Brandon Sturak
Brandon Sturak
Brandon is a writer and editor for ESTNN with a passion for esports. He writes about League of Legends and esports generally, providing analysis and commentary on both. He is a founding member of Niagara University Esports, while being the previous mid laner and Head Coach for the NU Esports LoL team as well. Twitter @GhandiLoL

Ashes of Creation: Everything You Need To Know

The image is split into three parts, the first showing a small group of people huddling around a campfire, the second showing a man next to a tree overlooking a small village and the last showing a road overlooking a large medieval city. The words "Ashes of Creation" appear at the bottom of the full image.
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Learn about the core systems and designs of Ashes of Creation.


Ashes of Creation is an upcoming MMORPG currently being developed by Intrepid Studios. Despite being in its first Alpha stage of playtesting, this game is already looking promising and many have claimed it has the potential to completely reinvigorate and revive the MMORPG genre. While it's hard to say that for sure so early, the design philosophies and plans for the game are quite exciting. As a result, it's currently one of the most hyped upcoming games in the genre.

There are a lot of features and systems to go over that are unique to the game, but because the game still has a ways to go, everything is subject to change. However, the features and systems mentioned here are core to AoC and likely won't be altered too much between now and the game's release. Also to note, due to the complexity of the game, this article won't cover every single aspect of the game but cover the main ones and how they'll be utilized. Even so, there's a ton to go through to familiarize yourself with the early Ashes of Creation.

Game design philosophies

An in-game screenshot from Ashes of Creation showing a caravan of wagons traveling through the forest escorted by a troop of soldiers.

Perhaps the biggest reason that people call AoC revolutionary or a "WoW Killer" is because of the main philosophies the developers have adopted for the game. The three main cores of Intrepid's design philosophies revolve around an ever-changing world, a heavy emphasis on player interaction and systems that reward and necessitate risk-taking. In many cases, these three ideas mesh in ways MMO players have wanted for a long time.

A dynamic world

Firstly, Verra, AoC's world, is meant to be dynamic and will frequently change. It hosts a variety of biomes and types of areas across its incredibly large map that will change over time. But more importantly, there will be something called the node system. In brief, this is something that allows player interaction to control where civilization sprouts and evolves. There's a lot to say about this and will be explained in the next section. Overall, it's what will keep the game ever-changing and create a unique world history dictated entirely by the players.

Player-to-player interaction

The second crux of AoC design philosophy is the emphasis on player interaction. One of the most important aspects of MMOs is the fact that so many players can play the game together, either as allies or enemies. In many of today's modern MMOs, this is lost on too much instanced content and streamlined progression systems that can all be done as a solo player. AoC wants to flip that around. Working with and against other players is key to the game, and that's evident through things like their economy, open-world PvP, PvP systems like castle sieges and caravans, and node progression. These various systems will be explained in more detail later on in their respective sections.

Risk-reward gameplay

Finally, there's a risk-reward mentality prevalent in the game's design. AoC will definitely not be a game you can AFK in and progress after you put in enough time. It'll be relatively hardcore and its content will always require engagement, with much of it involving some sort of risk. There won't be a lot of instanced content, meaning PvP may be present in PvE content, for example. Another example is that resources, items and wealth you gather in one place can't be automatically transferred to another town or city. It must be moved via caravan, which other players can attack to loot.

A last instance is that cities and towns can be destroyed, along with player-owned housing and the like. So if you set up a town in a volatile region, as dictated by player interaction and conflict, you could potentially lose a great amount of time and in-game money or resources.

Along with all of this, there's an insistence on making content that everyone and anyone can enjoy. There are things for players of all sorts, with a proposed equal focus on PvP, PvE and life skill-related content. If Intrepid can execute on all three areas well by launch with compelling systems for each, they'll be able to attract players of every kind and bring them together in a fantastic way.

The Node system

The Verra world map, with two major continents featured in the upcoming MMORPG Ashes of Creation.

The node system is one very unique to Ashes of Creation and probably the most exciting. Essentially, when players drop into the world of Verra, they'll be in a vast wilderness, a blank canvas. At this point, there will be a grand total of 118 nodes, which are places where villages, towns and cities can grow from. Depending on where players decide to interact, by gathering resources and killing mobs, civilization will grow. Another interesting fact is that the node's architecture will reflect the race's that put in the most work for it.

Node stages

Nodes that players develop will grow in size, influence and impact over time. The nodes have six stages of development after the Wilderness stage.

  1. Expedition/Crossroads
  2. Encampment/Camp
  3. Village
  4. Town
  5. City
  6. Metropolis

Basically, each stage makes the node grow in size and will increase the amount and quality of NPCs, quests, resources, mobs, benefits and more. However, as one node in an area grows, its zone of influence grows too, which will lock out nearby nodes from advancing. While this might discourage some who put a lot of time into growing a node, there is a PvP system in place to destroy a node, called node sieges, which are large-scale PvP events that can happen to nodes at Village level or higher.

