- Oct 25, 2017
There is a rumble in the distance, and then a light.
Through leaking eyes you make out a peak on the horizon, choking the land in a cloud of ash.
Nothing ever shone so bright.
Platform(s) PC/Xbox One (Console Timed Exclusive on Xbox - PC Exclusive on the Epic Store for the time being)
Release Date: December 7th, 2018
Price: $39.99 USD (Part of the $5 back Winter of Arcade promo on Xbox)
Player(s): 1 to 2 (passive multiplayer)
Format: Digital Only
Game Pass: Yes
Play Anywhere: Yes (When the Microsoft Store (Windows 10) version launches. Wasn't able to make launch but is coming ASAP)
Developer: A44 (formerly named Aurora44)
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Size: 6.6 GB (Xbox One)
What is Ashen?
Ashen is an, exploration focused, action game that includes stamina-based combat in an open world with passive multiplayer.
Is this more or less approachable than the Souls series?
Personal tastes will always dictate this but Ashen has features that should make it an easier entry point for this style of game. You have a compass with quest markers, companions, the ability to be revived from a death state by an AI/player and access to a full map.
What is the world structure in Ashen?
The world in Ashen is an open environment with a non-linear focus.
Yes. There is a fast travel option you will unlock in Ashen.
I have too much stuff, can I store it somewhere?
Yes. As your town expands an item box will become available to you.
While your character does not experience growth through leveling you are able to increase your power and change your playstyle through your, upgradeable, equipment.
There’s a town in this game?
Yes, Ashen features an expandable settlement. The options this location offers to you will expand as characters are encountered in the world and offered refuge. From there you will be given quests from those new residents that will increase the services they offer.
Can I customise the appearance of my character?
Yes. You can select your gender and appearance when starting the game.
What happens when I die?
When you die you drop your held currency and respawn at your last checkpoint. Returning to where you died will allow you to recover the dropped coinage.
As you go about the world of Ashen you may be, seamlessly, joined to another user’s game and run into each other as you explore. This other player will appear as a quest giver seen in your town going about their own tasks. You can either join together to accomplish tasks or go about on your way, but there is not formal communication available to you in-game.
Can I play it with friends?
Yes. The game lacks a lobby but you can configure it so that the only other players that can appear in your world supply a matching password. As with strangers your co-op companion will appear as one of your rescued townsfolk on your screen and vice-versa for theirs.
Crossplay between console and PC?
Unknown. Ashen is part of the Play Anywhere program which sometimes features crossplay between the Windows 10 and Xbox One versions of a game, but the Windows version did not make the December release date.
Can I play it offline/solo?
Yes and any co-op mandatory areas will be accessible via the "Recluse" talisman that is available after beating the first boss. AI will also take over for controlling wondering townsfolk in the world but that can be turned off in the options.
I still have questions about the multiplayer.
A44 released a FAQ that covers a lot of the specific details for multiplayer.
How long is it?
Reviews put the game at 15-20 hours.
Ultrawide support on PC?
FPS options beyond 60 on PC?
Where are the swords?
Ashen is a sword free zone. Metals are too rare a resource to spend on something so extravagant when there are more “cost-effective” alternatives like axes and spears.
While originally touted as a “lifetime” exclusive ala Cuphead, once Annapurna stepped in to publish Ashen, the game is listed as “debuting” exclusively on Xbox One. It will certainly come to other platforms once that unknown exclusivity window has passed.
Ashen will launch as part of the Gamepass.
Xbox One X Enhancements?
Yes. The game features a 4k/30fps mode on the Xbox One X with the option to drop the resolution to 1080p (which seemingly keeps the 30fps cap).
Metacritic (Xbox One) - 81
Metacritic (PC) - 83
Ashen does more than enough to differentiate it from other Souls-like games. Although its combat utilizes the same stamina-focused mechanics, the inclusion of features that promote a sense of community with the game's characters makes for a wholly different experience. It's frustrating to spawn and see that your computer-controlled partner has a weapon that doesn't complement the one you're using. However, even when playing with NPCs, your allies' efforts to assist you in battle cause you to care about the fates of the colorful cast of people you meet on your journey. The relationships you forge define your adventure through Ashen, and helping your new friends is a powerful motivator that drives you forward through the game's beautiful world.
Ashen is a faithful homage (for better or worse) to the games that inspired it, and it executes on those existing principles soundly. Ashen's own contributions to the formula waver between exhilarating highs and frustrating lows, but the former greatly outweigh the latter, and even if it's not the most original journey you've ever been on, it's one well worth taking. There's a lot to love about Ashen, even if you've loved it before.
Steam (Release TBA)
Epic Store (Note: Game is listed as Win7 compatible but there are issues. See this post for a workaround.)