ASHEN

Darker than Dark Souls

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Daniella Lu­cas

In a world that has no sun, all the light there is comes from a sin­gle moun­tain, and the rest of the globe is cov­ered in an inky black­ness filled with ter­ri­ble crea­tures and an­cient gods. You are one of the few look­ing to spread that light and find a per­ma­nent home, but you’ll have to ex­plore the dark to find it, and con­tend with all the mon­sters you find along the way. As you probe fur­ther, the world gets darker and the crea­tures tougher, and all you have is a lit­tle lantern to light your way. It’s dark, moody, and re­minds us a lot of DarkSouls, with com­bat that’s all about dodg­ing, ex­per­i­ment­ing, and learn­ing through fail­ure to push fur­ther in. There’s even pas­sive mul­ti­player where peo­ple wan­der the same world with you, go­ing about their own busi­ness, and who can choose to help you if they wish, all with­out a sin­gle word be­ing shared be­tween you. “I think that Dark

Souls has a very, very good dun­geon ex­pe­ri­ence with these very pre­cise things. Ashen opens it right up, which is really cool,” game direc­tor Derek Bradley tells us. “And the other side of it is we’re really fo­cused on co-op, so we’re finely tun­ing that co-op ex­pe­ri­ence to be the best that we could pos­si­bly get it.”

Mak­ing friends

But there’s also a real risk to team­ing up with strangers—will they ac­tu­ally stick around to help you, or wan­der off and leave you to face your in­evitable death alone? “I think a really im­por­tant fac­tor of the game is ac­tu­ally the open world, meet­ing peo­ple out there, kind of do­ing a few smaller things with them just to find out how they are, and if you’d like to go a lit­tle bit fur­ther with them or not. Be­cause when you open those doors and you choose to do it, those doors close be­hind you, and you’ve got to achieve some­thing to­gether. So there’s that sort of risk, I think, more than any­thing.”

It’s also dif­fi­cult to tell who you’re pair­ing up with, as no­body has any fa­cial fea­tures to judge them by. “The rea­son that we went with blank faces is that we wanted peo­ple to not judge each other by what­ever the look on their face was,” says Bradley. “It’s like giv­ing that blank­ness really helped peo­ple to role­play and even re­late to other peo­ple that came into the world.”

That face­less­ness and quiet co­op­er­a­tion is lend­ing a real sense of mys­tery to the world of Ashen and its se­crets hid­den in the dark, but ev­ery­thing we’ve seen so far sug­gests we’ll be in for a tense sur­prise as we walk fur­ther out into the gloom. You’ll have to keep your wits about you if you want to get through as, like Dark

Souls, the com­bat and en­e­mies you face will be a real chal­lenge which you’ll only learn with prac­tice. We can’t wait for more light to be shed on this be­fore its 2018 re­lease.

“Ev­ery­thing sug­gests we’ll be in for a tense sur­prise”

Above You’ll have to learn to rely on your lantern to help you through dun­geons.

top right You’ll find gi­ant gods who very rarely will be friendly.

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