Paradise Lost

High Use of Hawaiian folklore gives a unique flavor.

Low Exploitable combat and repetitive quests.

WTF The audio choices, or lack thereof.

“Post-apocalyptic” seems to be a genre all of its own these days, and I can see why people like it — there’s a level of freedom that allows developers to rewrite the rules of the normal world and create new playgrounds. Ashes of Oahu is the latest entry in this style, but the twist it brings is that it integrates elements from Hawaiian folklore.

Ashes of Oahu is a third-person shooter/RPG where players must save Hawaii from the evil god Kupua Pua and his infected islanders. Players take the role of Kai, a man whose son was kidnapped while he was beaten and left for dead. However, Kai is revived by a spirit guide and becomes a chosen warrior. He won’t fight alone, though — there are other factions on the island also under attack from Kupua Pua’s raiders.

The action takes place on Hawaii’s island of Oahu, and it’s an open-world playground for players to make their own. As Kai adventures, he’ll gain experience to use on skills, and there are multiple skill trees, each one associated with a different island faction.

The Lava Dogs are old marines who managed to survive the dark god’s initial attack, and they can teach Kai how to better use automatic weapons and explosives. Native Hawaiians help Kai with his stamina, health, and melee weapon damage. Players can also commune with the ancient gods of the island at temples to increase their mana – this leads to things like a spirit bow or spirit shield, or other abilities like lobbing fireballs at raiders.

Players will have the option to work with Oahu’s factions and build relationships with them in addition to learning their skills. One group asks Kai to gather supplies to craft medicine, while another asks him to clear out an area so they can create a new stronghold. Players will also be able to push the factions into alliances or into war based on their decisions, but no matter which way the player leans, each quest feels similar due to things like the encampments for each faction being laid out in cookie-cutter fashion, and the collection quests being more like easy chores.

Completing the sidequests and helping groups will make Ashes of Oahu‘s endgame easy, but it’s not really necessary. In a surprise move, Ashes gives the player access to the final mission almost immediately and allows them to complete it whenever they want, but it’s not really clear about where to go. I accidentally stumbled into this location, and a prompt popped up and warned me it may be a difficult task. However, the final boss went into a pattern that let me shoot him without fear of retaliation and I rolled credits extremely early. 

Oahu isn’t always that easy, though — the AI swings wildly between ‘training dummy’ and ‘master assassin’, and unexpected difficulty spikes in enemy behavior led to several surprise deaths over the course of my adventure. 

Once, I was trying and find an item in a ruined city, and I was passing close to a roaming raider group. I was trying to stay out of range, but got close enough to aggro just one of the enemies — as he attacked, I was at full health one moment and down the next.

Another example of weirdness was that the only gun I needed for the entire game was a rifle with a scope. If I stayed near the maximum range of the rifle, enemies would move only a small distance after taking damage, so lining up a fatal second shot didn’t take much effort. This thick-headed AI made the endgame and post-game a walk in the park. 

In terms of environmental design, Oahu has a life of its own, and not just when Kai is around to see it. Everywhere I explored, there would be instances of raiders attacking other factions or the local mutated wildlife. Things happen organically in the player’s absence, and it elevates the immersion.

On the other hand, the audio takes away from the experience. Most of the sounds are ambient island cues — birds overhead, wind whistling through the trees, and the occasional grunt or bark of an enemy. However, there are many times when there’s no audio at all. None of the game is voice-acted, but most of the ambient audio seemed to drop when I was talking with NPCs, so it always felt strange when things went silent. 

At the end of the day, Ashes of Oahu is rough around the edges and could use a bit of work, but it remains a beautiful world to explore and the hawaiian folklore elements offer something new in the well-stocked post-apocalyptic genre. Those things alone may not be enough to keep some players in, but those who may want a bit of sun and sand with their questing and skill trees might want to check it out.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Wyrmbyte.  It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game does not currently have a rating, but contains  Language and Violence. There are a lot of violent images in the game, like a dark god causing horns and tusks to burst out of a body. Players will be shooting people and slitting their throats with a knife. There were curses in the game, all in text boxes. No f***, but most words leading up to it. This one’s for the mature player.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes .

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All information is text-based, as the game isn’t voiced. While not resizable, the text is in a traditional font and is normally on a darker background.

Controls: While the game has options for both controller and keyboard, controls are not remappable.

Eugene Sax
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