After a year of exclusivity, one of 2018’s best indie titles has finally been given its chance to shine by way of a glorious PlayStation 4 port. Ashen is a Souls-like in every sense of the word, but it’s one of the few which comes close to matching the quality of From Software.
With a gorgeous open world to explore and deep, engaging combat mechanics to master, A44 Games has pieced together an experience that’s just as enjoyable alone as it is in co-op. The game subscribes to the Dark Souls lineage of blocking and attacking when you see an opening more than anything else, but there is room to utilise a dodge here and there. That’ll be enough to take on the tough but fair enemies standing in your path, although it’s a completely different story when a boss comes along.
Visually spectacular foes tower over you with new mechanics to think about and various methods of slaughter to learn, but they’re just another hurdle to overcome in your quest to rebuild a village you could call home. Recruiting NPCs to your cause is vital to progress, making for vendors to purchase items from, figures to upgrade your equipment, and side quests to accept. Put together, they form a meaningful reason to press on through a world rich with lore and interesting stories.
Bringing a friend along can make one or two fights feel a bit too trivial, but then it’s worth having someone with you to appreciate the stunning vistas Ashen manages to capture. From superb shots of the sea to underground caves illuminated by the crackling fire of your torch, uncovering a new area is an utter pleasure. It might be a year late, but Ashen still manages to carve out its own space for greatness.