In a year with so many massive AAA releases, Ashen is yet another enjoyable indie game that flew below everyone’s radar. Developed by New Zealand studio A44 and released on Xbox One and PC, it finally gives Microsoft fans their own exclusive ‘Souls-like, albeit one that doesn’t consider wallowing in oppressive misery an essential feature. Ashen wears its inspiration on its sleeve for all to see but manages to provide a more uplifting and accessible experience, along with a novel take on multiplayer.
...I never paid too much heed to the overarching story, preferring to spend my time assisting several companions that slowly settle and develop the ramshackle town, “Vagrant’s Rest”...
Ashen follows the design mantra of “if you can see it, you can go there”, and the fluid traversal and platforming moveset make exploring the sprawling, oversized world enthralling, rather than frustrating.
Occasional difficulty spikes, particularly when first traversing the Seat of the Matriarch and Palace of Lathyrus gauntlets are an issue, but the combination of level design and stunning aesthetics cemented these as some of the best dungeons I’ve tackled in years.
Simple geometry and flat textures work well thanks to larger-than-life structures; striking, contrasting colours; and a dynamic lighting system that comes into its own when you're exploring the many dark caves and tombs, lantern in hand and hostile eyes glowing in the distance.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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PC, Xbox One
7 January 2019
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