Through the Ashes is a stand-alone story DLC for Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, which I have not yet written a review for since I haven’t actually finished it. Trust me, I have tried many times with different kinds of characters. Everything from paladins to druids, but I always seem to hit a wall during my journey through the demon-infested lands. One day I will, though, probably when all expansions have been released for the game – for the complete experience! Some of the content does integrate with the main campaign, so the preferable thing is to experience it all in one glorious take. However, that is for another time, back to the key event.
Same world, different tale
Through the Ashes as mentioned is a stand-alone adventure that takes place in the same world and time frame, yet, you don’t play or interact with the hero from the main campaign in any way. In this journey, you play as a random survivor during the siege of Kenabres, which you get to create in the normal Pathfinder sense – class, appearance, and sex. The primary mission here is not to save the world, a la the typical Chosen One storyline. The central focus is pure survival, and it won’t be easy.
Some stuff intersects with the main campaign, such as in finding the sanctuary, which shares location, including a couple of characters. Otherwise, the story stands on its own, and there isn’t much narration given since getting to safety is the chief concern. However, I liked Through the Ashes for its simple, and quite clear story. I found the low-level adventure without the Chosen One plot refreshing, as Wrath of the Righteous can get a bit ridiculous at times with demons, angels, and end-of-the-word rhetoric coming out of every story orifice possibly.
Traps, and more traps!
This little quest comes with a couple gameplay changes since the focus is on low-level adventurers having to overcome overwhelming odds. This translates to gameplay changes as in having to use traps that have been placed around in the world to survive. The introduction of these traps is a bit of a hit or miss. They are cool to discover and to figure out, as in how to use them to cause absolute maximum damage. However, it also means that many of the encounters you come across are tuned to be almost impossible to defeat normally. This can get very frustrating as the F5 and F6 keys run warm due to retries. Some of these traps feel a bit finicky too, considering the controls are not the most precise always. Overall, I liked this addition to the gameplay, and it fits the scrapper mentality of the campaign, but I’m not sure it would be that great for the big one. One thing I hope they change for the future, especially with a new mechanic like this, is how stealth works. Right now there is no indication if you will be discovered skulking about or not. And the traps heavily rely on scouting and sneaking, but thanks to the zero signs of how the stealth works, it’s totally up to RNG if you will be detected or not. Bit of a bummer.
Beyond that, everything else is recognizable, as the fighting and leveling remain based on the Pathfinder 3.5 Dungeon & Dragon rules (which is my favorite system). To hammer home the survival aspect good loot will be a rare find. This gets amplified as you pick up civilians during the important scavenging. These civilians come with their own backgrounds and mini-quests, so losing any of them will lower your XP income. From a roleplay standpoint, these people are totally ignorable, if you decide to play that kind of character. If you don’t, you will have to make sure to share the meager resources you find since these people will get injured and sick during the trek to freedom.
Hero or villain?
I tried to keep everyone alive, but there weren’t enough potions and scrolls to do so, which forced me to pick who lived and who died – who would provide the most usefulness to the team and our survival? I enjoyed this feature because it put a serious pressure on you as a team leader. Usually in Pathfinder, you can sleep away your problems, like having a sickness, being poisoned, or just refreshing your spells, but not this time around. Each rest brings the civilians closer to death door, and without resources, you might doom your little crew of survivalists by taking that sweet nap. It’s a nice balance to consider.
On the CORE difficulty setting this took my party to the limit. I was constantly low on health, potions, and I think at one point every companion was either poisoned or had some kind of crippling illness. When I could take that needed rest, it was like being blessed by the gods – to finally be able to start anew and be refreshed and ready for action!
The visual style remains the same, but that is not very surprising considering what the DLC entails, and the sound and music fall under the same category. However, there are a few new voices and they fit the new characters introduced in this adventure perfectly. My wish is that some of them would get transferred to the main campaign – like the rogue Thiefling companion. I liked his voice and the ruggedness it expressed. Another addition is the use of cinematic in-engine cutscenes. I only remember the one from the beginning of the main game, here they were frequent to push the story along. I can’t say I minded them too much since they were very non-intrusive and didn’t ruin any of the roleplaying I set out for my character.
So many season passes
All in all, I enjoyed Through the Ashes, however, it comes with one big issue. The story ends on a cliffhanger, promised to end in the next DLC. I have nothing against this per se, other than the fact that it won’t be part of the same Season Pass. The conclusion to this story will not be included in the price of the first Season Pass, which really irks me. I will probably buy Season Pass 2 down the line when it’s on sale, but I can’t say I appreciate this sale tactic much – as in holding the ending hostage until you pay up when it eventually comes out. Despite that, I recommend Through the Ashes. It was a fun adventure without the Chosen One trope that is so common in RPGs. Just keep in mind that the ending is non-conclusive and you will have to pay to experience it.
Thanks for reading.