By Steve Baltimore / October 22nd, 2021
|Publisher||Dear Villagers, Maple Whispering Limited|
|Release Date||September 30th, 2021|
|Platform||PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch|
When I went into Astria Ascending, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the game was done by Artisan Studios, who had worked on Super Neptunia RPG with mixed results. That being said, I really loved the art style they used in that game, so I was looking forward to giving this one a shot. The cast of characters seemed great, and any turned-based RPG with a job system will always get my attention. Let’s dig in and see if the Demigods achieve greatness.
The story of Astria Ascending follows a group of chosen Demigods that work to keep harmony in the world. They are chosen from each of the world’s races, and given great power to complete this task. This power comes with a great price, their lives. These brave souls chosen by the Goddess will greatly shorten their own lifespans in order to use this great power. Now, it is time for the 333rd group of Demigods to face their trials, but their story will be very different from their predecessors.
While there is nothing Earth-shattering here, the story isn’t a bad one at all. We’ve all probably seen these character types before and a lot of the plot lines are very basic, but I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. Everything here is well written and the characters all see a bit of growth as the story progresses. The world itself has quite a bit of building as well, which is very welcome when you see how some of the major themes of the story progress during your playthrough.
Graphically, Astria Ascending is a beautiful game. All of the hand-drawn environments look amazing. Each area is very elaborate in its design, and you can tell the team put a lot of effort into each one, making it look perfect. The lighting in this game should be studied by every game maker out there, cause it’s that damn good. The highly detailed 2.5D character models look fantastic as well. Each party member has a crazy amount of detail in their design, and these will change depending on which main job you give each character. The monsters look pretty bog standard, except for the incredible bosses. These are called Astraes, and they usually transform into several stages while fighting them. They look even crazier with each different stage and they can be called upon by the party once defeating them. The only real sticking point here is some of the animations look a bit stiff, but honestly, when everything else looks this good, that’s a very minor detail.
The soundtrack here, is one of the best I’ve heard in quite a while. The high energy battle themes will get you pumped for combat, the temple themes have a mysterious feel to them as you trudge through the dangers in each one, and the laid-back town themes give you a nice break from the action. I normally wouldn’t suggest one voice track over another in a review, but this time I would suggest most of you go with the Japanese audio. The English dub I found to be pretty subpar by today’s standards and very stilted. That being said, it’s good on the developers to give us an option, and you should choose whatever is right for you.
If you played Super Neptunia RPG, you will be familiar with some of the exploration elements here, but they have refined them a ton for Astria Ascending. Each area is a side scrolling map with some light platforming and puzzles to solve. The puzzles usually involve using your Zodiac Ring with one of the four elemental skills found on it. These include things like hitting switches, moving blocks, adding or removing water, and more. Later in the game, all of these skills will be upgraded to new skills so you can reach even more places. I have to say, I actually had a lot of fun exploring and figuring out all of the puzzles here, and that’s something I usually get annoyed at. This means they designed most of them very well, but that’s not to say some of the ones found in the latter part of the game aren’t a bit much either.
Combat here is a turn-based affair, but it has a lot of depth. Battle is done in groups of four, and you can switch party members in and out of battle at will. It will use a turn to do this, but you can really turn the tide of battle quickly depending on the members you replace and what jobs they have. This is mostly due to how the game scores hits to an enemy’s weakness. Whenever you hit their weak point, you will gain a focus point. You can use these points to pump up the skills of your party members for some devastating results. This is a double edged sword, however, since the enemy will gain points for hitting your weak points as well. You will also lose points if the enemy absorbs the element you attacked them with, so it’s very important to keep straight what works on which foes. You can turn on an option in the battle menu that will display this information for you, thankfully. The other major part of combat is summoning the Astraes. Alassia can summon powerful creatures into battle. This will cost her a percentage of her hit points, but they will come complete with their own and take the place of your full party. Using them will consume the focus points you have banked, but their amazing attacks can really get you out of a tight spot.
There are really only a couple of major issues I have with this game. The first one is there is no combat speed up. This may sound like a nitpick, but when you get ambushed by eight tiny creatures that each get to take two turns before you get one, it’s very annoying. It seriously takes two or so minutes to cycle through each one, and that’s just a bit much. The second one, is that if you are ambushed by certain groups of creatures that can give your whole party a weakness with a skill then exploit it, you will probably be wiped out without a chance to do anything. This is just bad design and not fun. It wasn’t fun when the Shin Megami Tensei games did it years ago and it’s still not fun now. I did run across some other bugs and glitches in my 30 hours of play, but these are what I felt should really have been addressed somewhere down the line before this released.
While Astria Ascending is far from a perfect game, I feel it does enough right to make fans of classic RPGs happy. The world is richly detailed, the characters and story are interesting, and the combat is fun even if it has a few issues. The job system gives the game plenty of depth, and there are a good amount of side quests and hunts that give the player something to do when not working on the main quest. I feel like this one is worth the $34.99 price tag if you are fan of old school games like this. Players that have played more modern titles may find this one a bit tedious, but an old dog like me felt right at home.
Game was provided by the publisher.
Artisan StudiosAstria Ascendinghand drawnReviewsRPG