Usually, I am not a fan of the whole “soulslike” genre, I enjoy the combat against the normal enemies but the bosses usually get on my nerves, so when I saw a facebook AD for an indie soulslike that seemingly had a few small differences deviating it from other games in the genre, i still found myself enraptured by the trailer and the subsequent gameplay I looked at. Enough to download yet another game client, and pay the whopping £35 for the game to get started.
After playing the game to completion over the weekend, I can say for certainty that Ashen is a fantastic game, and is probably my favourite soulslike game on the market right now, this review will cover the changes from the classic formula that make this game so fun, as the standard soulslike formula is followed so closely that is wears its inspiration on its sleeve.
The entire game is drop in/out co-op, meaning you are always with a friend and that friend could be a competent player who could lead you to some really cool experiences, the game is built in a way where you can only tell if a player is a player by how they act, as the characters always take the look of a character at your home town (discussed further on) and there is no voice chat or player tags, making it a really minimalist co-op experience that works in the games favour.
The co-op gameplay does more than offer a unique form of immersion, it gives options to make the game easier, as the partner can help you in fights and bosses (which can be turned off if you want to be hardcore and solo the game) but also gives you a sliver of hope, as in other games, the environment and game ensures you feel desolate and alone, while the extra character makes the experience more hopeful – and offers unique experiences to boot.
The story is generic for an RPG, but not so much for a soulslike, without spoiling the story too much, it is about bringing light back to a desolate world and facing the hurdles you find along the way, helping other characters with similar motives. The story is more about the journey than the destination, and seeing the world evolve around you is truly special.
One cool feature is the fact that the more people who join your town, as well as at points during the story, your town slowly evolves from this hovel to a functioning town that people can thrive in, the change is slow at first but is a really fun experience going back to the town and discovering the changes that have happened while you left.
In terms of graphics, its your typical indie fair there, where the graphics are stylised and cell shaded to allow for an easier time for fewer artists, the game still looks great though, and on my PC – runs great too.
Would I recommend?
100% yes, especially for those who are fans of games that follow the path crafted by Dark Souls, it is rather pricey on pc, but is available on the Xbox One game pass, which allows for it to be far cheaper for those willing to subscribe.