Taking place in a world destroyed by a volcanic apocalypse, Ashwalkers is a survival game that is very reminiscent of those old-school ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ types of books.
Here, you control the four members of the Third Squad, a group of specialized survivors that are sent on a desperate mission to find the Dome of Domes — a fabled place that is seen as the last hope of survival for a city of 250,000 people, who are currently stuck in a dome on the verge of collapse. Using the expertise of each member of the Third Squad, you must go through a long walk, uncovering new info along the way, as you try to find the Dome of Domes or any other option of survival for your people.
As the name implies, a good portion of the gameplay in Ashwalkers is centered on your squad, well… walking through different dangerous environments covered by ashes. Visually speaking, this is translated to a mostly grey-ish and sober game. In this sense, Ashwalkers can be seen as a very contemplative experience, where you will spend most of the time walking, taking care of the bars that represent your team’s basic needs, while you listen to a minimalistic soundtrack that will do a great job of making you feel uneasy at this lonely, but dangerous world.
Most of the time, you will be collecting resources that are categorized as wood, food, or first-aid materials, and must decide the best moments to set up camp and refill your squad’s basic necessities. The main idea of these moments is to try to keep the energy, hunger, and heat bars as fulfilled as possible. However, with very limited resources, you will always have to make difficult choices about what to prioritize at each segment.
Through the 2-hours long campaign, you will encounter unique events that can be resolved in many different ways. Your choices in each of these events may lead to a kind of butterfly effect, which will eventually result in one of 34 different endings. This is a game meant to be replayed multiple times, as finding these unique paths is always cool. However, it must be said: these 34 endings are actually divided between just a handful of special endings, with small variations between one or another.
Ashwalkers has some serious problems when it comes to the user experience. The convoluted menus simply refuse to work at times, and you need to go back and forth in order to make items selectable. Worse still, though, it makes use of a custom font that is hard to read by default, and only gets worse at certain segments where the screen is zoomed out, or when there is very little contrast between the text and background. It was literally impossible for me to read certain story bits while playing on my Switch OLED, and I imagine it would be even worse if played on the OG Switch or the Lite. With zero accessibility options for bigger fonts, this becomes a frequent issue that really hinders your enjoyment of the narrative.
Behind these frequent UI problems, Ashwalkers does provide an interesting survival experience with a high replay value. Unless it gets a patch, though, it may be unplayable by people with visual disabilities.
With interesting ideas and a unique atmosphere, Ashwalkers is a survival game where your choices really matter. Sadly, it comes with some serious interface problems that seriously hurt the experience.