Solar Ash (previously titled Solar Ash Kingdom while in development) is a 3D science fiction action adventure platformer video game developed by Heart Machine released on December 2, 2021, and set in the same universe as Heart Machine's first game, Hyper Light Drifter, though it is not a direct sequel to it and is a number of galaxies apart from the one the world in Hyper Light Drifter is located in. It features a third person perspective, a surreal, vivid and highly stylized world filled with mystery, wild high-speed traversal, endearing characters, and massive enemy encounters. The game is set inside of a super-massive world-consuming black hole known as the Ultravoid. The player takes control of Rei, an agile female Voidrunner who ventures the Ultravoid itself in a last ditch effort to save her world.
The game was announced on March 13, 2019 on IGN.com, with a YouTube teaser trailer.  According to lead developer Preston, the game has a way to be completed. He also gave a thank you tweet to some of the developers working on the title. Heart Machine is currently hiring level designers and programmers to work on the game.
Although Alx Preston wrote on Twitter on March 25, 2019 that he would be going into more detail on the character (Rei) of the game "in the next week or so about her" on a dev blog, while posting official promotional art of the character, Preston and his entire team remained mostly silent for over a year, until Preston appeared in the podcast Humans Who Make Games, and Rich Vreeland made an interview with Rich Vreeland on Medium.com, where Vreeland said that the game had been in works for several years. In the Humans Who Make Games podcast, Preston said that the team had been very "heads-down" about the project and silent because it was a grand experiment in a lot of ways, especially in regards to the technology that was developed for the mechanics to work, but he also said that he would soon begin making dev blogs, speaking to memebrs of the team about the process of making the game every month without revealing too much of the game but just being "tantalizing". The reason for this is that he likes when developers and development teams are transparent, as it encourages people to understand the process behind video game making and also teaches people about how hard it can be to make the games. One of the specific things Preston wants to go into is how to make a 3D character and how to make it move. On June 11, 2020, the first official trailer to Solar Ash Kingdom, now retitled Solar Ash, was released and it was revealed at the live PlayStation 5 Reveal Event in June of 2020 that the game would be released on the PlayStation 5. A blog post about the game, with words by Preston, was posted by Sony's PlayStation team. In it, Preston talks about the reasons for developing for PlayStation 5.
The player will take control of Rei, an agile female Voidrunner somewhat similar to the main playable characters of Hyper Light Drifter, and venture into a super-massive black hole that consumes worlds, called the Ultravoid, in a last ditch effort to save her world. One thing they have in common is seemingly having a weapon made of hard light, and their ability to traverse areas with high speed, however as the PCs of Hyper Light Drifter seem to drift/sprint, the character shown in the teaser seem to be "skating" or "gliding" along the ground and on solar ash clouds. The video game is Heart Machine's version of the platform adventure game and will be based heavily on speed and fluid movements, as well as simple and fast combat.
On February 25, 2021 Solar Ash was part of Sony PlayStation's State of Play 2021 livestream, featuring a new gameplay reveal video with Alx Preston's voice narrating the footage and explaining how some of the game will play as well as who the main character is. He revealed that the main character is a female and daring "Voidrunner" named Rei, who will venture into the super-massive black hole that consumes planets known as the Ultravoid in a last ditch effort to save her home planet. Preston also revealed that the combat is simple, fast and fluid, that Rei quickly traverses the huge ashen clouds and other landscapes of the Ultravoid with abilities akin to skating. He said that they decided to make combat and movement quick and fluid, and the gameplay video showed that Rei's movements were also animated in a complex manner, all to empower the player to highlight just how good Rei is at what she does. A few of the enemies were shown, both smaller ones and larger bosses such as massive bone-and-viscose-tendrilled-sludge "sentinels" which Rei will have to defeat in order to progress in her quest. He stated that enemy encounters will eventually scale to larger and more harder ones where precise timing will need to be applied in order to win. It was also shown that Rei uses a grappling hook to move from certain floating pieces of land to other ones. He stressed that the game was ultimately one about "movement". The gameplay video in the blog post is posted on Sony PlayStation's official YouTube channel as well as Anapurna Interactive's.
On May 20, 2021, Solar Ash was featured prominently in Issue 359 of the popular video game magazine Edge, featuring an art piece on the cover and extensive interviews with people from Heart Machine discussing the different mechanics and game design choices their team had made, as well as some parts of the lore including certain official/canon terms for items and enemies and more.
On July 29, the release date trailer for Solar Ash was revealed during Annapurna Interactive's Showcase livestream on their Twitch channel, showing a release date of October 26, 2021. The game was one of many featured on the stream. Afterwards, an interview withHeart Machine's CEO and Solar Ash's game director Alx Preston, and the game's director Chelsea Hash, took place on the official Twitchgaming Twitch channel along with many other Annapurna-related developers. The trailer was subsequently posted to Heart Machine's YouTube channel as well as Annapurna's, and Sony PlayStation's.
On October 13, 2021 it was announced by Heart Machine on their official Twitter account that the release date of Solar Ash had been pushed back to December 2, 2021 to give the development team some more time to add bug fixes and polish the game while still navigating the COVID-19 pandemic that was going on at the time and which had previously already slowed down development on the game.
