PAX East 2014: Hands-on: Astebreed

Friday, April 11th, 2014

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Astebreed - Logo | oprainfall

Of the three games Playism was showing off at PAX East 2014, Astebreed was the title I knew the least about. Of course, when researching the game, the idea appealed to me. Who wouldn’t want to play a game that takes place in a world where the only hope to survive against an alien threat is a bipedal war machine and its pilot? The game is a very fast-paced rail shooter that made me miss the days of Star Fox from the moment I got my hands on it.

Astebreed - Better Than Michael Bay | oprainfall Astebreed - Blue Light Special | oprainfall
Astebreed - War Machines | oprainfall Astebreed - One Last Look | oprainfall

To be completely honest, I didn’t take much time to appreciate the terrain or my various surroundings. As soon as the game begins, you’re stormed by foes and are left with no other choice but to act quickly and start blowing things to smithereens—no real time for sightseeing. Still, taking a look at these screens and remembering the overall impressions the visuals left on me when I first played, this is a very pretty game, where a lot of care and attention were put into the world and the things that populate it (even if it’s only for a few seconds before you make things look like a Michael Bay movie).

Another thing I couldn’t pay attention to because of the environment I was in—Astebreed seems to have a very involved story that plays out on the bottom of your screen as the action unfolds. Each character is voiced, so I assume when you’re blowing things up in the comfort of your own home, you’ll be able to follow what’s going on and who’s doing what a lot better than I could. There’s something to be said for the game’s characterization though, if only based on some of its artwork seen below.

Astebreed - Character Portrait 001 | oprainfall Astebreed - Character Portrait 002 | oprainfall
Astebreed - Character Portrait 003 | oprainfall Astebreed - Character Portrait 004 | oprainfall

The most important takeaway I have from playing Astebreed isn’t concerned with its presentation, though. By the end of the level, I was ready for more–so much so that I may or may not have snuck in a second play session while the folks at Playism weren’t looking. The gameplay was just the right kind of addicting–genuine fun from start to finish. The enemies were difficult, but not insane. Things progressed at a reasonable pace overall.

But beyond a bunch of generalized statements describing typical on-rails gameplay, here’s a story:

Starting out, I was just shooting stuff. If you’ve ever been thrown into a game without some degree of explanation, you probably know how it is–pressing buttons to see what works is how to get by in the first few minutes. I came to the conclusion rather quickly that I needed to just…move and shoot. Aggressively. Maybe too aggressively. Eventually, I was at a point where a shot was about to hit me, and my finger slipped and I mashed the other button–then my bipedal machine deflected the bullets with its sword.

Stuff got real. It’s a shooter with a blade. You can go in close, or blow stuff up from far away. It does a lot to add to the gameplay, especially when going for high scores. Astebreed is definitely the on-rails game that most StarFox fans have been waiting for. It’s not RECCA hard, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park. I’d say instead of praying for Nintendo to revive the franchise, folks should turn their attention to this Japanese indie title that has the makings to be the “next” StarFox.

I don’t just throw something like that out there. This game was by far some of the most fun I had on the show floor for my first day at PAX East 2014. The name Astebreed may be hard to recall, but this is a game I hope will be on the minds of everyone. It just does so much right. According to the publisher, Astebreed is coming before Spring 2014 is over. For more information, follow Playism or visit the game’s official site.