I was very interested in Ashen when it was first announced. The faceless characters and the interesting graphic design really drew me in and with the Dark Souls style combat system, I was sold from the jump and couldn't wait for its release. And needless to say, Ashen lives up.
And just to really make clear. The only thing that Dark Souls and Ashen really have in common is the combat system. Although, I find the combat in Ashen a lot more forgiving. You can move and dodge a lot quicker, You can quickly fire off a series of quick attacks before getting out of harm's way. So I like that it isn't difficult for the sake of being difficult (looking at you Dark Souls...). But it is still a challenge though. You have to learn how to pick your shots because each enemy reacts differently. So with each new enemy, It's a new pattern to learn and adapt to and I like that. And you have to adapt even more so depending on the type of weapon you wish to use. So a two-handed weapon dishes out a lot more damage but it's also slower and leaves you prone more to attacks. In comparison to a sword-shield combo that dishes out a decent amount of damage but also leaves you a lot more capable of blocking and dodging incoming attacks. And it's the fact that you always have to change and adapt that helps keep the game fresh regardless of how far you go through it. The addition of talisman and relics add a nice twist to the gameplay because a user can craft certain ones to cater to how they want to play the game. For example, you can choose ones that help boost your damage or decrease how much sprinting or attacks drain your stamina. It's a nice addition that helps add more to the RPG element this game has to offer.
Another aspect of the game I really like is how your home base develops over time. When you first start playing the game, Your home base is this run down, destroyed village which you have to take over by defeating local bandits. After claiming the base, Your AI companions make the village home. And over time, as you complete more missions and find more companions to join your team, The village starts to rebuild and take form. Now you have access to stores where you can buy, craft and upgrade items. It's a really unique feature of the game and I think it's very fitting to go along with your own natural progression.
Now, The one feature that people are talking about is the multiplayer/AI companion that joins you in your travels. There's an AI companion that always tags along with you to help you along your journey and at random times, A player can drop into your game and play as that "AI" without you even knowing. While it's a feature I don't mind, I would like to see a true multiplayer mode added so players can put their own character together and take on some of the more difficult areas.
And speaking of the AI companion, I know some people have had issues with it and I have as well. The companion's effectiveness ranges from useless to surprisingly very effective. It's very inconsistent and that's quite annoying at times. I'll have an AI companion be totally useless in normal battles but when it comes down to a boss fight, Things are ramped up 10 and it ends up doing more work than I do. So that is something that I really hope they address with future patches. Also, I am a bit annoyed with the spawning issue that seems to plague the companion. Especially if someone drops in and out of your game or if the original companion dies, One isn't quickly there to take the previous companions place and that can make the game quite tense because if you die, that's it. No one is gonna be there to save you.
Now, Last but not least is the story. I really don't want to give anything away but I think where Ashen shines isn't just the interesting main story but how in-depth some of these characters are with their own rich backstories. Honestly, I am surprised because I thought that would be the one area of the game that would be lacking as so many other RPGs suffer from that issue. But Ashen addresses it and provides some unique stories if you can manage to maintain the patience to read through the dialogue.
A few other small things to mention: I've had no issues with bugs or glitches other than the AI companion. Boss fights aren't really all that challenging, Aside from the final boss that is. I am a bit disappointed with the lack of weapons and armour in this game, There aren't really many options and upgrading only goes so far. That's the one aspect I feel the game is really lacking in. And I really enjoy that you really have to think before you leap in this game. It doesn't pay to just rush into an area because you don't know what's waiting for you so having to slowly explore and advance in this game builds up the suspense and helps add to the dark atmosphere this game provides.
Despite it's few flaws, I still loved playing Ashen. It was an enjoyable challenge to beat and I would happily give the sequel a chance, Especially if they continue to build upon what was offered in the first game.