Ashes 2063 Afterglow version V 1.06 has been released

Discussion in 'NMA News and Information' started by The Dutch Ghost, Dec 4, 2021.

  1. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    With version V 1.06 released this Friday it is time to upload this article Ashes Afterglow that I had written a while back to provide members and visitors to NMA details about this project,



    This October, after two years of development Vostyok and ReformedJoe, with help from other members of the Doom community, revealed the sequel to Ashes 2063. Ashes 2063 was released on September the 23rd 2018. Three months later on December the 10th 2018, ReformedJoe made a small expansion pack called Dead Man Walking (abbreviated to DMW from this point) the storyline loosely serving as a prequel to the first.

    For previous articles on these, check the following links; Ashes 2063 [1] and Dead Man Walking [2]



    Ashes Afterglow continues on the foundations its predecessor laid down, but expands on this in both gameplay and level size, while tweaking some of the weaker parts - such as the motorcycle segment that some players did not enjoy due to the motorcycle's steering, as well as the damage the player character would take when accidentally running into obstacles and barriers that players were unable to avoid.

    Story wise it continues on Ashes 2063’s story, picking up and expanding on some of the plotlines that were set up in Ashes 2063 such as the artificial intelligence Athena, and the mysterious soldiers some of the friendly NPCs would mention from time to time.

    But this time the campaign is a little less linear and the player has a lot more impact on the world and people in it.

    Is Ashes Afterglow as good as Ashes 2063, or perhaps even exceeds its predecessor?
    Here are some of the details about it.



    Story;

    Prologue, seventy years before the events of the Ashes games, during the late 80s/early 90s, a large part of the world was devastated by a nuclear war that killed most of the population and caused the collapse of civilization in general.

    There were survivors and these would eventually band together to form new communities that rebuilt old settlements or built new ones, or joined into gangs that since then have been targeting these small pockets of civilization and the people that travel between them.

    Also, despite it violating every scientific theory and understanding about biology and the impact of radiation on DNA, something during the war also altered a large number of the surviving organisms, giving rise to new animal and plant species, but also new mutant subspecies of mankind.

    And then there have also been the appearance of... other things that defy any scientific understanding that now occasionally also prey on mankind.


    Ashes Afterglow is set a short time after the ending of Ashes 2063

    After the Scavenger defeated the mutant monstrosity known as the Gemini in the bunker underneath a large tower called the Spire, the Spire collapsed and almost permanently buried the Scavenger.

    The Scavenger however managed to escape the bunker only to lose consciousness once he found his way back to the surface.
    Another scavenger named Walker came across the unconscious player character, and carried him back to Michonne Circle where the Scavenger received much needed medical attention.

    But waking up after being out for a couple of weeks later the Scavenger discovers that outside his crowbar, his revolver, and a statue depicting the Greek goddess Athena he picked up in that bunker, that the rest of his belongings are gone.
    Either lost in the rubble of the spire or perhaps taken as payment for the player character's rescue by Walker.
    The Scavenger now has to start from scratch yet again.

    When the game starts the Scavenger has been up on his feet for a couple of days, and is now once again venturing into the city in search of artifacts and scrap that can be sold to traders.

    After a brief visit to a supermarket that has been taken over by bandits, the Scavenger returns to Michonne Circle where he receives a cold welcome from the guard captain.
    Somehow the Scavenger's actions at the Spire have severely agitated the local mutant population, putting them in a frenzy and making them attack Michonne Circle's defenses without any regard for their own lives for several days.

    The guard captain, believing the Scavenger to be responsible, tells him to finish his business in Michonne Circle and get out.
    Only problem for the Scavenger to do so is that the Scavenger's motorbike is broken down and needs a couple of new parts to make it running again.

    In order to find these the Scavenger has to go into the City again, traverse the ruined buildings and hazards that can be found in and around these and deal with threats such as raiders and mutant creatures who are not so forgiving about the Scavenger's presence in their territory.

    But fixing the motorbike is only the beginning of the Scavenger's new adventure that will not only take him into the City again, but also beyond it, and discover more about the world, its lost history, new factions that are working on plans with long term consequences, and a deadly secret that threatens what is left of mankind and civilization.

    Are you ready to enter the wasteland again, Scav?



    Gameplay

    Those who have played Ashes 2063 and its expansion, Dead Man Walking, know how big of a total conversion these two mods were.
    For those of you who are unfamiliar with this mod and its predecessors, Ashes Afterglow is a total conversion - such a large overhaul of Doom 2 and the zdoom engine (technically gzDoom engine) that it feels much more like a Build engine game (think Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood) in feel and design.

