Aska Will Test Your Survival Skills (and Your Patience)

Can Aska succeed with its combination of survival and colony sim gameplay? Check out our final Aska Preview to see our thoughts after 150 hours of gameplay.

Published: June 24, 2024 8:00 AM /

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Aska Final Preview - Cover Image Running Through Town

You are the last man standing after a terrible cataclysm, but you won't be alone forever — in Aska, you can transform one lonely person on an island into the head of a Viking village filled with talented craftsmen and mighty warriors.

Aska is one of those rare games that somewhat successfully blends two genres; in this case, it's part survival game and party colony sim. You can build anywhere on a massive island, get dozens of villagers, and go toe-to-toe against mighty monsters. I enjoyed checking it out back in April of this year, and I was excited to see how the final product turned out.

Expanding a Settlement in Aska
Expanding your settlement can be difficult if you don't have a robust infrastructure with several villagers helping you.

Starting Civilization from Scratch

The key premise of Aska is your adventure in restarting civilization from nothing. You land on an island after your boat is smashed to bits with nothing to your name except the clothes on your back and a canteen of sorts. With just a little bit of elbow grease, you'll soon be the head of a bustling village.

Your new village can be placed virtually anywhere on the massive island that is now your new home, and you can choose to populate it with a few villagers, dozens of villagers, or no villagers whatsoever. There is a fair amount of freedom in deciding your ultimate strategy.

Strictly speaking, you probably could play Aska by yourself or with some friends — it would just take much longer than it should.

You and your villagers will depend on buildings to gather resources, grow and cook food, and craft new items. All of these buildings need to be defended, too, so a portion of your population will almost certainly be assigned to defend it. You'll need the help — you can expect an attack once every few in-game days, and each winter ends with a large invasion.

Strictly speaking, you probably could play Aska by yourself or with some friends — it would just take much longer than it should. Though you have to provide for your villagers' needs, they also considerably speed up construction and resource collection.

Fighting enemies outside of town with villagers in Aska
Villagers can be trained in combat and they will assist you when enemies attack.

Fair, Unforgiving, and Utterly Mystifying

Part of the appeal of Aska is the challenge of it. The game never feels unfair, but it also doesn't do the best job of communicating critically important information to the player.

Take the monster spawners as an example. In my first failed playthrough, I built my settlement a little too close to some ruins that, unbeknownst to me, endlessly spawned skeletons. I spent half of my playtime killing skeletons that were beating on my wall.

It's totally fair to suffer the consequences of building near a monster spawner. What's somewhat less fair is the fact that I had no way of knowing that that was a monster spawner that could not be destroyed. It took quite a few hours before I realized my situation was untenable and I had to restart. Lesson learned.

On a similar note, critical locations on a map (such as the aforementioned monster spawner) are not marked in any way. You only have one waypoint, so you can't mark them yourself, either. These are some of the many pieces of information that Aska should give you but doesn't.

This information deficit makes learning how to play Aska a trial-and-error experience. You'll gain the inkling of some new mechanic or strategy, only to learn that it's easier to start over and integrate this knowledge into your next attempt rather than continue on with a flawed strategy that's difficult to fix.

Farmers Who Need Rakes Annoying Me in Aska
Villagers with serious problems (such as a lack of tools) will follow you around until you interact with them and find out what's wrong. Many critical pieces of information can only be discovered by talking to people.

Automation Frustration

For a game that depends on automation, Aska is sorely lacking some much-needed features for managing your Settlement and the villagers that live within it. The current state of the Early Access launch is something of an exercise in frustration and micromanagement at times.

Farming is one particularly frustrating area. Each season, certain crops can no longer be grown and other crops must replace them. You can automate the planting and harvesting of crops on a per-season basis, but you must manually swap the crops in the Farm's menu each season.

This seems like a terrible oversight, especially considering how important a good food supply is for your village. The ability to automatically rotate crops based on the season can and should have been available right from the get-go. Instead, farming is a chore of micromanaging what gets planted where throughout the year.

Another issue is the fact that there is no reliable way to make villagers avoid an area. One of my playthroughs was ruined simply by the fact that my villagers kept running past a particularly dangerous respawning monster. I could place no flag or marker that would tell them to avoid that area. This is a feature that's badly needed in a future update.

Comparable games will provide statistics of incoming and outgoing supplies, allowing you to understand any deficiencies in your strategy at a glance. Aska doesn't do the greatest job of keeping you informed about small problems in your Settlement that could snowball into something bigger such as your farmers lacking tools.

These problems are compounded by the fact that it takes 10 minutes to summon a new villager and you can only summon one at a time. If some kind of disaster strikes or you lose a major battle, you'll spend hours recovering your population — and the gaps in your economy could have a devastating cascade effect for the rest of your people.

The aftermath of a Winter Invasion in Aska
The yearly Winter Invasion tests your village's defenses and keeps you on your toes. You can quickly lose everything if you're not prepared.

Aska Preview | Final Thoughts

It may sound like I dislike Aska, but that's not the case. I genuinely think that this is one of the most interesting survival games and colony sims to make its way onto Steam in some time. Aska masterfully blends two genres into a single, compelling package — but the rough edges make what could have been a great game fall a bit short.

I think that many of these issues could be solved with some design changes. If the devs can improve the automation options and give the player a little more useful information, I could see Aska being the sort of game that you can comfortably sink hundreds of hours into by yourself or with your friends.

For now, gamers who are willing to learn and deal with a bit of jank will find Aska a fun challenge. I think it could turn into a simply amazing game with the right tweaks and improvements. One hopes that the developers will use the Early Access period to sort these problems out post haste.

Aska was previewed on PC via Steam Early Access with a code provided by the developer over the course of 150 hours of gameplay; all screenshots were taken during the preview process.

Previews you can trust: To ensure you're getting a fair, accurate, and informed review, our experienced team spends a significant amount of time on everything we preview. Read more about how we review games and products.


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A photograph of TechRaptor Senior Writer Robert N. Adams.
| Senior Writer

One of my earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I… More about Robert N

More Info About This Game
Learn More About Aska
Game Page Aska
Release Date
June 20, 2024 (Calendar)