Among the stars fly the Ashen, great creatures of living light. Below, stretches a great darkness where the nine realms fan out beneath the branches of the tree of worlds. It was when one of these radiant beings rested upon the boughs of the tree that Light was gifted unto the land. Eons passed, and the great Ashen eventually grew weak from age and fell from the tree down to the plains of darkness below. Its death at hand, the Ashen's final three breaths became the three golden ages of light. The first was ruled by the Elder Dark, three creatures who fed upon the light. The second marked the coming of the Listener Matriarchs, who worshipped the light. The last saw the rise of humanity, the children of Gefn. When the final breath ended, there came an age of darkness and the once great cities of men fell into ruin. Yet life went on, with the few survivors of that dark time eking out a meager existence in the lightless world.
But soon, the Ashen will be reborn and a new age of light will begin.
Players take the role of a warrior seeking a place to call home. Guided by Bataran, its former Guardian, you are tasked with finding the newly reborn Ashen and to protect it in order to usher in a new age of light. Along the way, you may find others with similar goals and together, just maybe, you will find a place to belong within the light.
The game is often described as being very similar to Dark Souls and much of its mechanics are taken directly from that series such as the way combat works. The game's atmosphere also invokes a feeling very similar to those games. There are, however, some unique elements, such as the world being far more open-ended than any of the Souls games, as well as the constant presence of a companion, be they player or NPC, to aid you on your journey.
The game was released on December 7th, 2018 for PC and Xbox One, and later ported to the Nintendo Switch on December 9th, 2019.
This game provides examples of:
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Diasora in Whispers isn't happy that its pup prefers you over it. Amiren is also pretty big.
- Back from the Dead: Amara is seemingly broken in half after the first half of the bossfight with the Shadow of the Ashen. She appears at the end of the fight no worse for wear with the only apparent change being that she now wears a headdress. No explanation is given for the sudden recovery, though it might have been via Ritual Stone.
- The Blacksmith: Bataran, the former guardian of the Ashen, becomes your town's blacksmith. Using his anvil allows you to upgrade your weapons.
- The Blank: None of the character models have faces with their only defining features being hair, or facial hair. Nevertheless, there are a few references to eyes and the like (mostly from Silaren), so this was likely simply a choice on the part of the developers. The sole exception to this rule is Gefn, though all that can be seen of her face under her mask is her lips.
- In fact the only time you ever see eyes in this game is when the new Ashen awakens.
- Big Bad: Sissna, possessing Silaren's body is the final boss.
- Big Good: Gefn guides you through much of the game, and many characters (most notably Amara) urge you to follow her advice. She is also the one who uses the Heart of Lathyrus to discover where the Ashen sleeps.
- Carry a Big Stick: Clubs are a weapon type in the game. They are usually slower and have little to no critical chance of their own, but have much higher base power and stun than axes.
- Checkpoint Starvation: Some of the larger dungeons like the Seat of the Matriarch, and the Palace of Lathyrus are incredibly long with the only Ritual Stones found at the very end of the dungeon, near the boss room.
- Costume Evolution: Your NPC allies' costumes will get more elaborate as you progress their questlines. Amara's headdress, and Eila's boat-shaped hat are particularly noticeable additions.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Silaren seems to think so, and even teaches you how to utilize the Corridors of Darkness. She's also Sissna in disguise, and has been for a while so her word may not be reliable.
- Deal with the Devil: Jokell's family line is cursed to become shadowy wraiths upon their deaths who haunt the dreams of their living kin. This is due to the progenitor of the curse, Malik Kahl making a deal with Riak to acquire the Umbral Veil. When Malik lost the veil, it resulted in a curse on his whole line.
- Disk One Nuke: The Outcast's Lament can be found as soon as you reach Prophet's Rise and is one of the best weapons in the game.
- The Dreaded: Riak is described as the oldest and most powerful of the Elder Dark, but he's never seen in game.
- Drop the Hammer: There are a few hammers but they basically function the same as clubs.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Elder Dark, light eating creatures that rule the Darkness and seek to have the Ashen's light for their own.
- Giant Enemy Crab: Corbs are big, crablike enemies encountered in a few places in the game.
- Giant Flyer: The Diasora, a giant flying, furry whale-like creature that's about the size of a small fortress. Even its pup (which serves as your Warp Whistle) is about twice the size of a horse.
