June 21, 2017 by Paul Curtin
With one of the best traits of the Souls games being the mysterious style of storytelling, developer Aurora44 is taking the concept one step further with more minimalist character designs and more of a focus on asynchronous co-op. Like other thought-provoking beautiful indie games such as Journey and INSIDE, Ashen’s characters are simple in design and Aurora44 is relying on the environment and unique co-op to help tell the story.
In our hands-on time with the game, we got to play with the developers who showed us how co-op works. Aurora44 explained that players won’t have name tags and the ability to communicate will be limited to emotes. In Ashen‘s open-world, characters can randomly bump into each other and assist with objectives such as opening the doors of dungeons that two players are required to unlock — in cases of no other players being around, the game also has the ability to generate A.I. controlled players to assist. So as was the case in Journey, it might not be clear right away if you’re playing with another real player or not.
All the basic Souls-style mechanics are present in Ashen such as save points, shortcuts, light and heavy attacks, loot drops in the form of new armor and weapons, and punishing foes who can unexpectedly kill you at any time. Inside the dungeon we played, a lantern was required to be carried to light the pitch black environment. Like other punishing games in the genre, carrying the lantern in the left hand limited combat to attacks only with a right hand weapon. But what was unique with Ashen’s system was that the lantern could be placed on the ground to light the room – allowing the player to go back to using both hands to land more devastating attacks on enemies or block with the shield when needed.
The developer explained to us that the point of Ashen was to find survivors, rescue them, and then bring them back to your town. Bringing survivors back home allows new structures to be built in your town and new upgrades to be unlocked and equipped. We didn’t get a chance to see the town system in action, so it’ll be interesting when the devs release more info, especially considering that the home mechanic seems like the game’s most unique feature that will be setting it apart from other IPs in the same genre.
Ashen is launching on Xbox One and PC, but still has no official release date — so it might not be until next year’s E3 that we see more.