The game features a score composed mostly by Troupe Gammage IV, with contributions by Joel Corelitz, Sky Lou, and few contributions by long-time Heart Machine collaborator Rich Vreeland. Vreeland was originally slated to be the main composer for the game, but the scope of the project felt too daunting for him and he has stated that he usually prefers smaller projects, so he decided to bring in Gammage on the sound team, one of his long-time collaborators, who wound up composing the "lion's share" of the score. Vreeland also designed sound for the game and helped develop both procedural emergent music technology for the game as well as sound design technology. The score still has a lot in common with the sound Vreeland is known for, with many synths. Despite Vreeland not being responsible for the majority of the music, much of it has the signature Vreeland "style" to it as known from titles like Fez and Hyper Light Drifter by the use of electronic synth sounds.
- Main article: Solar Ash original soundtrack
According to Solar Ash lead developer, Alx Preston, Solar Ash is about reflection and progress in many ways. Heart Machine's first game, Hyper Light Drifter was a very personal story that Preston began work on during a brutal low period, stemming from a lifetime of health problems, most especially chronical congenital heart disease that Preston was born with. The game reflected these persona struggles, and development on the title helped him focus on a creative outlet that could sustain and help to build something bigger than "the demons that would always be clawing". With Solar Ash, Heart Machine's ambitions were bigger and the team had grown to match, but the story still remained personal but evolved to be something beyond just the weight of the struggle into something more hopeful. In the initial Twitter post announcements about the game, Alx Preston stated that it was coming out on PC via the Epic Games Store but that console releases were in the cards.
Development on Solar Ash began almost immediately following the release of Hyper Light Drifter in 2016 and so it has lasted four years, almost five counting the slated release in 2021. Preston and the Heart Machine team only had a short break following the release of Hyper Light before starting development on Solar Ash. According to Preston, the team has been working tirelessly over the years, building incredible technology to help realize the fantastic world of Solar Ash. Preston has expressed a wish to dive into a bigger, grander world following the release Hyper Light Drifter as it would open up possibilities with far more powerful tools. Therefore, the team decided to work with Sony to develop the game for the PlayStation 5, as well as PlayStation 4, in addition to the already-announced Epic Games release on Windows PC.
When Annapurna Interactive, publishers for the game, released their version of the 2020 introductory trailer on YouTube, the video description said that the game would also be on Steam in 2029 however when asked about it on Twitter, Annapurna said that it was a typo and that it would launch exclusively in Epic Games. After this, the video description was changed, removing the reference to Steam. It is unknown whether this means that there won't be a Steam release at all eventually, or if the game is only a timed exclusive on Epic Games, perhaps for a year as some games tend to be on the platform.
The reason for the PlayStation 5 when it comes to consoles, according to Preston, is that it gave power previously unavailable in a console, with the ability to push more lush, high-quality visuals at a much higher framerate, it would give faster loading times because of the "wild" speed of the PS5's SSD, and the DualSense can even provide feedback in the controller that the Solar Ash team previously did not know was possible. Furthermore, the most exciting part of developing the game for the PlayStation 5, according to Alx Preston, was the suite of tools for more direct engagement with their audience.
Initally Alx Preston, head designer of Solar Ash, stated on his Twitter account that Solar Ash (then called Solar Ash Kingdom) would take place in the same universe as Hyper Light Drifter, however he lated elaborated on this in a Kotaku article on August 4, 2021, stating that "The universe as in literally the same—it could be several galaxies away. So, in that sense, yes. But in the, like, MCU, Metaverse-style? It's not in the same next-door, neighbor planet or anything like that. The thing that I will say is that it’s got connective tissue between Hyper Light because, hey, I'm the person that's leading the charge on the project creatively and design-wise." This information seems to indicate that the game does take place in the same universe, but it is not directly related to Hyper Light Drifter in any significant way.
On July 31 a livestream series entitled Convos with Devs, later retitled Heart to Heart, was announced by Heart Machine and began to broadcast on August 6, 2021. Each installment featurese Alx Preston and another member of the developer team, talking about their careers, their work on Solar Ash and the future. The livestreams are broadcast simultaneously on Twitch.tv and YouTube.com, and Preston and the relevant developer tend to answer questions from the chat. The first guest was Chelsea Hash. Much new information has come out of these streams, including the fact that there will be some nods to Hyper Light Drifter in Solar Ash, and that there will be no form of multiplayer. For the third installment, featuring Emily Katske and broadcast on September 17, 2021, the series was retitled Heart to Heart to play off of both the saying of "having a talk heart to heart" and the fact that the game studio's name is Heart Machine.
As more details surface, information will be accumulated here.
