After first being announced in 2019 and dropping the “Kingdom” from its title, Solar Ash is set to release on December 2nd for PS4, PS5 and PC. It’s developed by Heart Machine, which developed the incredibly impressive Hyper Light Drifter, but this is more of a traversal-heavy title in comparison. Let’s take a look at 10 things you should know before buying it ahead of its release.
In essence, the story of Solar Ash is about the Ultravoid, an all-consuming black hole that contains the remnants of past civilizations and planets. But it’s also about Rei, a voidrunner who ventures into the Ultravoid to prevent the destruction of her planet. How this can be done is unknown but it seems to be connected to the Sentinels that roam the black hole and the fact that the characters within must “find solace in each other” to survive the “spiral of despair they find themselves trapped in.” Your guess is as good as ours on what that means.
Thus far, we only really know about the protagonist Rei, more specifically her goal to save her planet. As for the voidrunners, they’re described as a group of explorers who venture into black holes in search of valuables before escaping. What makes the Ultravoid so special is unknown but we’ve seen some entities residing within, particularly a large NPC that asks Rei if she’s afraid before loudly proclaiming that she should be (along with holding her within the palm of its hand). There also seems to be a personal assistant of sorts whom Rei can purchase upgrades and new abilities from. Also, unlike Hyper Light Drifter, there’s now voice work as Rei can select dialogue to speak to different characters.
Connection (or Lack Thereof) to Hyper Light Drifter
In 2019, creator Alx Preston tweeted that Solar Ash is set in the same universe as Hyper Light Drifter. This led to some theorizing about the connections between the two (including the former possibly being a sequel to the latter). Preston clarified to Kotaku this year that both titles are indeed set in the same universe but not in the “same next-door, neighbor planet or anything” like the MCU’s Metaverse. “The universe, as in literally the same – it could be several galaxies away. So, in that sense, yes.” He did note that there was a “connective tissue” between the two due to him being in charge of design and creative for both titles. However, long story short, don’t expect any direct storyline connection between both games.
3D Platforming and Exploration
Besides the fully 3D visuals, Solar Ash distinguishes itself from Hyper Light Drifter by being more focused on platforming and exploration. Rei is capable of skating along the ethereal clouds dotting the landscapes of the Ultravoid – which are vast and neon-lit – along with grinding on rails, double-jumping and grappling across large gaps. You may even find spots with strange gravity, further adding to the challenge. As Rei explores, she’ll find pink globes which can be collected and traded to the personal assistant to increase her max health. There are also suits which confer special abilities like Time Slip which allows for briefly stopping time.
Combat is also a key part of the experience though much less so than Hyper Light Drifter. Armed with a light construct weapon, not completely unlike the kind that The Drifter wields, Rei is capable of basic hack and slash combat. There doesn’t appear to be any ranged combat nor have we seen many advanced melee skills, at least based on the gameplay showcased thus far. It’s perhaps not that surprising considering the developer’s focus on providing a unique challenge but you can expect combat to be mixed in with the traversal mechanics at certain points.
Outside of smaller foes, players will have to take on The Sentinels – large beings not unlike the Colossi from Shadow of the Colossus (which served as one of the inspirations for the game). We’ve seen brief snatches of these Sentinels thus far including a bug-like creature with multiple eyes that’s seemingly fought on a smaller satellite planet; a massive serpent-like Sentinel that’s slowly flying through the skies, twisting and turning as it goes; and a bird-like Sentinel with a large wingspan. Each seems to have specific points that Rei must attack in order to weaken it before striking their central weak point. Though navigating and fighting a Sentinel is key, you’ll also need to figure out how to reach some of them.
Different Kind of Challenge
Though the developer is leaning more towards an accessible experience, that doesn’t mean Solar Ash is going to be a walk in the park. Preston described it as offering a different kind of challenge, one that emphasizes skillful jump timing, being aware of one’s environments and managing the overall speed of the platforming. This is coupled with the team’s desire to appeal to speedrunners, including not patching certain things that it may otherwise have done. So if you’re more keen on a 3D platformer than a hack and slash title, then Solar Ash may be worth checking out.
DualSense Support and SSD Usage on PS5
Along with a high framerate, Solar Ash leverages the PS5’s SSD for fast loading times (which can be “practically instant” at times) and the DualSense for feedback. There are still plenty of questions regarding the different graphics modes, and whether haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers are being utilized but perhaps we’ll learn more in the weeks leading up to launch.
Release for Other Platforms
Solar Ash is currently set to release for PS4, PS5 and PC via the Epic Games Store. Considering that Hyper Light Drifter came to PC first, then Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and iOS, there’s always the possibility of its successor following suit. Of course, things are clearly different here – Solar Ash has been marketed as a PlayStation console exclusive since June 2020. Regarding other platforms, Preston told Twinfinite in an interview that, “Everyone knows that everybody is considering other platforms, it’s just a matter of what’s viable, what our timeline is, what’s gonna work for the groups we partnered with, Sony, and otherwise.
“So there are plenty of considerations but at the end of the day, I’d love for Solar Ash to be out on as many platforms as possible and have the widest reach it can. It just depends on what needs to happen and when and where and how.” There’s also its Epic Games Store exclusivity – based on other Annapurna-published titles like Outer Wilds and The Pathless, it could likely arrive a year later on platforms like Steam.
Unfortunately, there won’t be too much by way of accessibility options by launch. Preston noted that there would be “flexibility on difficulty changes dynamically” whenever the player wanted without locking them to a specific tier. This seems to indicate the ability to separately tune combat and exploration to be more or less challenging (not unlike what games like CrossCode have done). However, an elaborate suite of options isn’t possible due to the smaller size of the team. It’s possible that more options are added post-launch based on feedback though.