Node types

In addition, there are four different types of nodes, each with its own benefits for players, questlines, features and aesthetics. They are as follows:

  • Economic: Trading and mercantile focus
  • Divine: Faith and skill/equipment augment focuses
  • Military: Combat and class training focuses
  • Scientific: Artisan and construction focus

These four types of nodes will clearly cater to certain types of players. With that said, any player can find usefulness from any node. So, for example, if you're a player who enjoys crafting but is in a guild who decides to base themselves in a Military Node, don't fret. Despite not being focused on the artisan classes, the node could be a great opportunity to make money. After all, the war-hungry players will always need new gear and equipment. Likewise, PvP players can find opportunities in Economic nodes, attacking or defending caravans perhaps.

It should also be noted that a player can be a citizen of only one node, meaning it will be important to choose it wisely and protect it if it comes under attack.

As a final point, each node will have a mayor, which can guide the development of the node. They set tax rates, designate plots for different types of buildings and more. The method by which each type of node elects a mayor is different and follows the theme of the node. More information on the electoral system and the node system as a whole can be found on the AoC Wiki's Node page.

Guild castles and Castle Nodes

With all that in mind, there is a type of node that exists outside of the typical node mold. They're called Guild Castles. There will be only five of these in the world and will come to be owned by guilds. They don't have zones of influence like other nodes do, however, they will have three dedicated Castle Nodes to feed into them and receive the Castle's benefits. The Castles grant great benefits to the guild that owns them, including setting tax rates for the Castle Nodes, activating special events for players in the Castle Nodes to enjoy and more.

These nodes will level up faster than normal nodes but are limited to the Village stage and to the Military type. Also, only ruling guild members are considered garrisoned to the castle, and they don't have normal citizenship. The danger for the guild that owns the castle is that each month they must defend it in a large-scale PvP event aptly named the Castle Siege. The guild and their allies must defend the castle in a proposed 250v250 PvP battle to retain control.

This system will be hugely influential in regional and global politics, and there's a lot to be said about it, so check the AoC Wiki's Castle Nodes page.

Combat System

An in-game screenshot from Ashes of Creation showing a mage elf character surging with fiery power with stone floating around him.

Combat is the core of an MMO, and AoC is no exception. Like many other systems, it's set to be fairly unique. First and foremost, the combat in AoC will incorporate tab-targeting and action combat systems. For those unfamiliar with what those are, in short, tab-targeting implies that you lock on to a single target to aim your attacks and abilities at or around. On the other hand, action combat is a bit more hands-on, as the player essentially controls exactly where they dodge and aim their abilities in a skill shot-like fashion. Most MMOs focus heavily on one style, but AoC is changing that.

While both options will always be there, their skill tree system allows for players to shift their focus more into one style and/or into passive abilities as well. On that note, skill trees are planned to have quite a bit of depth. Players will have the option of putting points into a wealth of different skills, spell and/or abilities, or put their points into fewer select ones to better specialize in them. However, it will be impossible to max out all skills in any skill tree. Because of that, thinking ahead for your build will be imperative.

Finally, we come to the class system in AoC. At the outset, a new player can choose one of eight classes. After leveling this first class up, they'll have to choose another class, which will give them an entirely new class as a combination of the two. Choosing the same class a second time pretty much gives you a better version of the original class. More info on the class combinations can be found on the AoC Wiki's Archetype page or stay tuned for an upcoming class guide from ESTNN.

Player vs Player (PvP)

An in-game screenshot from Ashes of Creation showing a Cleric human surging with divine power, about to unleash it on three bandits in front of him.

Player vs Player (PvP) gameplay is the main driving force for change in the world of Verra. Whether small or large scale, violent interactions between players are important, especially so when considering Intrepid insists on it and focuses many of their systems around them.

On a small scale, there will be PvP available almost everywhere, as the game will feature open-world PvP. This means players can attack other players anywhere, at any time. There will of course be exceptions to this, in places like cities, but the wilderness will be scary still. Even more so when in prime hunting grounds or rare resource areas. But don't fret, there is a way to stop, or at least disincentivize, griefers from simply killing people over and over again, called corruption. Corruption grows on players the more they kill other players. The higher their corruption, the more negative effects they'll have and the more they'll be hunted by other players for coin.

Another neat instance of small-scale PvP revolves around caravans. Resources don't magically move across distances, so players must manually move them. This is done through mount-drawn caravans players drive from Point A to Point B. But it's not quite that simple. Other players can attack the caravan, and if they successfully destroy the cart, can loot the contents. This will make traders hire guards for their dealings, while some groups may thrive looting and plundering.

There will also be things like Arenas, for gladiator fights, sea-based naval PvP, duels and bounty hunting.