    Like those games, Ashes Afterglow also takes in somewhat realistic locales rather than abstract mazes such as power plants, waste treatment facilities and so on, though the maps are designed to take the limits of the Doom engine/gzDoom engine into account (limited rooms on top of each other)


    Going with this visual design philosophy of taking place in a real world, the game is also not completely focused on shooting though there are plenty of action packed sections and levels.

    Not everyone is out to kill you. There are plenty of NPCs that are neutral or sometimes even friendly towards you when you encounter them.

    These can be the residents of the number of settlements, camps, and outposts the player visits during the game. But also the occasional friendly trader or traveler the player meets out in the open while adventuring.

    If the player goes with the mentality of just shooting any NPC the player comes across during the game, it will not get them far as they will not only be missing out on information required for solving the main quests, but also additional side quests that could lead to information or reward.
    And also the opportunity to trade for ammo, armor, and other items.

    See Ashes Afterglow as more of an FPS/action-adventure experience.
    Those who have played the game Strife which also will know what this means.
    Think sort of a Fallout New Vegas lite, minus improving character skills and statistics through building up experience.



    Unlike its two predecessors, Afterglow is not an entirely linear experience, though proceeding from one hub area to another hub area is still linear. Ashes is not an open world game and unlikely to become one due to the engine's limits.

    What it means is that at two points in the game the player enters a series of connected maps, usually centered around one single "hub" , Michonne at the starting point, and later on the badlands.

    While there is some degree of freedom for the player to visit these various maps, there is a linear path of progression on how to carry out the longer quests.
    For example, an item that is required to progress to the next part of the questline is not provided until the player has completed another task first.
    There are also sometimes obstacles like a closed gate for which the player will need to find an item to open or deal with.

    Connecting these hubs are maps the player can only progress through once after which they are closed off for good.
    This means that the player will have to complete any optional side quests first before they should move on as it will not be possible to complete them later.

    In these hub levels the player will find settlements where most of the friendly NPCs can be found such as the mentioned traders and quest givers.
    Or simply people who provide you with lore.

    Note: often the NPCs with something unique to say or providing quests have their own unique sprites.

    There is also a doctor that can heal the player for a price or sell you medkits.

    And there is even the chance to earn some extra cash by placing a bet in a fighting ring, or participating in races for money and prizes.



    When it does come to action you have quite an assortment of weapons to play with, starting with a crowbar and a boot-knife the player can use in an emergency, a piledriver modified as a weapon, a revolver and a semi-auto pistol, a shotgun with magazine and a double-barrelled alternative, an SMG/MAC, pipe bombs, a self made flame thrower that can also launch balls of napalm, a self made musket (affectionately called a Jusket by some fans).
    People who played Ashes 2063 and DMW will recognize this arsenal, but there are also two new weapons; a pre-war military assault rifle, and a unique custom weapon called the Killer P.I.G the player will actually have to put together themselves.

    Yes, the player will actually be able to customize their own weapons.
    More about this in a moment.





    Handling combat in Ashes Afterglow is pretty much like that of most modern FPS games since the release of Quake, Unreal, and Half Life.
    It is primarily designed with mouse control and freelook in mind. People who prefer or persist on keyboard controls will have a much harder time playing Afterglow this way as the third dimension is taken into account and dangers are not always in front of you but also above or below you.

    Most weapons have a secondary firing mode, either coming standard with this or getting one after the player has upgraded the weapon.

    For emergencies there is a boot knife the player can pull out if they are between switching weapons or reloading weapons, but a dedicated button will have to be assigned to it.

    One more item that is not a weapon but can be selected from the weapons menu is a solar powered lantern, ideal for those dark areas the player will have to venture into.
    Previously the player could only hold either a weapon or the lantern, but in Ashes the player is now also able to hold the lantern along with the crowbar, the revolver, or the autoloader, making combat in the dark a little easier.

    One major change compared to the first game is that the player can now upgrade the weapons that can be found and bought in the game, giving them that little extra punch, a bigger clip or magazine, or improving stability.

    For this the player has to use the scrap they collect during the game and which also serves as currency.

    So during the campaign the player will have to balance the benefits of upgrading their weapons or to spend scrap on munition, medicine, and armor when they are short on these.



    Like in Ashes 2063, but not DMW, the player will also ride a motorcycle at certain points.
    Previously the motorcycle segments were sometimes a headache for some players because of the controls. The motorcycle was controlled through the keyboard, the difficulty with steering, and the huge amount of damage the player character would take when accidentally driving into an obstacle or a wall the player was unable to avoid.

