Solar Ash Review

I’ve liked Annapurna Interactive for a long time. While they’ve had a few duds, almost everything they put out is at least worth a look. When Heart Machine and Annapurna Interactive first revealed their long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s Hyper Light Drifter, Solar AshI was incredibly excited. It looked like everything I liked in a game, bright, colourful, fun, with an interesting system of traveling. Now that the game has been released after several delays, can it live up to my expectations though? Or is it doomed to fail, becoming a dying star in a galaxy of beauty?

Game Name: Solar Ash
Platform(s): PS4, PS5, PC
Publisher(s): Annaapurna
Developer(s): Heart Machine
Release Date:  December 2, 2021
Price: $39.99

To keep it short, it’s a mix of both. Solar Ash manages to do some incredible things with traversal and environmental design, yet it stutters in other areas. Combat is a weakness that I’ll get into later, as can be the way the story is delivered to the player. The game is a lot more about traversal than it is about combat, which is evident when you actually start fighting enemies. Something about the combat feels too floaty, leading to many instances of me falling off platforms and having to do entire platforming sections again, which would be much more of a complaint if the platforming wasn’t so damn satisfying.

You can’t accurately target enemies, nor can you do anything flashy, which wouldn’t be an issue if the focus of the game wasn’t how flashy and striking it is. It’s clear that combat was an afterthought, something the developers themselves have even confirmed, which is a damn shame since if they put more time into it’d have been something brilliant. The main focus of the traversal system is skating, and to say it feels good would be an understatement. It’s fast, fluid, and allows for adjustments while traveling, yet it never feels too light. Once you’re up in the air and jumping from platforming to platform, you’re also able to climb up certain surfaces and grapple across certain points, both of which are incredible amounts of fun.

Solar Ash

Environmentally, the game is utterly gorgeous. The skies are filled with bright colours and every area is utterly striking, sticking in the memory long after you turn the game off. If there’s one complaint to be leveled at the world design, it’s that some of them blend together. While most of them are memorably unique, a couple of them are interchangeable in both design and colour palette. It’s a similar tale when it comes to the way the game delivers narrative to the player in that the ideas present are really cool and interesting, but they simply don’t do enough with it to make me care. In addition to this, the story can be confusing and vague to the point where you’re wondering why certain things are happening and have to look up the narrative online.

People might compare this to Sayonara Wild Hearts since it shares a similar colour palette and is published by the same studio. Yet Sayonara Wild Hearts does everything better than Solar Ash, delivering a clear narrative in a game that’s also the perfect length. Solar Ash is only around six hours long, yet it can feel tedious and dull to go around and collect different suit parts which is an issue if you’re a completionist. There’s something wonderful here, it’s just buried under a collection of bad systems and dodgy mechanics.

Solar Ash is a beautiful adventure across worlds. While it can feel rather empty pacing-wise and overly ambitious to a fault, it’s still worth playing for people who love colour-filled skies and a huge expanse to skate across. Just don’t expect the combat to blow you away or the story to give you an existential crisis.

Review Disclosure Statement: Solar Ash was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

Verdict

Verdict

Solar Ash is a beautiful adventure across worlds. While it can feel rather empty pacing-wise and overly ambitious to a fault, it’s still worth playing for people who love colour-filled skies and a huge expanse to skate across. Just don’t expect the combat to blow you away or the story to give you an existential crisis.

  • Solar Ash is a beautiful adventure across worlds. While it can feel rather empty pacing-wise and overly ambitious to a fault, it's still worth playing for people who love colour-filled skies and a huge expanse to skate across. Just don't expect the combat to blow you away or the story to give you an existential crisis.
Overall
3.5