The NZ developed Ashen is out now!
It’s doing some interesting things with player characters assuming the roles of NPCs within a Dark Souls-style formula:
Take one of the very first characters you meet, a moustached pipe-smoking chap called Jokell. At first, he’s your regular AI-controlled NPC who helps you clear out the enemies in an area that becomes your town hub. When he joins your town, he’s still behaving like most NPCs, standing in one spot and operating as quest giver.
But once you take up a quest, Jokell accompanies you, and it’s here that control cedes from the programming to another player. On the flipside, from that other player’s perspective, they’re still in control of their own protagonist while it’s you controlling Jokell. “You’ll both think you’re the hero when you’re playing with each other. It’s quite an interesting technology to get players to unknowingly roleplay,” Bradley explains.
It’s almost an asymmetrical form of multiplayer in terms of how a quest is experienced. Think of a single-player game where you’re partnered with an AI companion – they might be a veteran mentor you’re following, or vice versa. In either case, these relationship dynamics are predetermined. In Ashen, you’re basically playing both the hero and the support in parallel, which can make for an unpredictable dynamic in a quest, since you’re matched to another player anonymously each time.
It should be hitting Steam sometime soon, too.