    Controls of the motorcycle have been modified now so that it can be steered with the mouse as well. Though for those players who prefer controlling the motorcycle with keyboard controls that option remains available by default.

    The motorcycle plays much more of a role in Afterglow, both as a means of travel but also in the storyline.
    It eventually also undergoes an upgrade in the form of dual heavy machine guns that can shred targets with ease, adding another potent weapon to the player’s arsenal.

    The new controls of the motorcycle through use of the mouse, and the reduced degree of damage the player takes when riding into objects is a welcome change, as it makes driving much more enjoyable.
    It would actually be interesting to see some level packs that solely focused on driving the motorcycle as riding at full speed can be quite a thrill sometimes.



    At some point though the player also gets the chance to ride a larger version of the bug dogs that is a female of the species and more docile towards humans.

    While not as fast as the motor bike this bug dog matriarch (known as Lucy when you find her) has a leap attack and can also spit balls of acid at enemies.

    And when not riding Lucy she will also attack any hostile NPCs that may show up.
    The player however will not be able to make her follow the player or take her into buildings.

    Controls of Lucy handle like that of the motorcycle with the exception that the player can not make Lucy strafe left or right when stationary.



    Items the player can find in the game range from those the player immediately uses on the spot to some items they can keep in reserve to use at a later date, or sell on to doctors and medics. Selecting these is like in Duke Nukem 3D by using the bracket keys and an assigned activation button.
    These storable items include medical kits, a drug called regen which makes the player slowly regain full health, purge which is an anti radiation drug (taking the place of the radiation suits from Doom), and night vision goggles so that the player does not have to rely on the lantern and can make use of two handed weapons in dark areas.

    There are also a couple of unique quest items the player can only use at certain places or spots such as a hazardous environment suit.



    Along with combat must also come enemies to fight and Ashes Afterglow provides plenty of these.

    Other than returning enemies from Episode 1 such as the bandits, mutant cannibals, and various mutant animals as well as the ghost-like beings the player has encountered during that campaign there are plenty of unique new enemies in each category.

    Raider ranks now include a SMG yielding bandit and various unique leader types that run the gangs the player meets in the game.


    Cannibal ranks have also been expanded with new more powerful types including one that uses a shotgun and a riot shield the player must find a way to get around or destroy first. And there is now also a powerful new type that is called the Destroyer that is armed with a master blaster and grenades that release radiation. Mutants tend to send these after particular troublemakers that have gotten in the way of mutants a few too many times.

    The mutants also have a new boss type of enemy, and an old face returning from the previous game.


    Ashes’s animal category also has a few new additions such as a more developed version of the gasbag, its body containing the remains of the host it grew in.

    There are two new plant type enemies, one a mobile carnivorous plant called a Matango that people will learn to fear as it has a powerful acid attack and close range tentacle attack.
    And a stationary plant enemy that opens up to throw globs of spores at the player should they venture too close.

    Some of the previously introduced animals have also undergone a bit of a graphic overhaul such as the bug dogs whose eyes now glow in the dark.


    There are also some new additions among the ranks of the more supernatural type of enemies.
    For spoiler reasons I will not tell what types.
    Save to say that some people who played this mod were quite distubed by them.


    The AI of the enemies has also been slightly improved, with some of the human enemies now being capable of 'panicking', making them retreat from a fight.

    Mutants however will continue to pursue and attack the player once they have caught the player in their sight.


    The horror theme or feeling that was introduced in Ashes 2063 has also been increased a bit more, with some parts of the game really being designed to make the player feel very uncomfortable through a combination of world design, lighting, and sound effects.

    When people play this game there will be the occasional moments in which they will constantly be looking over their backs to ensure that nothing is sneaking up on them.
    Or with great reluctance enter some places as they know that something in there is waiting for them.


    The project also received a more advanced radiation system from the modder xlightningstorml



    Graphics

    In Ashes 2063 pretty much all sprites, models, and textures in original Doom 1/Doom 2 have been replaced with new ones, though some have been borrowed from other Doom engine and Build engine mods, and underwent some tweaking here and there to make these fit in the setting.

    Afterglow continues on this by adding even more new assets such as sprites and textures. Quite a lot of these have been newly made for this mod by Vostyok.
    Additional textures were provided by fellow modders such as Retromuffin.

    And next to new graphics, various effects with lighting have also been added to make the world of Ashes feel more immersive.

    During the campaign the player will visit some very large and complex locations that have received a lot of detail to feel as close to places that could be real as is possible with the Doom engine.
    People may even wonder how the engine is able to pull these graphics off without the speed suffering too much while playing the game.

