Solar Ash review: Beautiful, intense, but slightly disappointing

Annapurna Interactive
Annapurna Interactive /

Title: Solar Ash
Developer: Heart Machine
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed on)
Release Date: December 2, 2021

Giant blue clouds. Pink plasma. Skating, grappling, and grinding on rails. And, naturally, giant sentient beings called Remnants. You can find all of these, and much more, in Heart Machine’s newest game, Solar Ash.

In my preview of the game, I discussed how excited I was for it because of its unique and intriguing design, fast-paced traversal, and intense combat. Overall, I really enjoyed this game and it lived up to my expectations. I do have a couple of issues with Solar Ash that prevent it from truly being great, however, including its repetitive nature, performance, and replayability.


In essence, Solar Ash follows the story of Rei, a Voidrunner that is trying to activate the Starseed to save her planet from the Ultravoid, a huge black hole. You know, just your typical, everyday occurrence.

On a deeper level, the story is about reconciling with the past and moving forward, and this theme is sprinkled throughout the game. It gets heavier and heavier as the story progresses, and I really think the developers did a good job with it.

Without spoiling anything, the ending was wild and, at least in my case, completely unexpected. I completed the game in around five hours, and while I did not achieve a 100% save file, I was pretty thorough in my exploration.

While I really enjoyed the story and the message it conveyed, it got really repetitive. It was the same thing over and over again: go to a new area, complete a puzzle, stab the eyes, and defeat the Remnant, which is the boss of the area. Do this six times, and you complete the game.

These motions were fun for the first couple of areas, but after a while, it turned into a slog to get through. Sure, it was nice that each area was different, but you have to continuously repeat the same actions, which eventually becomes boring.

That being said, I did have fun with the game overall. Sure, I started to get a little bored toward the end, but the super intense boss battles in each area made it worth playing.

Traversal and Combat

The traversal and combat were outstanding. It was a ton of fun zooming around the map, climbing up cliffs, swinging across giant distances, and grinding on rails to reach new areas. There are some gripes I have with the traversal, however, which I will discuss in the optimization section.

As I mentioned in the preview, Alx Preston, the Creative Director for Heart Machine, promised “fluid, simple, and satisfying” combat. Solar Ash absolutely delivered on this promise – the combat was incredible. One of my favorite mechanics was being able to slow down time and grapple onto enemies to quickly deal damage.

The enemies were also challenging at times, and they force you to dodge at the right second or to quickly find cover. While there wasn’t a huge variety of enemies, they were spaced out and did not get repetitive. Overall, the traversal and combat were the stars of this game, and they were truly a joy to experience.

Solar Ash Review
Solar Ash Review /

Design and Visuals

This game is beautiful. All of the different areas are full of unique places to explore, and my personal favorite was Mirrorsea, which is full of deadly acid. Even though I died multiple times in Mirrorsea, it was a thrill to look for the fastest pathways through the acid and to traverse the deadly terrain. Eternal Garden was also stunning, with its various fungi and neon glow within the dark terrain.

The graphics are so unique, and they really make Solar Ash stand out. They drew me into the game, and they made me want to further explore the world because of my desire to see everything the developers created. All of the characters were stunning, especially Echo, the giant, dismembered being, and Rei, the main character.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the animations after completing a puzzle or boss fight. It was ominous to see the eyes of the Remnants open after completing a puzzle, and the flashy animation after defeating a boss was always stunning. An image of this animation is below.

Solar Ash Review
Solar Ash Review /

Once again, I cannot praise Heart Machine enough for how great this game looks. It was so nice to play such a colorful and vibrant game after experiencing the dark and grimy settings of so many other recent games.


I played Solar Ash on the PlayStation 5, which is easily able to maintain 120fps. Solar Ash is entirely centered around super-quick and smooth traversal; thus, I went into the game expecting the frame rate to at least be stable. I didn’t need 120fps, but it would have been nice.

Instead, I was shocked to see constant frame dips and stuttering throughout the game. While having a dip or stutter every once in a while is not a big deal at all, I truly mean it when I say these issues were constant for me, and this was very disappointing. Even in less crowded areas, the game would stutter when I turned around. When grappling or grinding on rails, the frame rate would dip.

But, I will say this – when the game did not stutter or drop frames, it ran great. It was breathtaking to grind on huge rails or take a leap of faith without any performance issues, and I just wish this would have been the case for the whole game.

Furthermore, the PS5 also has an amazing DualSense controller, capable of adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. The haptic feedback was great, but there needed to be more. Also, I really feel like there was a missed opportunity by not taking advantage of the adaptive triggers when skating around. Even the slightest amount of feedback on the triggers would have been nice, but it simply wasn’t there.

Even though a lot of the optimization issues are with the PS5 and players on PC or PS4 may not experience the same issues, I needed to include them in this review because they truly did affect my experience and immersion with the game.

Solar Ash Mirrorsea
Solar Ash Mirrorsea /


My other main issue with the game, aside from its optimization, is the replayability. After completing the main story and going through some of the side quests, I really do not have much of a reason to play it again.

For people that like to go for all of the trophies, however, there is one specific trophy that requires you to complete the game in under three hours, which does provide an incentive to replay it and provides some speed run competition.

That’s it. Sure, you can go back to complete all the NPC quests and collect all the different suit parts in case you missed them, but there is not much else to do after the short campaign. Without getting too much into spoilers, there is also the option to replay it to get a different ending, but I do not think it is worth it to go through the repetitive gameplay to get to that point again.

For its current $40 price tag on the PlayStation store, you may want to wait for a sale to truly get your money’s worth.


Even though the past couple of points have contained criticism, I do not want them to overshadow the fact that I genuinely enjoyed playing through Solar Ash. The story was intriguing and surprising, the traversal and combat were satisfying, and Heart Machine created an absolutely beautiful world. Yes, the complaints I had throughout the game were annoying to me, but they did not ruin my overall experience.

Solar Ash (PlayStation 5) Score: 7

If you are a fan of traversal-based games, or you just want a quick indie game to play through, I do not think you can go wrong with Solar Ash. The repetitive gameplay, poor PS5 optimization, and lack of replayability are definite downsides, but it is still a fun and intense game to play.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.