It’s rare that I get to cover a game twice in a pre-release state, but I’m happy I had the chance with Ashen, an action-RPG I first played at E3 last year and just saw again last weekend at PAX West. While the first impression was promising, it was also riddled with technical issues. This latest outing looked and felt great. I tend to be extra picky when it comes to Souls-like games, but Ashen is up to snuff.

In a pleasant surprise, I was able to check out the oft-touted “passive multiplayer” with our very own Brett, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. (We were both done for the day after this appointment and he didn’t want to walk up the Big Hill to our Airbnb alone, so he found me.)

While you’re going about your business, you’ll encounter NPCs as you roam the world, dodge-rolling and slashing away at foes. Except they might not actually be NPCs. Ashen has seamless online multiplayer and instead of teaming you up with custom-detailed characters, the game connects you with players who look to you like characters you already know. It’s a neat little touch to maintain consistency in the narrative, which revolves around finding survivors who can help build a settlement.

Ashen's passive co-op pairs well with Souls-y combat screenshot

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Ashen’s passive co-op pairs well with Souls-y combat