Forgive me, readers, for I have failed in my quest to explore the world of Astria Ascending fully. That doesn’t mean I died in a brutal rogue-like that sends you back to the start; it just means that I haven’t been able to explore every nook and cranny.
While I’d like to think that people don’t assume that each review is the result of a 100% completion average, unlocking and locating all secrets, one would need to be able to scratch more than the surface to give a fair appraisal.
Astria Ascending is such a big game, that due to my nature of fart-arsing about with side quests, the proposed 70 odd hours to finish the main quest and fetch shenanigans was a big ask with so many excellent titles this past week. How was it? Let me begin.
Astria Ascending Review
Astria Ascending is a JRPG best played with a controller. Why is that? Perhaps that’s because of the simple setup of controls and active platforming in the world of Orcanon. You don’t want to use a mouse to click on a ledge. Or do you?
If you look at the static images of the game, it’s fair to say that the artwork is impressive – reminiscent of the early Final Fantasy concept pieces, only in full colour. Animated, it was a little perplexing at first as you move so fast, and the characters’ anatomy is… odd.
Yes, there’s that default gaming modification to resize the women’s chests, and they may be a bit scantily clad in places, but it wasn’t that what struck me but how the women have huge R Crumb Amazonian legs and the men have these stumps that seem to have been cut off. They tend to move like a two-legged centaur as well like they’re missing limbs.
Good With Colours
’tis a minor criticism though, friends, as there’s no doubt about it, the characters and locations are beautifully illustrated. It’s an inviting, diverse world to play in. On the surface. Though not fully voice acted, the talent is good, though playing in Japanese was interesting as there are so many foreign fantasy words that sound out of place. First impressions, done.
The story in Astria Ascending is a common one and was somewhat forgettable. In short, the world is forged through Harmony and is protected by a group known as the demi-gods. There’s eight, and you’ve already collected them all. Unfortunately, having your cake and eating it early on means that the focus on development is on the in-depth skill trees and later jobs, rather than the actual characters. They’re pretty unlikeable, and you soon find out they don’t like each other, either.
At times the narrative was a bit of a nuisance, and I preferred to get stuck in on the action. As mentioned, the hand-drawn art is pretty, but there’s only one axis to walk on – a 2D experience. Speaking with NPCs is easy enough, as is movement, but when in the dungeons, this flat style proved me a bit of a headache when referring to the maps – I kept getting lost!
Focus On The Review
The platforming sections are introduced early on, as are the numerous power rings you collect to help unlock areas by using the shoulder buttons. Platforming isn’t remotely difficult, and even falling ‘to your death’ respawns you without penalty.
Undoubtedly the challenge comes from combat which is a turn-based scenario. JRPG’s and their cousins are always so in-depth to cover in a review, so let’s say it’s the usual approach of attack, defence, support, et al., and you can play four of your party members at a time, even swapping them out if needed.
Focus points change up Astria Ascending quite a lot as these can boost an action, pending you have the points. They’re awarded if you can manually find a weakness in an enemy (or equip the scan ability), though they are equally taken away if the enemy resists or absorbs your attack. Potentially though, focus points are game-changers as they can stack and do double damage.
I Present: The Demi-Gods
One thing worth mentioning about Astria Ascending is how accommodating it is. There are so many parameters to tinker with, from hints to the difficulty of play, making it as engaging and as challenging as you wish, but there’s not enough assistance when you get lost as I did!
The menu system is beautiful, and I love how your party members are presented; switching out your favourites as you go along. There are eight in all, from Ulan the leader to Kress the Fencer and Eko the Scholar. My favourite was Dagmar the sorcerer, who goes against the grain in looking like a powerhouse but can’t take a hit to the chin. Unfortunately, the weakest part of the characters was their personalities.
There are levelling up options, and all active and inactive members increase together, though skill points go into one pot at first, then later, each character has the same attributes to allocate. I found myself focusing on Dagmar, but it’s wise to balance out their abilities, equipment and setting their role/job (you can choose multiple jobs for them and swap them about as if a loadout). A note on equipment: money flows like wine, and you can adequately beef up your team very early on – all eight of them. It’s just the skills that will take a grind.
A Bit Of A Gamble
Astria Ascending is one of the most accessible JRPGs I’ve played for a while – from the actual gameplay to management-like mechanics and upgrades. However, I would have preferred some in-depth codecs to learn more about the world other than the exploration and that these characters were a lot more personable.
You’re pretty much free to travel Orcanon using a multitude of fast travel options, optional quests and the like. Perhaps the worst part of the game other than the character development, and this is entirely my preference, was the in-game J-Ster.
It’s a card game that you should learn as there’s an incentive to rise the ranks and reap the rewards with it. Interestingly, you can earn J-Ster tokens by converting the enemies you battle into tokens. I have detested this sort of thing in games – from poker in Red Dead Redemption to Gwent in Witcher 3, whatever that game was in AC: Valhalla, and even in the upcoming Xuan Yuan Sword 7. It IS optional, but there’s a bit of meat to it. Considering Gwent got a spin-off, perhaps I’m in the minority?
Ascending, Descending Or Stationary?
To wrap this up nice and proper, Astria Ascending from Artisan Studios is a big game, but in my playtime, a lot of it was wasted in getting lost in dungeons or going through each character’s back story. It’s a shame as the artwork is beautiful with some real diverse locations and ways of exploring.
Combat was satisfying after tweaking it, though a little excessive in select areas, even when modified. Again, Astria Ascending really is flexible in its approach, choosing the settings best for you. Unfortunately, for someone narrative-driven, the story experience here was missing. However, I found solace in the grindy elements and diving deep into the vast sidequests and skill trees.