    While the player may experience perhaps a little slow-down sometimes on the more larger complex maps, it never slows to a crawling pace.

    Some of the previous game graphics have also undergone an overhaul such as the weapons which visibly show modifications when they are upgraded by the player.

    There are also some new custom made animations for some of the NPCs the player encounters.


    Music and sound

    Like with the game design and the graphics, the music and sound effects of Ashes Afterglow have also been expanded with new material.

    John S Weekley, also known online as Primeval, has come back to add a number of new tracks to the various levels next to a few that return from the two previous games.
    Some of these are bound to become people’s favorites just like the soundtrack of Ashes 2063 and Dead Man Walking became the favorites of people who enjoy the music of films by John Carpenter which Ashes takes a lot of inspiration from.

    New sound effects include new weapon sounds and new creature sounds.
    The first released version of Ashes Afterglow has been reusing some sound effects from Doom 2 monsters for some of the enemies. But as the project reaches full completion these have been replaced by newly made sounds.

    There are even some lines of dialog in the game such as comments of the scavenger himself in various situations, but some of the NPCs such as the ones with unique sprites also have a line or two to say when the player first meets them.

    And if the player picks up a radio during the game he or she can also occasionally pick up radio transmissions that are broadcast openly or take place between people.
    It is worth checking these out as sometimes these transmissions may include important clues to solving some puzzles.

    Quality of the dialogue will vary in quality as outside a handful of people with VO experience and who have access to more professional sound recording equipment, most of it was done by volunteers who wished to assist with the project in what way they could.

    The following people provided their voices for the project

    Main voice actor - Chronoteef
    The Scavenger - Sunniboi
    Athena/Vinaya - wolfseyerio
    Barrett/Mojo - Carl Shading
    Porcelain - Bluevaporconcord
    Miller - pugalo
    Goonboss - gupgupextreme
    Garavito - absolutelad
    The general, other mutants, Walker - siraz



    In conclusion

    Ashes Afterglow greatly expands on Ashes 2063 and Dead Man Walking, and improves in various parts.
    While the game is not truly open world the player now gets to have a lot more freedom to explore and decide for themselves how they want to continue.

    There are still some linear paths which people may experience as forced in order to make them follow a particular path, but altering these can break some of the quests as they are planned now, and expanding the project to incorporate various different solutions such as with Fallout New Vegas would be beyond the scope of its development as it would have required a lot more people and also a lot more time.

    Yet the game will feel much more like an action-adventure to most gamers than just a Doom modification with some dialogue attached to it. Instead being given the opportunity to really get immersed in the world and getting to know the various people and groups who inhabit it.
    This is not something that players get to experience in a Doom Total Conversion often as projects that go to such lengths are really rare.

    There is even a degree of replayability by giving players the chance to try out various choices and see what their outcomes are.
    So it is not just becoming better at shooting and avoiding damage but also trying to find out if a previous negative ending can be made into a more positive one. And the reverse.

    People online who have played this game have already commented that Ashes Afterglow sometimes feels more like a commercial title from back in the 90s when Doom style games were king, and that if Afterglow had been released around that time that it would be remembered as a classic of that era.

    Not that Ashes is not memorable now as the developers really sought to produce something that shows what a non commercial fan project can accomplish with an old engine and limited resources and zero budget.

    And one that also creates an exciting setting of its own that does not feel like a complete copy or imitation of commercial titles in the same genre.

    It is very likely that this is not a title for everyone who are looking for a new Doom mod experience.
    People who seek a more RPG like experience and who do not like Doom style FPS action will probably want to look further.

    And those who prefer action with none of that puzzle solving and NPC interaction may want to wait until the ‘sterilized edition’ of this game is released which turns Ashes Afterglow into a more regular Doom experience.


    To download Ashes Afterglow go to the following link

    Here people will also find the remastered version of Ashes 2063 which comes with a number of improvements from Ashes Afterglow, and also contains an updated version of Dead Man Walking.

    The original zdoom forum thread where people can go to post comments and ask questions can be found here.


    John S. Weekly also recently released the soundtrack of Ashes Afterglow. For that follow this link
     
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 11
  2. Alphons

    Alphons National Beholder

    Aug 9, 2017
    Great article.


    In other news Moddb "mod of the year" competition ends in about 5 days.
    I'm not saying what mod you should vote for, but a certain post-apo mod and it's team got my vote.
     
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 3
  3. Proletären

    Proletären Vault Senior Citizen
    Staff Member Admin

    Mar 15, 2012
    Been waiting for this!

