play title from the team at Playwing, Century: Age of Ashes harkens back to old favourites like Crimson Dragoon and Crimson Skies. However, will this game set a fire in your heart, or will it simply fizzle out? Let’s find out, shall we?
Beginning with a general overview, Century: Age of Ashes is an aerial combat game. You can play as three classes of dragon riders in a frightful combat scenario. It can be played six vs six, and upon reaching level six, three vs three. Ranked options are available once you hit level ten. It is divided into supposedly three game types, although through gameplay, I only encountered a couple. The first of these: Carnage, is team deathmatch with a small twist. Effectively, your goal here is to take out enemy fliers. However, the more you eliminate, the higher your bounty raises, which in turn can award the enemy team with more points if they defeat you. If you play skillfully, however, you can reduce your bounty. It’s a smart risk vs reward system that adds a layer of depth to a time-tested genre.
The second of these modes, Spoils of War, has you fighting against the enemy team to secure the most gold. You get this by defeating the treasure chest carrying dragonlings. However, unique powerups spawn that can change the battle in a second, such as a bomb to blow up the enemy coffers or even a gem that adds an instant 300 to your gold count, provided you don’t lose it before the end of the match. This mode is familiar but fun, offering a good time all around.
Other than these two, there are minor Carnage three vs three skirmishes that eliminate the bounty system… and that’s about it. In my playtime, I encountered five maps. All were fun to play on, but after a while, things begin to get old. In order to encourage this, Century has multiple daily and weekly challenges, as well as dragon eggs which can be levelled up by completing in-game objectives. This helps add a decent level of variety to the game, but a lack of content, unfortunately, hinders the game from reaching its full potential.
The same can be said about the class system. The three classes in the game – Phantom, Marauder and Windguard – should theoretically play very different from one another, but with skills limited mainly to two buttons, and all other attributes feeling rather similar, it underwhelms. That’s not to say it’s not fun to play as these classes, it most certainly is, but it feels like three slightly differentiated loadouts more than fully-fledged classes.
Moving on to the presentation, Century: Age of Ashes is a very pretty game, as it well should be as a Series X|S exclusive (No Xbox One version… at least not yet). The graphical work here is undeniably next-gen, and serves as a very impressive graphical showcase, especially coming from a new developer. The game is easy to follow and never enters a situation where the visual language becomes overwhelming. Performance is also rock-solid too with only noticeable dips when enemy coffers are blown up in Spoils of War.
In terms of controls, Century is surprisingly intuitive. With a number of options at your disposal, it’s easy to find a way to tailor the controls to how you want to play, and on the whole, the game is incredibly responsive. It’s arcadey in all the best ways, and the simple to pick-up controls only serve to further its appeal.
Finally, to briefly touch upon monetization, I must first disclose that Playwing generously provided us with the Arisen pack. However, I played the game for several hours before redeeming the pack, and I feel that, on the whole, the monetization is quite fair. DLC packs and cosmetics can be rather pricy, but the default and unlockable cosmetics are cool in their own right. Moreover, all DLC and rewards are strictly cosmetic, meaning there is no pay-to-win here; a nice selling point for a free-to-play game.
All in all, Century: Age of Ashes is an undeniably fun time. From the gorgeous graphics to the fun gameplay to the decently fair monetization, there is a lot to love here. Still, a lack of content and class differentiation clip its wings, even if its just a little. However, at the end of the day, the most important thing to acknowledge is that Century: Age of Ashes is free-to-play, and for a team of its size, Playwing is undeniably punching above its weight. As such, I do recommend you give it a whirl: the worst you’re out of is time.