Disclaimer: as of the writing of this walkthrough, Ashen has been out for less than a week and there isn't a lot of information available in terms of guides and wikis. Everything included is from my personal exploration and I'm sure that I missed things along the way.
I suggest setting your gamma to 70 or 75 to make visibility better without having to use a lantern, which is an item you will receive near the start of the game. You will need the lantern in dark areas but in dim areas, increased gamma will make it possible to see clearly without a lantern.
You can hold to skip cutscenes if you'd prefer to get on with the action.
This guide was written as I played through the game a third time. I don't walk you through complete exploration of every area as that would be incredibly cumbersome. I'll guide you through all of the main objectives and point put many items that I feel are important to know about, but I leave it to the player to fully explore each area if they so choose. I do, however, try to fully explore each area myself so it's extremely unlikely that the first time player will have as many resources as I do as they work through the game. This may prevent you from advancing your character as efficiently as I do but I still regularly explain my character progress and upgrades. It's in your best interests, therefore, to try to be thorough in exploration as anything you may find out in the will be helpful- scoria stashes, upgrade materials, etc.
I like to include a lot of images to accompany the written guide because I feel that huge walls of text are annoying to work with and that images help break up the flow. Most of the images will simply be links that you can click if you need clarification and some that I feel are more important will be embedded directly.
The game is designed to be a co-op adventure. You will be joined by various AI companions whenever you venture out into the world but you can also seamlessly be joined by another player instead who is working on the same objective. You can tell that your partner isn't AI if he runs ahead and/or picks up items. It is possible to coordinate co-op with a friend via settings in the multiplayer menu, but you must have similar game progression to be matched up. You can also disable multiplayer if you don't want a random player to join you. An official multiplayer FAQ can be found here.
Ashen plays and controls a lot like Dark Souls, so anyone familiar with that series should find Ashen to be a familiar experience.
Progression in this game is accomplished by working on Journeys (long quests) tied to various NPCs that you will encounter as you work through the game. Each active journey will have a specific objective that will be clearly marked on your map. To progress the journey, you need to make your way to the associated objective marker, which is generally a quest item that sometimes requires killing a specific enemy to obtain. After completing an objective you can then return to the appropriate NPC in the main village (Vagrant's Rest) to receive rewards and advance the journey to the next objective. There is no player controlled character leveling up or allotting of stats like in other games, and instead, you automatically receive increases to Health and Stamina by completing journey objectives to advance journey progress.
Some NPCs are "main" journeys and some NPCs are "side" journeys. This is all clearly shown in the Journeys menu which becomes accessible shortly after the brief tutorial area. As a general rule, you always want to complete available side journey objectives before working on main journey objectives.
There are two menus within the game. Press to access the inventory menu which contains tabs for gear (equipment and consumables), talismans/relics, and artifacts (quest items). Press to access the journeys menu which contains tabs for journeys (where you can see the map) and system options (game settings, multiplayer, and exit).
The inventory menu looks like this:
The main HUD will show your health, stamina, and scoria in the upper left and your selected consumable item in the upper right.
You accumulate scoria by killing enemies and completing journey objectives. If you die, you drop all of your scoria and must fight back to where you died to reclaim it. Like in Dark Souls, should you die a second time before reclaiming your dropped scoria, the original pile will be lost and a new pile will be created. Scoria is used to buy items, upgrade weapons, and craft various things at workbenches.
You can also find scoria stashes- black pouches of scoria- that come in small (250), medium (2500), and large (10000) sizes. You can't lose scoria in stashes as it is kept safe in your inventory (or possibly in your personal stash which isn't available initially). You can buy scoria stashes from some NPCs at a slight loss (300 for a small stash that can be redeemed for 250, for example) but this allows you to essentially bank your scoria and not risk losing it.
Your first objective will result in founding a village called Vagrant's Rest and activating a Ritual Stone. This area will be the main hub of the game and you will eventually have seven different NPCs here who offer journey progression. Each of these NPCs will, after some progression on their journey, have a workbench where you can craft various upgrades or consumables. Ritual Stones are save points that you restart from when you die. You will find many throughout the world and can eventually fast travel between many of them. Be warned that sitting at a Ritual Stone will result in all enemies that you already killed respawning, but fortunately, you can heal at a Ritual Stone just by getting close to it- there's no need to sit down.
Combat in Ashen is very similar to the Souls series and is structured around stamina management.
You can wield a two-hand weapon or a one hand weapon with a shield (you can have both equipped and toggle between them). Each weapon has a weak attack () and a strong attack (). You can also hold to do a charged attack and use either button while running to do a running attack. Many weapons have unique movesets so it's up to you to find the weapon that best suits your playstyle- whether that be a hard-hitting and slow two-handed club or a quick one-handed axe with a shield. I prefer a two-handed weapon called the Cleaving Axe which is found early in the game and this guide is written from the perspective of using that weapon for the entirety of the playthrough. The main detriment of two-handed weapons is that if you need to use your lantern to see in a dark area, you have to swap to your one-handed weapon slot to do so as the lantern is held like a shield.
The dodge mechanic (done with ) is extremely important. If you lock onto an enemy by pressing , your dodge is a sidestep or backstep. When not locked on, your dodge is a rolling action. You are immune to damage during these animation which makes it possible to avoid damage from incoming enemy attacks once you learn the timing.
An early journey objective will reward you with the Crimson Gourd, a multi-use, refillable healing item (essentially an Estus Flask). The gourd starts with three swigs and both the number of swigs and potency of each swig can be upgraded over time. Your gourd can be refilled by healing at a Ritual Stones and also via small wells found in some long dungeons.
You will find many weapons as you progress, but the guide will steer you from the starting Spiked Club to an early two-handed weapon (Iron Club) to the Cleaving Axe which I then use for the remainder of the playthrough. As I mentioned previously, it's up to you to decide what weapon setup best suits your playstyle. Weapons display three stats: Damage (weak/strong), Stun Chance (weak/strong), and Critical Hit Chance. You can eventually upgrade your weapons at an NPC workbench, initially for just scoria but later upgrades will require crafting materials that are found out in the world.
There are numerous armors but they are single armor sets and not individual items. Armors display four stats: Stun Resistance, Damage Reduction, Stamina Costs, and Stamina Regeneration. The general rule is that heavier armors will offer better protection but result in higher stamina penalties.
There are several shields in the game. Shields display two stats: Stamina Stability and Stamina Regeneration. The higher Stamina Stability, the less stamina you lose when blocking attacks. Stamina Regeneration affects how much more slowly your stamina regenerates while actively holding up the shield, which is overcome by letting your shield down when not actively blocking so stamina can regenerate normally.
There are also a few different types of spears (throwing weapons). Like weapons, spears display Damage, Stun Chance, and Critical Hit Chance.
By completing journey objectives you will unlock talismans which can be equipped at Amara's workbench. Talismans offer minor bonuses and you can have up to four equipped at a time. It costs 1000 scoria to equip a talisman and if you remove it it will cost 1000 scoria if you decide you want to equip it again. You will also discover relics as you progress through the game which are accessed at the same workbench. Relics offer much more significant bonuses than talismans and you can only have one equipped at a time. It costs 10,000 scoria to equip a relic.
The world map will be revealed as you progress journeys. Some objectives will appear in areas you haven't yet visited and your map will update once you enter a new area.
And just to reiterate- be sure to explore everywhere. There are items hidden throughout the world in many out of sight places, so leave no stone unturned. As mentioned previously, the guide will lead you through the main objectives and point out other important items but the bulk of the exploration is left up to the player.
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