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Topic: Indies@PAX - Ashen
Posts: 2972
Location: Melbourne, Victoria

Making its debut on the Xbox E3 stage, people began to take note of the wonderful, strange, and awesome looking indie called Ashen being developed in New Zealand. With an evocative art style and action-RPG combat, the project was initiated by two ex-Weta Digital artists looking to express themselves creatively.

But that was back in 2013. Development on Ashen since that time has progressed and expanded in almost grass-roots fashion - starting with two artists and a programmer to the 37 people that make up the team today. It's been a gradual process and the team now feels that the last six months or so have proven to be the most productive. With a release window of 2018, the results speak for themselves.

So what sort of game is Ashen? Well, it's probably best to describe its setting first - which is what drew us to it in the first place. Ashen is set in a world that has been devoid of natural light for centuries, and it's only now that people are witnessing light slowly return to the world. Playing as a character that you create and take out into the world to survive and explore, Ashen offers up a unique take on co-op for exploration and venturing into dungeons alongside others.

How it works is pretty interesting, matchmaking happens by default with random players. They will then appear as NPC characters in your world, and vide versa. Communication is non-verbal, trust garnered by discovery and sharing experiences. This means a lot of effort has been placed into environmental clues, helping immerse players in a world. Instead of seeing a UserName hover around a corner, you'll need to keep an eye of you companion's torchlight as it flickers and light's up the immediate surrounding.

Of course there will be a way to team-up with a friend, but Ashen is the sort of immersive experience along the lines of Journey that will capture your full attention. So any distractions or breaking that, goes against everything that developer Aurora 44 is striving for. After spending a decent amount of time exploring the world and completing a dungeon at PAX we walked away not only impressed but eager to see more. Even among the lights and sounds of a gaming convention, we were still able to feel the awe and beauty of Ashen's truly impressive world.
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