World-driving PvP

The small scale is important, but the grand scale PvP events are really what will make AoC truly unique. The first of this type was eluded to before with the node and castle systems. Intrepid plans to ensure the world is never stale by allowing players and organizations to attack nodes themselves in Node Sieges. The main incentive for this is that if they win, the attackers will be able to loot the entire node. And of course, the citizens of the node won't want to lose their property. These can't be initiated on a whim and require forethought and planning, but are certainly world-chaning events.

Right now, Castle Sieges are the pride and joy of AoC's PvP. They're currently slated to be 250 vs 250 player combat scenarios, where a guild and its allies defend their castle against an attacking force, who wants all the boons that a castle can provide. There are even plans to increase the count to 500 vs 500, crazily enough. During the Castle Siege, there will be siege weapons, grand strategy and neutral mobs like dragons that provide buffs for the team that slays it. In a recent Development Update, the team showcased Alpha One footage of a Castle Siege, and even so early on it looks epic.

In addition, guilds are able to go head-to-head with each other in Guild Wars. While not as huge as the aforementioned two, these will be dynamic conflicts that aren't simply a contest of killing more enemy guild members. There will be objectives, maybe like assassinating VIP members or sieging a guild's fortress, along with victory and surrender conditions.

Player vs Environment (PVE)

An in-game screenshot from Ashes of Creation showing a fantasy warrior leaping with a battleaxe towards a velociraptor in the jungle.

Player vs Environment (PVE) combat revolves around players fighting the game's monsters and villains with the help of others or by themselves. Overall, this is the bulk of combat done on a day-to-day basis. Like other MMOs, AoC will have quests, dungeons, and raids. Obviously, these all vary in scale but are common MMO content.

First off, Quests cover a lot of different types of content. Some will simply be quick one-and-done tasks. Some will be story arcs that shape the narrative of the world or just a region. Funnily enough, others will be fairly random, like raid bosses appearing in a region or a natural disaster occurring if the quest isn't finished. There will also be quests that gate certain content or drop legendary equipment. Quests are the day-to-day adventures players can undertake to level up, get new gear or advance their node. While they may not take the limelight when up against things like sieges and raids, they're always important to nail down since all players regularly partake in them.

Dungeons & raids

Dungeons are the bread and butter of PvE content in most MMOs and probably will be for AoC. As is typical, they will range in size, severity and complexity. But uniquely, AoC dungeons will primarily exist in the open world. Only 20% of dungeons are set to be instanced, while the rest of the 80% of dungeons will be open for anyone to jump in on. Dungeons will become more difficult the further down you go with bosses that live there, each with its own loot table. Its important to note that dungeons are expected to be large enough for multiple groups to go through at the same time, without interfering with each other.

Finally, raids exist mainly in the form of fighting world bosses. These bosses are planned to be triggered both randomly and by completing certain steps. Some raids even have multiple stages, where you'll fight underlings before fighting the big bad. Raids will require a decent amount of players to take down. And depending on the players' performance, the boss may scale up or down to accommodate who it's fighting.

While PvP is crucial in shaping the world, the PvE is largely affected by the current state of the world. Depending on regional nodes' types and stages of development, PvE content will change. So one Metropolis node may have two huge dungeons, while a Village node will only have one small one, for example.

Life skills

An in-game screenshot from Ashes of Creation showing a Freehold Farm plot with wheat growing in the front area.

To wrap things up, we arrive at the life skills part of Ashes of Creation. Not everyone wants to kill monsters all the time, so life skills are important for adding depth to an MMO. Life skills refer to non-combat classes that are akin to real-world jobs. They're the ones that revolve around gathering natural resources and crafting materials and finished products. In AoC, there are three separate types of artisan paths, with the specific classes dubbed professions.

The first is gathering artisan path. They go out in the wilderness to harvest resources or tend to farms and the like. The six gathering professions are:

  • Farming
  • Fishing
  • Herbalism
  • Lumberjacking
  • Mining
  • Taming

Those professions that take raw materials and refine them are aptly allocated to the processing artisan path. It's a more limited branch but important for making the materials for the crafting professions to utilize. Currently, there are only two planned:

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Smelting

At the end of the line is the crafting artisan path. These are very diverse and utilize both gatherers' and processors' work to create finishes products of all sorts. Right now, there are 10 in total.

  • Alchemy
  • Armor Smithing
  • Blacksmithing
  • Carpentry
  • Cooking
  • Jewel Crafting
  • Scribing
  • Ship Building
  • Siege Weapon Building
  • Weapon Smithing

While there are still many questions about the specifics of these professions, if you're familiar with the jobs from other MMOs, it's safe to say they'll be similar. It's also crucial to note that while a player is able to at least try out each type of profession, they may only become a "master" in one of the three artisan paths. The good news is that even though you're fairly restricted to one artisan path, you can max out on all of the different professions in it.

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