Developed by A44, “Ashen” is a game heavily inspired by the “Dark Souls” series, with similar overarching themes and a combat system faithful to its inspiration.
“Ashen” was released in early December 2018 and received paid downloadable content (DLC)
the following year. The base game can be purchased for $39.99 and the DLC can be purchased for an additional $9.99. It is currently available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows computers.
In “Ashen,” you play as a wanderer searching for a place to call home. It tells the familiar story of a battle between light and dark, after the world was sent into an era of darkness when the God-like figure of the world, a large glowing bird, disappeared.
“Ashen” plays very similarly to any of the FromSoftware games. Those familiar with “Dark Souls” will likely be able to adjust to “Ashen” quickly. It is a lot simpler, but still uses the same core mechanics.
When in combat, players need to be aware of how much stamina they have for an attack. While there isn’t any magic or spells like there is in the “Souls” series, players still have a set number of flasks, called crimson gourd, to replenish their health.
As you progress through the game, you will be able to increase the number of crimson gourds your character has, meaning you will have more chances to replenish your health in battle.
From a strictly gameplay point of view, “Ashen” is just OK. The mechanics are simplistic and it doesn’t introduce anything new to “Souls”-esque games.
The main unique combat mechanic in “Ashen” stems from how the multiplayer works. Typically, you have a non-playable character (NPC) accompanying you as you traverse through the lands.
Occasionally you may notice the NPC acting differently than AI would, as if it were being controlled by a human. That would be because it is. Thanks to their passive multiplayer, the NPC can be replaced by a person at various points throughout your journey.
This can be turned off, so you will only be accompanied by AI, but you can also set a password so a friend can join you on your adventures.
Despite taking very obvious inspiration from the “Dark Souls” series, “Ashen” sets itself apart with a gorgeously simple art style.
Even though it may be simplistic, the art style is captivating and full of character.
The music accompanies the simple art style perfectly. The score is never overbearing, but helps add to the overall atmosphere.
“Ashen” also excels with its subtle story-telling. In the beginning of the game, you will set up camp at Vagrant’s Rest. As you return from quests, Vagrant’s Rest will progressively grow from ruins to a small village.
Once abandoned, Vagrant’s Rest will gain more residents who will help construct new buildings, bringing the area to life.
Overall, “Ashen” is a fun experience, but might be worth waiting for a sale if you’re on the fence. It’s visually stunning and the simple gameplay is fun, but does feel like it could use a little bit more.