Prevously a June 2021 release had been rumored due to what appears to have been an error at Sony's CES 2021 Press Conference livestream segment where they announced many third party and/or independent video game release months and dates, however on the uploaded version of the stream the release date along with all other PlayStation third party release dates were removed, indicating that it may have been a mistake or there might have been a rights issue with releasing the dates yet. The game will release on PC via the Epic Games Store as well as Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. and will be published by Annapurna Interactive. On February 25, 2021, another blog post was posted on the PlayStation Blog showcasing Solar Ash, featuring a gameplay reveal video that was made to be part of the PlayStation State of Play in 2021, which happened on the same day. However, the June release was not mentioned in either the blog post or the video, or the State of Play livestream, which was an indication that this initial information was indeed wrong.
In Solar Ash, the player takes control of a female main character named Rei and journeys through the Ultravoid, a ravenous rift in space swallowing worlds. It is place of incredible danger and surreal spaces – a dream none can escape. Familiar though alien, lush but grotesque, peaceful at times and supremely violent in others. The player will meed endearing characters in this world and the characters must find solace in each other to make it through the spiral of despair they find themselves trapped in. The player will blast through high-speed traversal challenges with wild gravity and beautiful vistas, while slaying massive monsters and meeting other lost souls. The player will also have to beware "the remnants that loom and bristle with hunger."
As more details surface, information will be accumulated here.
According to Alx Preston, the player will be able to surf or glide on ashen clouds.
As more details surface, information will be accumulated here.
- Solar Ash release date delayed until December 2, 2021,. via Machine Official on Twitter
- (Twitter) Alex Preston confirms that Solar Ash Kingdom takes place in the Hyper Light Drifter universe.
- Alex Preston confirms on Twitter that console releases are in the cards.
- Alx Preston goes slightly in-depth into how Solar Ash and Hyper Light Drifter relate to one another.. What You Should Know About Solar Ash, From The Makers Of Hyper Light Drifter. Notis, Ari. Kotaku, 8/04/21 11:35AM
- Alex Preston offers some details on Solar Ash Kingdom.
- Description of Solar Ash found on official game website.
- Preston, Alx. Journey inside the Ultravoid with new Solar Ash gameplay. PlayStation Blog. February 25, 2021.
- Alex Preston announces Solar Ash Kingdom on Twitter.
- Alex Preston states that it will be some time before Solar Ash Kingdom is released.
- Alex Preston thanks developers for contributing to Solar Ash Kingdom on Twitter.
- Heart Machine hiring for Solar Ash Kingdom, through Alex Preston's Twitter.
- Heart Machine hiring more people for Solar Ash Kingdom, through Alex Preston's Twitter.
- Alx Preston on Twitter: Also, here's some official promo art of our protagonist. I'll go in-depth in a dev blog in the next week or so about her #SolarAshKingdom.
- 01:22:15 - 01:22:34 Humans Who Make Games with Adam Conover, Alx Preston (Hyper Light Drifter, Heart Machine) (podcast). Released May 16, 2020
- Interview with Rich Vreeland, aka Diasterpeace, on Hyper Light Drifter and Solar Ash Kingdom.
- 01:22:40 - 01:25:00 Humans Who Make Games with Adam Conover, Alx Preston (Hyper Light Drifter, Heart Machine) (podcast). Released May 16, 2020
- Preston, Alx. Travel into the void in Solar Ash, coming to PlayStation 5. PlayStation Blog. June 11, 2020.
- Heart Machine. Hyper Light Drifter. Heart Machine. March 31, 2016.
- Solar Ash in Edge magazine Issue 359, May 20, 2021.
- Solar Ash - 2021 Annapurna Showcase Trailer. An official release date trailer revealing a date of October 26, 2021, posted at Heart Machine's YouTube channel on July, 2021
- Annapurna Interactive Showcase, at Annapurna Interactive's Twitch channel, July 29, 2021.
- The Weekly w/ Trisha Hershberger & negaoryx.
- Solar Ash - 2021 Annapurna Showcase Trailer., posted at Annapurna Interactive's YouTube channel on July, 2021
- Solar Ash - Release Date Trailer. Posted at Sony PlayStation's YouTube channel on July 29, 2021}}
- Richard Vreeland’s Award-Winning Hyper Light Drifter Score Is Returning To Vinyl, And Solar Ash Is Next.. Chesler, Josh. Spin.com. November 17, 2021, 11:00 am
- 01:22:00 - 01:22:43 Humans Who Make Games with Adam Conover, Alx Preston (Hyper Light Drifter, Heart Machine) (podcast)., released May 16, 2020
- Video description on Annapurna Interactive's posting of Solar Ash 2020 trailer on YouTube confirms PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Steam and Epic Games for platforms for Solar Ash in 2021.
- Annapurna Interactive states that putting Steam in the video description of their version of the Solar Ash 2020 introductory trailer was a typo, and that the game will launch on Epic Games exclusively.
- Announcing Convos with Devs livestream series, at Heart Machine's official Twitter account.
- "Convos with Devs" livestream series is renamed "Heart to Heart".
- Jansen, Mark. Sony CES highlights: Everything announced for 2021., Digital Trends, January 14, 2021
- Wood, Chandler. Sony Removes Third-Party Release Dates From CES 2021 PS5 Presentation. PlayStation Lifestyle, January 15, 2021
- State of Play. Livestream via the PlayStation YouTube channel