Ashen’s passive co-op pairs well with Souls-y combat

Just the two of us

It’s rare that I get to cover a game twice in a pre-release state, but I’m happy I had the chance with Ashen, an action-RPG I first played at E3 last year and just saw again last weekend at PAX West. While the first impression was promising, it was also riddled with technical issues. This latest outing looked and felt great. I tend to be extra picky when it comes to Souls-like games, but Ashen is up to snuff.

In a pleasant surprise, I was able to check out the oft-touted “passive multiplayer” with our very own Brett, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. (We were both done for the day after this appointment and he didn’t want to walk up the Big Hill to our Airbnb alone, so he found me.)

While you’re going about your business, you’ll encounter NPCs as you roam the world, dodge-rolling and slashing away at foes. Except they might not actually be NPCs. Ashen has seamless online multiplayer and instead of teaming you up with custom-detailed characters, the game connects you with players who look to you like characters you already know. It’s a neat little touch to maintain consistency in the narrative, which revolves around finding survivors who can help build a settlement.

In the year since I last saw Ashen, it has really come into its own. The stamina-based combat feels tight. Your goals are straightforward. (I love when From Software does it, but not every game needs to be cryptic or obtuse.) The multiplayer works as advertised. Knowing full well that some of you like to play with a friend in games like this, I asked about that process. In short: you can set a password. Perfect.

Developer Aurora44 showed us a few late-game areas and illustrated how your safe haven will grow in size and scope as you continue adventuring. We also got to take on a tricky boss fight. Despite having an AI partner to lend a hand, we weren’t able to beat our fire-summoning foe. He had helpers.

It’s tricky to get an all-encompassing view of a meaty game like Ashen from a preview build, but I’m much more confident than I was a year ago. I’m looking forward to it with few caveats.

I do worry that the combat might be too simple for its own good, but that’ll come down to how many unique weapons there are (I only used a few), so I’ll reserve judgment for now. I can safely say this is worth keeping tabs on if you’re into action-RPGs. For lack of a better word, Ashen just feels “right.”

Jordan Devore
Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random.