Art design

Solar Ash artistic design is another entry in the best trend of 2021

2021 has been a great year for art design in games. While blockbuster releases have been a little thin on the ground thanks to the pandemic, some gorgeous indie games have lit up 2021. When the site offered our Game Awards nominations, Best Art Design was the category we were most excited about. . Ultimately, it’s a little disappointing that some pretty triple-As that don’t do anything interesting are on the shortlist, but The Artful Escape is a beautiful, cleverly designed game that well deserves its place there, while the barren beauty of Sable is very unlucky to miss. Solar Ash, which launches today and will be eligible for next year’s awards show, completes the trio of sublimely artistic games that make brilliant use of open space.

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I reviewed all three games, giving The Artful Escape a 4.5, Sable a 3, and Solar Ash a 4. As overall experiences, I’d say they’re a mixed bag. As visual spectacles they are second to none, and it’s great to see games with smaller budgets having access to technology that allows their artistry to run wild, even if it can’t compete with photorealism. from The Last of Us Part 2.

Related: The Transical Mysterious Escape Art TourAlthough I didn’t click with Sable as a full entity, what it was like and what it felt like to be in a place that looked so beautiful, was always a highlight of the experience . In fact, one of the big disappointments of Sable was its day/night cycle, which meant that the rich earthy hues of the landscapes were all too often washed out to grays and midnight blues. While I personally think players could have used more guidance for finding quests and what order to complete them in, I have to admire Sable’s commitment to an open world. It doesn’t try to be as big as the triple-A scene, but instead chooses to be as open as possible. It’s empty, and as a player that can be a drag, but as a nomadic character wandering a colorful desert vista, it’s magical.



Sable Summoning His Bike

Where other games seem algorithmically designed to hold your attention, Sable trusts you. Sometimes that means you have no idea what to do or where to go next, but it also means you can roam these lands undisturbed. Solar Ash flips this idea – in each area there are specific markers you need to reach and puzzles you need to solve when you get there. But each marker is in a seemingly inaccessible place – at the top of a tower there are no stairs or ladders, for example – which means that even when you know exactly where you need to go, you have to figure out the trip for yourself.


Solar ash landscapes

The color schemes are also reversed – where Sable is natural and tan, Solar Ash is neon and electric. Bubblegum blue, vibrant purple and eclectic swirls of lemon yellow dominate the palette. Solar Ash clearly isn’t deliberately going against Sable’s design ideas, given that they came out just months apart, but it’s fascinating to see two indie games made on relatively small budgets be able to work around the rules of exploration and artistic design in the game space diametrically opposed but extremely complementary paths.

Then we come to The Artful Escape. As a linear platformer, it doesn’t seem to have much in common with Sable or Solar Ash. There’s no freedom of exploration offered – you just move forward, jumping occasionally. Yet there is freedom in that. Thanks to the spectacular sound design, you can start playing your guitar at any time in The Artful Escape, and it will instantly and seamlessly harmonize with the melody playing in the background. You may not be able to roam freely on every planet you travel to, but you can make every journey your own. The psychedelic visuals add an extra layer to it all, especially when Francis’ impostor syndrome kicks in and the world becomes dull again.


The artistic escape

As indies gain access to better technology and greater scope to explore gaming conventions, we’ll see more experimental titles push established genres and tropes in fascinating new directions, and Solar Ash is the latest in this tendency. 2021 belongs to the indies – the brave, the daring, the beautiful.

Next: TheGamer Game of the Year Editor’s Choice, 2021 – Stacey Henley


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