Released last month, Ashen from A44 Games gained notoriety for its unique art style and souls-like design. After spending time with the title, both for Backseat Gaming and afterwards to complete my playthrough, I’ve really enjoyed my time with it.
First things first, the game does use the “Souls” formula. Thus as you would expect, any enemy can kill you, boss battles are highlights, and slowly upgrading to increase your chances of success is paramount. Secondly, the game is built around co-op. There are several A.I. companions that will join you on your journeys and you can also have a friend join you if you so choose.
Likely the most notable aspect of Ashen is the art style within the world. While playing you’ll visit several different environments, all of which have a beautiful, almost water color fluidity to them. Exploring the environments is welcomed as well due to intelligent world design in which items and upgrades are scattered endlessly.
Over the course of your journey you’ll find a plethora of weapons and upgrades allowing you to mix and match playstyles. You can go for an agile, fast striking approach, a tank-like armor and shield build, or simply carry a monstrous two-handed weapon. And unlike some other titles with this gameplay style, while exploring you’ll find more than enough upgrade material for tens of weapons rather than just a handful; something I found pleasing.
Despite enjoying my 15 or so hours with Ashen, I do have a few issues with the title. The co-op characters can be inconsistent. Often times they would disappear unexpectedly or have trouble navigating their way to me through the environment. Enemy variety could have used expanding as through the game you’ll battle many of the same enemies and there were very few unique, challenging enemies that weren’t bosses. Lastly, the bosses themselves were fun to fight with unique styles, but they weren’t incredibly creative or challenging. Once you figured out their patterns, which didn’t take long, they were easy to overcome.
Overall, I truly liked Ashen. It was a pleasure exploring the world and a very solid effort from A44 Games. I hope we see more of the universe in the future. With a little more polish and development budget, it could be a major contender.