Co-op games have been around for a tremendously long time, but until recently they weren’t really inspiring strong emotional attachment between strangers. Journey was one of the first to instill this sensation in its audience, which was the a key tenet behind its massive success back on PS3. Ashen is not going to simply follow in those footsteps, even if it may have gained some insight from the title. Instead, it’s a third person action RPG with co-op at the core of its expansive adventure.
Players assume the role of a wanderer who is just looking for a place to live. The concept fits in well with the gameplay, as it offers a vast open world just waiting to be explored. And just like its genre brethren, you’ll be able to explore it at will and progress in different ways each playthrough. Some might feel there’s a bit of Dark Souls thrown in for good measure as well. There is no such thing as easy fodder enemies. No matter what, you must be prepared for a fight as everything could spin out of control at any second.
Fortunately, you can always run the heck away from monsters and return to your settlement or head into town. It’s here you’ll find other survivors simply seeking refuge from the wilderness’ many dangers. The town also features skilled people such as blacksmiths to provide players with stronger weaponry. Unlike most action RPGs which fill their realm with NPCs, however, Ashen brings in other players via what it calls “passive multiplayer.”
You aren’t forced to group up if you don’t want to. Instead, two strangers may simply cross paths before continuing along in completely different directions. The hope, of course, is for players to interact and stick around with each other. This is because everyone has their own unique skills (including crafting abilities) which make them a tremendous asset to each other. Given the difficulty of surviving, it also makes sense to group up and work together on various challenges. Working together simply increases the chances that both will survive versus going solo and dying all alone.
Actually working together rather than simply fighting alongside each other once or twice also strengthens real bonds between people. As you work to aid another person, and as they in turn help you out, the urge to continue playing together increases. Sure, someone may occasionally meet a troll player, but there’s no one forcing you to work with that type of player either. As long as there is a decent-sized playerbase for Ashen then the multiplayer concept is poised to really shine.
If Ashen sounds like your kind of game then you’ll probably be a little disappointed to discover it isn’t expected to launch until 2018. As of now the game is confirmed for release on PC and Xbox One – but we’re expecting to see that console list grow, especially if the initial release proves successful. With fun core gameplay and a cool co-op concept, it seems likely to do quite well.