    Think I will have to play Strife first since I haven't done that yet and then continue with the Ashes series.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
  4. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign Boom Boom Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    I want to play this but I will probably wait a bit since I burned out on Doom a little.
     
  5. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    I am as well. In these last couple of months I have gone so many times through this mod that I am pretty sick of it.

    I don't think I will even try out the build versions of Episode 3 when that happens. Just waiting for the first public versions instead.
     
  6. Proletären

    Proletären Vault Senior Citizen
    Staff Member Admin

    Mar 15, 2012
    Build version?
     
  7. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    The alpha or beta versions.
     
  8. Proletären

    Proletären Vault Senior Citizen
    Staff Member Admin

    Mar 15, 2012
    I see, it's the next build. Build version got me thinking of the build engine and an engine switch.
     
  9. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    I understand the confusion, I realized that it sounded that I was talking about the build engine.

    On that note, I have asked Vostyok why he would not use the build engine for Ashes.
    Problem is with the build engine level tool. Fans never made any improved versions of the existing ones or a better tool of their own.

    Vos would have liked to have worked with the build engine but the tool gives him a headache, in a figure of speech.
     
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 1
  10. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign Boom Boom Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    Yeah the build engine tools suck while the tools for the various Doom source ports are great. It's why there are hardly any good mods for Duke 3D.
     
  11. Proletären

    Proletären Vault Senior Citizen
    Staff Member Admin

    Mar 15, 2012
  12. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign Boom Boom Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    I just can't get into Duke 3D mods. I'm not sure why. Maybe because Duke 3D was more about atmosphere and deathmatch than good gunplay.
     
  13. Alphons

    Alphons National Beholder

    Aug 9, 2017
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 1
  14. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign Boom Boom Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    Well earned especially over some of the crap they have chosen in recent years.
     
  15. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    Oh? Which wads did you disagree with that were nominated?
     
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 1
  16. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign Boom Boom Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    Don't get me started hahaha.
     
  17. Alphons

    Alphons National Beholder

    Aug 9, 2017
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 2
  18. Keyboard Gecko

    Keyboard Gecko Fallout: Nevada translation is updated.

    156
    Jan 15, 2018
    Just completed Ashes 2063, binge-playing for 2 days. What a beautiful game that is. I chuckled at every reference, with the mankubus being definitely the best. The atmosphere is great, the music is very fitting. It could use some redactory work in terms of texts, but other than that - great, great job. Very enjoyable.

    Let's try Afterglow.

    [Upd] Just wanted to say that I'm almost two days into afterglow and all I can say is "holy shit", more on that later.

    [Upd] Done. That was simply mind-blowing. I need to vent. Does anybody know if there's a discord or a forum? I could find only a moddb page.

    To leap from developing a good doom TC to developing THIS - that is nuts. Thanks NMA for recommendation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2021
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 3
  19. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign Boom Boom Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 1
  20. The Dutch Ghost

    The Dutch Ghost Grouchy old man of NMA Moderator

    Jan 11, 2004
    Thank you for the compliment Toront but most of the credit should go to Vostyok and ReformedJoe.

    I did make up a lot of the initial ideas for for the game such as locations, quests, how the storyline would go, but Vostyok refined it and both he and ReformedJoe executed it all with the help of some other modders.


    I do think in the future, that is if I get to work on Episode 3, I do need to make the story a bit more 'tight', make all the parts work well and in a logical way together.

    One issue people who played the game brought up was what the motivation of the Scavenger was after having escaped the arena, on why he he should look into what the mutants are up too (especially after just escaping his own execution at their hands), or these mysterious soldiers he has been hearing about, or Athena for that matter.
    Why would the Scavenger be interested in helping her? For all the Scavenger knows, she is just some relic from a bygone age, following programming and orders that have not been relevant for ages.

    Something I had wanted to have included at the Arena was that the player would eventually visit the Mutant Warlord's war room, discovering a map on a wall there that would point out the Array and perhaps also Sigma (not the direct location but rather that it is somewhere in the North/Chattahoochee National Park), making it clear to the player that these places are important, and that for some reason he really needs to visit these places rather than going the direct opposite direction (perhaps a suggestion that these places contain 'riches of the old world'?).


    Something that is also a lot on my mind, ever since I watched MrIcarus's live stream, is that the voice lines I had provided for Afterglow should perhaps have been replaced with those from a native English speaker as my Dutch/European accent might sound too clearly through it.

    As Mr Icarus pointed out, like someone from Europe trying to do an American accent (I actually just wanted to pronounce the English sentences fluidly)

    I feel that this does affect the player's immersion in the game, and that it makes me look stupid.