What would occur if a budding indie firm, identified for vibrant 2D JRPGs, partnered with esteemed Square Enix designers? We’re speaking Kazushige Nojima (FFVII/Remake, FFVII), Hitoshi Sakimoto (FFXII, Vagrant Story), Hideo Minaba (FFVI, FFIX, FFXII), and Akihiko Yoshida (FFXII, Nier: Automata). You’d get Astria Ascending – a visible feast on the one hand and a smorgasbord of flavorless mechanics on the opposite. I spent a number of hours sampling the sport’s assortment of options and was dissatisfied with the general expertise. Developer Artisan Studios’ sophomore effort (it additionally shipped Super Neptunia RPG in 2018) exhibits bouts of promise, however its stale story and gameplay left a foul style in my mouth.
Astria Ascending mixes JRPG components like ability bushes and stat-boosting cosmetics with platforming navigation. A side-view digicam fits the sparse controls; you’ll transfer alongside a horizontal airplane, scaling platforms with the soar button or deactivating obstacles whereas roaming dungeons. I anticipate this degree of simplicity in side-scrollers, however Astria Ascending’s explorable world lacks depth.
Puzzles are insultingly straightforward. In the primary dungeon, I activated 4 murals to open a gated doorway, however I didn’t clear up the mural order by myself deserves; how might I when a close-by pillar etched with an on-the-nose riddle spelled out the reply? At the time, I couldn’t know this might foreshadow a lot of the sport’s unimaginative degree design and environmental storytelling. Similarly, leaping over bottomless chasms to reach at various factors of curiosity acquired boring shortly as a result of there aren’t any penalties for dying exterior of battle situations. This begs the query: why have these hazards scattered all through the sport world within the first place?
The turn-based fight quantities to rotating 4 celebration members (out of eight) as you make the most of a variety of bodily and magic-infused assaults. This permits you to benefit from elemental weaknesses, inflict debuffs/devastating standing results, and amass focus factors (FP) to reinforce the effectiveness of a particular potential. I loved accumulating FP and mixing them with my most potent magics, however this components ran its course after the primary few battles. The Ascension Tree is the place you’ll spend your expertise (SP) to reinforce stats or purchase new expertise. Each improve actually looks like a vital customization alternative. I beloved boosting my thief’s evasion properties so he was extra elusive, however on the identical time, his accuracy and luck numbers weren’t as excessive. Throw in 4 potential “jobs” (or lessons/roles) with particular unlockables for every playable character, and you may create a squad that’s prepared for any engagement … or so I assumed.
Sudden issue spikes are extremely punishing and create awkward lulls in marketing campaign progress. At one level, I got here throughout a boss with 4 grunts that felt nearly not possible to beat. That one boss solid “stun” and “confuse” on everybody, immobilizing and turning them towards each other, healed its allies for greater than double the injury I used to be meting out, and even respawned its downed minions. I instantly knew that I’d should grind to beat this impediment, however that required me to go away the dungeon fully to repopulate the small variety of wandering enemies. Doing this over and over drove me up the wall.
I tended to keep away from subquests as a result of some areas weren’t accessible but, and most targets required me to kill punishing monsters or acquire miscellaneous supplies for forgettable NPCs. A mini-game known as J-Ster stored me preoccupied when grinding grew to become exhausting (everyone knows how a lot I like tabletop side activities). J-Ster is vaguely just like the Japanese technique recreation Go in that you simply place 5 tokens on a board and use their energy ranges/positions to seize the opponent’s tokens. It took some time to understand the foundations, however as soon as I did, I used to be pleased to sit down again and tackle a bevy of various challengers when the lackluster plot wore skinny.
Astria Ascending explores future vs. destiny and hate vs. love (amongst a bevy of different conventional JRPG motifs) which is smart because the main setting, Orcanon, is a continent divided. Five races – the feathered Awisi, amphibious Peyska, bestial Arktans, reptilian Zefts, and humanoid meryo – flourish in their very own realms however have hassle mingling and dwelling inside proximity to at least one one other. Your crew of mighty misfits, the demi-gods, symbolize the perfect warriors/mages that every race has to supply. Blessed with immense powers, the heroes spend their transient lifetimes (three years!) preserving concord and vanquishing “Noises,” grotesque creatures that decision the wilderness dwelling.
Astria Ascending establishes its narrative stakes and in depth lore from the get-go, and I’d be mendacity if I mentioned I wasn’t instantly fascinated. However, the eight characters with which you embark on this Noise-slaying journey are one-dimensional archetypes. For occasion, Uhlan, the flaxen, shield-bearing chief of the troupe, is a “cordial young woman who would like everyone to get along” – an apt description present in your journal as a result of, exterior of this remark, I can’t recall another particulars about her persona or motivations. The youthful Peyska, Eko, has some redeeming qualities; he faces fixed scrutiny and is topic to tasteless jokes from his companions in the course of the recreation’s early hours. Beyond his function because the pitiful underdog, he (and the remainder of the staff) did not dwell as much as the Final Fantasy ensembles that impressed them.
Jarring realizations like this are commonplace and so disappointing as a result of Astria Ascending is among the best-looking 2D titles of the yr. Meticulously hand-drawn characters and metropolises make up for the dearth of interactivity and character dynamism. Additionally, the polished animations are unbelievable. Every fashionable hair flick and mouth-covering giggle valiantly try and personalize/characterize the quite a few fighters in your celebration, however there’s not sufficient substance to maintain most gamers hooked.
If you may’t stand the English voice appearing – don’t fear, I empathize with you – attempt enjoying with the Japanese VO. This doesn’t treatment the painful dialogue, however no less than the deliveries are a lot stronger!