Procedural generation get’s thrown around a lot these days, but I’ve seen few games embrace it as wholeheartedly as Asura, or in as innovative a way. By applying that procedural nature not only to the levels you explore and the enemies you attack, but to your character as well, Ogre Head Studio have the makings of a very interesting take on a well established formula.
Asura is a rogue-like game with procedurally generated skill tree inspired from Indian mythos. Play as the demon incarnate and obliterate your way through the randomly generated fortress of the Daeva empire. Equip weapons from a wide variety of arsenal and carefully craft your character using the ever changing skill tree. The game can be brutal but is always fair. Can you rise from the ashes? Can you defeat the Daeva empire?
Asura immediately feels comfortable to any Diablo player, which is a very good thing: Ogre Head Studio have nailed the feel of this kind of combat and gameplay. However, while there is some initial similarities (controls, basic mechanics, view), very quickly it becomes clear that Asura is a very different game.
First and foremost, Asura is founded on the idea of procedural generation in a way that Diablo and it’s counterparts don’t even come close to. Each of the games 5 fortresses are randomly generated, as are the enemies, items and events within them, but, most interestingly, so is your characters abilities every time to set forth on another attack.
The game’s skill tree is procedurally generated for your character from over 60 different abilities, which means that every time you play, you’ll have slightly different abilities and powers to call on, making each run feel different from the last. While each cardinal path of the skill tree has a general focus (damage, health, effect, magic), the individual abilities are procedurally created. So, while your first point in the damage tree on one run might get you increased damage and the chance for knock back, the next time it might give you increased damage and a chance to lifesteal.
It’s a very cool way of keep things fresh, and I think it has a ton of potential as a mechanic. Likewise, all the loot you run into in the game is procedurally generated, like any good game of the genre, so you’ll be able to outfit your Asura in the best way for that run.
Combat feels tight and reactive. You have both a melee weapon and a ranged weapon and it’s very important to switch between the two as you wind your way through the temples. There’s an emphasis on dodging and staying on the move which I like a lot, and keeps the game moving.
You’ll pick up a number of different melee weapons while playing, from swords, to spears, to magically enchanted hammers, each which adjusts the way you play the game a little bit. For instance, one magical hammer did an incredible amount of damage, but also drained you stamina with each hit, limiting your ability to dodge enemy attacks. Balance this with a limited quiver of arrows, consumables and the armor you’ve managed to pick up and you’ve got a rich and varied combat system to build a game on.
Asura doesn’t have any ground breaking aesthetics, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good. The environmental art in particular is gorgeous, with an incredible level of depth and detail. It’s also quite colorful, which I like, and the clear color pallet helps to identify friend from foe, and danger from aid.
It is also exciting to see some of Indian mythology get exposed to a wider audience. While it’s not an entirely unknown subject matter (thanks Smite: a.k.a. Cliff Notes of World Mythology e-Sports Edition), it’s great to see this source of inspiration tapped.
Finally, I wanted to make sure I touched on Ogre Head Studio’s story, which I think is worth mentioning. Founded by Zainuddeen Fahadh and Neeraj Kumar, and based in Hyderabad, India, Ogre Head Studios was created directly as a response to the stagnation in the Indian game development industry, which was, to quote Ogre Head themselves, focused on “Bollywood and cricket based games”. So, Zain and Neeraj quite there secure day jobs and went about “working on something very different than what was expected”. That kind of spirit is inspiring and exactly what makes covering indie games and the people that make them so interesting.
Want to learn more about the games we saw at PAX East 2017? Check out this page, which lists all the game’s we saw, and we will be updating with links to our coverage as we complete it.