There are now plenty of endless copies of Dark Souls in various forms. The idea of creating a fairy-tale world, where the player will have to constantly suffer before overcoming the next line and going through the next boss, has already become very popular. However, if you do not take into account the relatively good project Nioh, all attempts to create your own Dark Souls looked like nothing more than a cheap Chinese fake, inferior to the original in all aspects. Nevertheless, games with a similar concept are released and this time we have Ashen game from the studio A44. Will it become an exception to this rule or a confirmation of it? Let’s figure it out.
The New Zealand developers did not make any drastic changes and just decided to slightly rework the original Dark Souls by stuffing it into a different wrapper. If we draw the closest analogy, it resembles when a kid watches an interesting cartoon, and then retelling it, adding more and more fictitious details.
Introduction or how it all began
The plot of Ashen tells about a certain divine bird, Ash, who gave birth to all life in the world. However, any end will be marked by a new beginning, therefore the death of the bird and its three sighs before death gave rise to three different eras: darkness, titans and humanity. In this regard, a representative of the human race, together with the titans, must save the universe from darkness and protect the newborn Ash chick.
A gameplay that will be very familiar to many
Before the start of the game, you are given the opportunity to choose the gender and appearance of your hero, which, as you might guess, will not affect the gameplay in any way. But before you can save at the boulders (these are the same bonfires from Dark Souls), you need to find tools for the titan blacksmith. As you progress through the game, Ashen is more and more felt borrowing certain mechanics from Dark Souls. In addition to huge boulders, your hero will soon have a flask that replenishes his health level. The flask itself can be increased by the number of sips and the level of liquid for the provided souls and values.
You also need souls in the game to upgrade yourself, your weapons, replenish the squad with new partners and create valuable things. You can always purchase other useful items from merchants. As you progress through the game, you begin to acquire certain abilities, such as teleportation between monoliths.
Paradoxically, your capabilities and abilities do not particularly affect the gameplay. You will have to use certain items in the game only once and at the same time in a clearly indicated place. And this is very depressing, because the developers of the game had the opportunity to create many interesting puzzles that would be nice to dilute the gameplay.
However, the creators of the game were able to realize the idea of a developing city – each rescued character ends up in your camp, where they all build new houses and work at one or another job.
The core mechanics of the Dark Souls gameplay are still the foundation of Ashen, which are quite simplified due to the fact that your partner comes to your aid during the battle. By the way, this partner can be both an ordinary bot and a real player when playing on the network.
Playmates are important. In addition to helping you in battle, NPCs can also save you from death between save points. You can also help your partner in difficult times. The presence of partners and the abundance of stone monoliths in the game greatly simplifies the gameplay compared to the same Dark Souls. At the same time, you can easily kill strong opponents and then come back to the revival monolith and replenish your health. However, after such actions, the enemies will no longer degenerate nearby. Most likely, this is how the creators of the game stop farming.
The protagonist of the game also comes to the aid of special flasks with an analogue of Estus, which are easily pumped and which can be developed to the maximum in the first few hours of the gameplay. You can also note various amulets that increase certain characteristics, as well as potions that give you strength and increase damage from attacks.
Pumping the hero in the game directly depends on the completion of the main and side missions. The tasks themselves do not particularly shine with originality, basically these are standard missions where you need to kill someone or get something. Also, tasks encourage you to explore the world of the game more and more by discovering new locations. Any completed task increases your health and stamina, and also allows you to master various crafts for creating potions and amulets.
Alas, some side missions will not be available to you until you complete the main tasks and gain access to previously closed locations. This is very annoying, especially when the road is in front of you and you do not understand why it is closed to you until you realize that you have not completed one of the main tasks.
Battles in Ashen – you will be numbered
In terms of conducting battles, Ashen also loses on all fronts to the creation of From Software. The opponents in the game are interesting only in terms of appearance and design. A similar statement applies to bosses in the game, the battles with which are very monotonous and not interesting, and therefore, if not for the appearance, then they would not be particularly distinguished from each other.
The world of Ashen is very monotonous and linear, which does not cause any interest in exploring it. Fast travel also negatively affects the desire to engage in long exploration of the game world. However, the levels are sometimes very confusing, and they don’t really match the provided map.
Another big drawback of the game is that opponents don’t change much while your leveling level increases. In this regard, closer to the middle of the game, you will easily deal with numerous opponents and crush them left and right. However, closer to the end of the game, some locations will simply be overwhelmed with numerous enemies, creating difficulties only because of their huge number, which makes the passage of such places tedious and difficult.
At the same time, in front of the main boss in the game you will not have the opportunity to save, so if you die during the battle with him, then you will have to go through the entire dungeon again with numerous enemies on the way to it.
A few words about how everything looks
In terms of the visual component, Ashen is somewhat reminiscent of Absolver with its simplistic surroundings and unusual characters’ faces. The key components of the game’s combat system evoke associations with an open-world online fighting game, however, the animation in Ashen looks better due to the smooth movement of the characters.
The game Ashen clearly shows that if you have a desire, then you can make a project as similar and not similar to Dark Souls. Of course, imitation of successful games is far from a minus, but it should be deliberate and the developer should not forget to do something of his own. In addition, both in terms of imitation and when creating something of your own, you need to strive to make the game as interesting and colorful as possible. Alas, Ashen looks like nothing more than a less successful copy of another game, whose name you have already been in the review more than once.
LID2PRO reviewer verdict
Confusing and monotonous locations, no less monotonous enemies, boring battles and problems in some mechanics (like the inability to complete an additional quest without completing the main one). All this makes the process of passing Ashen not the most interesting and enjoyable pastime, at least after a few hours of playing.
The game has a good visual component, however, even good cartoon graphics will not hide the dullness of the locations and the monotony of the levels.
The sound in the game cannot boast of anything special. Not the voice acting of the characters that you want to listen to, nor the soundtrack that immerses you in the atmosphere of the game, there is nothing like this. Everything is monotonous and not interesting.
Everything in the game looks like a less successful copy of Dark Souls. Attempts to add pathos to the plot, a very linear world, monotonous battles – all this negatively affects the storyline campaign and the overall impression of the game.
The controls in the game are convenient and do not give rise to any particular complaints. It is convenient and easy to crush monotonous enemies with the same techniques.
A fairly average project that resembles the famous Dark Souls in almost all aspects, but is far behind it. The game can be recommended to fans of this genre looking for some kind of variety after completing Dark Souls and fans of this series, who already