Century: Age of Ashes Hands-On Preview — Free to play With Fire

Century: Age of Ashes is set to offer intense dragon-fighting action with a F2P element that doesn't completely offend.

Century: Age of Ashes is an online-only, free-to-play battle game care of French developer Playwing. The game recently finished a round of beta testing, with all three characters scheduled to hit the final version and several maps and game modes available, so we caught a ride to see how it’s going before the official release later this month. 

Century offers a pretty straightforward set-up. It’s an aerial dogfighting game at heart, so the crux revolves entirely around flying majestically through the air astride the back of mighty beasts while trying not to get burnt like toast while attempting to toast everyone else.

It’s hard to say why you’d name a game about huge combative winged fire-breathing lizards Century, but the concept essentially sells itself — and the execution is undeniably solid. 

Century: Age of Ashes Hands-On Preview — Free to Play with Fire

 

Century is a team-based game, supporting up to 18 players in a match. Carnage mode is team deathmatch, with two teams of up to six dragons vying for superiority. Survival is a last-team-standing variant for up three teams and 18 players, but the crux is players can only be respawned by a teammate. The capture the flag mode is Gates of Fire, whereupon the flag holder racks up points by flying through magical gates in the level.

So, there’s nothing here that should surprise any long-time fans of online multiplayer games, but the whole dragons thing still makes a marked impression. 

The three character choices cover the most basic ground of play styles. There’s the combat-heavy Marauder with a tracking fireball and ice bolts. The Windguard is a support beast that can heal allies, reduce their fireball cooldowns, and lay down a smoke trail. The Phantom is the stealth killer of the group, able to cloak to near invisibility and set aerial mines. 

All three are interesting variations with great looking dragons, but it does feel like a limited set of choices. To help with that, the game will offer plenty of visual customization perks and options; this is where the F2P elements come in. Loot crates and daily bonuses, microtransactions, and other familiar elements seem to be fully at show here.

That said, the developer has been adamant that these are style perks, not performance boosts. They've been vocal about being careful not to fall into the pay-to-win mentality, so while there’s an XP system, players won’t be able to just dump money in for the privilege of becoming overpowered. The more you play, the more customization perks you'll acquire, but the dragons will mechanically remain the same.

Controls are intuitive and the game is easy to get right into. The dragon-riding physics feel right, lending a genuine sense of excitement to the flying. Rapid dives, tight banking, and deftly maneuvering through tight spaces is a ton of fun. The combat is cut-throat and exciting too, even if breathing fire still feels a lot like an auto-turreting gun sometimes. 



The arenas themselves are just large enough to hold the action without feeling like you ever have to travel to find the action. Mixing snowy mountains, ancient-looking stone keeps, and fiery volcanic landscapes, the maps we played offer an exceptionally good mix of open spaces and tighter enclosed areas to keep players constantly moving and on edge. 

Both the landscapes and the dragons look fantastic as well. The dragons are detailed, primeval beasts with incredibly detailed models and animation. The settings are stark and beautiful, but not so busy as to be distracting. 

PC players will be able to take flight soon and given the cost of diving in is nothing, Century: Age of Ashes should definitely be worth a look — even if we still think the name is really boring.

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published Feb. 5th 2021

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