Ashen is a soulslike, but it’s not in the way you might expect. Rather than being all dark and brooding, it feels a lot lighter. That’s because the overriding feeling throughout Ashen is one of hope. This is helped a lot by the passive multiplayer that it has going on which has other players in and around your world as you journey about. It’s a really cool system, and one those ideas that feels so good you have to wonder why more games don’t try and implement it.
That’s not to say that you’re not going to be challenged playing Ashen, you’re still going to face off against dangerous enemies and environments waiting to kill you, but it’s just a very different vibe than what you’d normally expect from this genre. Sure, you’ll still be frustrated at times, but you still feel as though you’re building towards something incredible rather than repeating a doomed cycle. It helps that both the graphics and the sound design are exquisite, with the former being wonderfully minimalist and the latter being perfectly suited to each area and battle you’ll find yourself in.
There are a lot of soulslikes out in the world, and they’re not all good. However, Ashen still stands out as one of the best attempts at the formula that hasn’t come from FromSoftware themselves, and it’s definitely worth revisiting as this chaotic year draws to an end. Sure, it’s nearly a year old, but if you missed it then this is as good a time as any to go back and give it a shot.
Jason is the Editor of The Indie Game Website. He’s a lover of roguelikes, soulslikes, and other kinds of likes. He basically spends a lot of time getting beaten up in games and seems to enjoy it.