Solar Ash Review

Solar Ash is a stunning, eye-catching game that is as enjoyable to play as it is to simply look at.

The campaign features a surprisingly heartfelt, albeit predictable story with some thought-provoking themes surrounding purpose and inevitability. However, while the world itself does an excellent job of evolving as the narrative progresses, the various monsters and combat can become repetitive before long. Still, with a campaign that can be completed in just one or two sittings, Solar Ash is a more than worthwhile experience for anyone even mildly intrigued by stylistic 3D platformers.

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A glorious action-adventure

Solar Ash is a neon-soaked action-adventure game with a fluid means of traversal. Players control Rei as she glides over clouds, grapples across chasms, and grinds toward new landscapes. Meanwhile, she battles against nightmarish enemies and massive bosses throughout vast, dreamlike environments.

Rei is one of the last remaining inhabitants of a planet plummeting into a black hole known as the Ultravoid. The Starseed, a device theoretically able to destroy black holes, is the only weapon Rei has against the Ultravoid. To get the Starseed up and running, however, Rei is tasked with defeating enemies known as the Remnant that are blocking signals and communication throughout the increasingly surreal world.

Despite some sci-fi jargon, Rei’s desire to save her home is the anchor that keeps Solar Ash grounded. I did find the narrative to be a bit predictable, but I still enjoyed the themes the game ultimately presents. Player choice and multiple endings keep things interesting, making the foreseeable conflict feel like something I had grappled with throughout the narrative rather than a choice that sprung upon me at the last second. And with my playthrough sitting at just over 6.5 hours, the campaign was satisfying without overstaying its welcome.

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A campaign that is extremely satisfying

The first thing that struck me about Solar Ash is its unique, otherworldly art style and dreamlike environments. It immediately stands out from other indie titles that rely on pixel art, or the AAA games that creep closer and closer toward photorealism. The phantasmagorical landscapes aren’t just fluff either; they’re built into the story of Solar Ash and feel purposefully constructed.

The imagery could easily feel bizarre for the sake of being bizarre, but rather, the terrain tells a story of a planet being thrust from reality as it plunges into a massive black hole. The warped scenery also makes for interesting traversal and camera movement as the perspective in Solar Ash occasionally changes. Not to mention, environments feel handcrafted as nearly every route veering from the main path hides a worthwhile secret.

Secrets are well-hidden too. Pieces of unlockable suits are scattered throughout each of the various regions, and I wasn’t able to complete one set by simply happening upon them. These extras more realistically need to be sought out by players to fully unlock new costumes. They are merely cosmetic and not necessary for finishing the main story, so this lends itself more to a completionist run for those who want to explore every nook and cranny of Solar Ash – which is an adventure I might undergo even after rolling the credits. The unlockables are also accompanied by backstories for the world and its former inhabitants, so there is more to the skins than just an aesthetic change.

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The lush lands of Solar Ash

Amazingly, every area within the game feels distinct from one another, all while appearing cohesive. Each locale has a unique color palette and topographical region to explore. For example, the Broken Capital is a dilapidated cityscape filled with greens and blues while the Eternal Garden is a lush forest with various shades of purple and pink. Still, the environments flow seamlessly together as players travel from one area of the map to the other.

The world is a joy to venture through, and not only because it is so pretty and interesting to look at. The fluid traversal makes skating from one area to the next incredibly quick and satisfying. The controls themselves are relatively simple and intuitive – requiring very few different buttons – but it’s the mastery of traversal that players will need to defeat bosses and complete the game as combat is more or less baked into the flow of the platforming.

Rei is equipped with a blade, but combat doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to be a core component of the game. This, however, is where I will level my biggest criticism. While the art and traversal are the main attractions of Solar Ash, a considerable amount of time spent in the game will require combat. While fighting is virtually unavoidable, the game never truly evolves past the “press X” to strike enemies battling mechanics that are established in the first minutes.

There aren’t any new mechanics introduced outside of the initial tutorial, either. Enemies and platforming challenges evolve, but you’re more or less asked to use the same techniques at the end to overcome them as you did at the beginning. The only thing that will have changed is presumably the skill level of the player.

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Simple but beautiful

There is something beautiful about Solar Ash’s simplistic approach to combat, but part of me wishes that there were meaningful techniques and abilities to unlock to take this already fluid game to the next level. Even the boss battles more or less feel like reskinned versions of the same fight. The first boss battle requires you to skate across a massive creature and strike each of its various weak spots three times in a row. The final boss battle requires the same thing, just with a different monster.

The difficulty ramps up a little bit, but the designs of the bosses themselves are much more memorable than any of the battles that I had with them. There are environmental challenges that get added into the mix as you progress, such as toxic water that needs to be avoided or lava that… well, also needs to be avoided, but I still felt myself longing for something more. This never hindered my enjoyment of Solar Ash, but rather held it back in my mind from being something even greater. Admittedly, however, I do still consider it to be great.

Solar Ash looks and feels like a surrealist dream. Even after a half dozen hours, I still found gliding across desolate yet beautiful backdrops to be an absolute blast. Still, a repetitive combat system stands out as a notable blemish on an otherwise stellar adventure.



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