- The Ashen itself. It is depicted in the opening as an enormous raven made out of light. Throughout the game, it's possible to acquire a number of white and black feathers from it, with each one being about the size of your player character. at the end of the game, we only get to see its eye, but that alone is about as big as the Diasora.
- The Ghost: Riak, the first of the Elder Dark is only mentioned in dialogue and item descriptions but is never encountered in the game. It's suggested that Sissna and Ukkoto fought him at some point but no one knows if he died in the battle or if he's still out there somewhere.
- Harder Than Hard: The Children of Sissna version of the game that unlocks after a certain point. It's largely the same as the normal game, but you have severely reduced health and stamina along with other penalties.
- Healing Potion: The Crimson Gourd is your standard Estus Flask stand-in and can be upgraded to improve both its potency and the number of uses. There's also other healing items for both instant, and over-time recovery.
- Hub City: Vagrant's Rest. Notable in that it starts as just a simple camp with a few lean-tos and grows over the course of the game into a fully functioning small town.
- Lethal Joke Weapon: The Surprisingly Sharp Shovel is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It's able to hold its own even compared to some of the more 'real' weapons you can find. The pickaxe also counts to a lesser extent.
- Light Is Not Good: It isn't bad per se, but after living in darkness for so long, some folks are shown having some adverse effects to a world suddenly covered in light with many claiming to feel 'unwell' if they stand in it for too long. Bataran's missing arm is suggested to have been caused by his close proximity to the dying Ashen and Vorsa's questline centers around finding a potential cure for the 'light blight'.
- The Maker: Gefn, a giant mermaid-like goddess is the mother of humanity.
- The Mentor: Bataran is the previous Guardian of the Ashen and as such has more knowledge of it than most other characters. He's one of the first members of your budding town and is usually the one to direct you to others who may join your cause. He often acts as a sort of fatherly figure to you and the other residents of Vagrant's Rest.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: Listeners are large, gray-skinned humanoids who come in a variety of sizes. They can be anywhere from a little larger than a human, to 15-20 foot hulks like Amiren.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Jokell's family line is cursed due to a broken Deal with the Devil to transform into shadowy undying wraiths upon their deaths. The only way to break the curse is to kill the wraith of his ancestor, Malik Kahl, who was the original curse bearer.
- Our Humans Are Different: Humans are the "children" of Gefn, a colossal mermaid-esque goddess whose face is mostly covered by a mask of wood and bone. Some, like Amara, can perform divination rituals through music.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Gefn is, essentially, an enormous mermaid in a mask of wood or bone. She's also the mother of humanity.
- Phlebotinum Muncher: Ukkoto is able to absorb the light from yours and your companion's lanterns to power itself up. The opening suggests that all three Elder Dark have this ability.
- Praetorian Guard: Jokell is descended from a family who once served as the right hand of the Lathyrian king.
- Right Under Their Noses: The player and their allies spend the entire game seeking the twin hearts of Lathyrus in order to discover where the Ashen is sleeping. When Gefn finally uses the heart, its location is revealed to be the Wrinkled Grotto, a large cavern just north of Vagrants Rest. Curious players may have even wandered in there at the very beginning of the game.
- Souls-like RPG: The gameplay, and general atmosphere is very similar to that of Dark Souls, and Ashen follows well in the footsteps of its predecessor. However, it differs heavily from Dark Souls in many of its themes. Whereas Dark Souls' setting was at the end of an age, with the goal being to stop that from happening, Ashen's is at the beginning of a new one with the goal being to usher it in. Dark Souls is also much more bleak, heavily implying that the linking of the fire is merely delaying the inevitable (and may actually be making things worse), but still maintains that hope hasn't quite died. Ashen on the other hand provides a very optimistic take, and the awakening of the titular being is universally considered to be a good thing, though the ruins of the world's past greatness are plain to see.
- Sir Swearsalot: Eila. Though she's a more G-Rated version when you meet her, Bataran implies that she can be pretty inappropriate.
- Unexplained Recovery: As mentioned above, Amara is seemingly broken in half at the start of the second phase of the Shadow of the Ashen's boss fight. This moment is marked with all the dramatic gravitas to suggest that the death is permanent. However, she appears at the end of the fight, perfectly fine with the only difference being a costume change. No explanation is given for the sudden recovery, though the Ritual Stone might have been involved.
- Warp Whistle: Once you free the Diasora pup, it will carry you between different Ritual Stones.