Ashwalkers is the upcoming game from developer Nameless XIII, a company founded by one of the co-founders of Dontnod Entertainment. The latter developer brought players the joy of Life is Strange, a game still lauded for its storytelling and choice mechanics. In Life is Strange, many choices that players made impacted the overall story of the game and how its events played out. Ashwalkers takes this concept but expands upon it exponentially, with the full game having 34 different endings total.
Of course, just having choice mechanics in common doesn’t automatically mean the two games are extremely similar to each other. In fact, as far as actual gameplay goes, Ashwalkers is an open-ended survival narrative, while Life is Strange had impactful choices but a much different premise. The common thread between the games is Herve Bonin, the co-founder of Dontnod and founder of the new Nameless XIII. Ashwalkers will be the studio’s debut game, and in an interview with Geisha411, Herve Bonin and the game’s creative director Matteo Gaulmier talked about the mechanics of Ashwalkers and what its gameplay is like.
The demo for Ashwalkers is available on Steam because of the Steam Game Festival 2021, so players can already get a sneak peek at some of the decisions they’ll have to make when playing the full game. In regards to the many choices players must make throughout Ashwalkers, Gaulmier remarked that there are no “good” or “bad” choices. When it comes to making a decision, it’s about what players are willing to sacrifice rather than making “correct” decisions or “mistakes.”
“Whatever you choose, there is some price you have to pay. Whether it’s material, emotional, or physical, or short or long term, There is something you have to pay…”
The choice mechanics of Ashwalkers are obviously more in-depth than that of Life is Strange, but both games are founded in the idea that the things players say and do matter. Though there aren’t “mistakes” to be made, there are plenty of different routes to follow thanks to the 34 endings of Ashwalkers. To avoid an endlessly branching choice mechanic, Gaulmier said the game was formulated with a “systemic narrative” in mind. Each choice influences a specific behavior category, and the endings will ultimately be influenced by not only player’s choices for the Squad, but also what goals players are completing as well as what their final choice of the game is.
As for differences in the 34 endings, it seems to be more than the same ending with a few twists. Depending on the routes players take, they can end up in a different location entirely and far from the initial goal of the game – finding the Dome of Domes. Each playthrough of Ashwalkers should take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, but a short game was made intentionally according to Bonin and Gaulmier. They wanted a replayable narrative, and if a game is over 10 hours initially, players don’t really have time to go back and play it again from the start.
Gaulmier said Ashwalkers’ survival mechanics were made simple for a reason. To keep the focus on the story the game is telling, it needed a simplistic survival mechanic that could not only be influenced by players’ choices, but by random chance, too. The weather can largely affect a playthrough, with different phenomena like ash storms or drops in temperature, so each playthrough is still unique beyond the choices made. If players can properly manage their resources (firewood, food, and medicine) they might be better equipped to handle the random situations and weather that happen to the Squad.
Ashwalkers doesn’t have an official release date yet, but players can get familiar with its mechanics and gameplay with the free demo on Steam. The upcoming game doesn’t have a ton in common with Life is Strange, but it’s clear that choices are important in both contexts.
Ashwalkers is in development for PC.