Astria Ascending’s Beauty Is Only Skin-Deep

What would transpire if a budding indie corporation, known for vivid 2D JRPGs, partnered with esteemed Square Enix designers? We’re talking 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 particular hand and a smorgasbord of flavorless mechanics on the other. I invested numerous several hours sampling the game’s assortment of options and was dissatisfied with the total working experience. Developer Artisan Studios’ sophomore effort and hard work (it also transported Tremendous Neptunia RPG in 2018) exhibits bouts of promise, but its stale story and gameplay still left a bad flavor in my mouth. 

Astria Ascending mixes JRPG factors like ability trees and stat-boosting cosmetics with platforming navigation. A side-watch digicam suits the sparse controls you’ll shift alongside a horizontal aircraft, scaling platforms with the bounce button or deactivating road blocks even though roaming dungeons. I expect this stage of simplicity in facet-scrollers, but Astria Ascending’s explorable entire world lacks depth. 


Puzzles are insultingly simple. In the very first dungeon, I activated 4 murals to open a gated doorway, but I did not remedy the mural order on my very own deserves how could I when a close by pillar etched with an on-the-nose riddle spelled out the response? At the time, I couldn’t know this would foreshadow a great deal of the game’s unimaginative amount layout and environmental storytelling. Equally, leaping over bottomless chasms to get there at varying factors of desire obtained uninteresting immediately mainly because there are no consequences for dying outdoors of battle situations. This begs the problem: why have these dangers scattered through the sport globe in the very first place? 

The switch-based mostly combat quantities to rotating four social gathering members (out of 8) as you make use of a assortment of bodily and magic-infused assaults. This enables you to consider gain of elemental weaknesses, inflict debuffs/devastating status outcomes, and amass concentrate details (FP) to enrich the effectiveness of a chosen means. I loved gathering FP and combining them with my most powerful magics, but this method ran its study course after the to start with number of battles. The Ascension Tree is wherever you’ll invest your working experience (SP) to enhance stats or purchase new abilities. Each and every up grade really feels like a critical customization choice. I cherished boosting my thief’s evasion homes so he was a lot more elusive, but at the exact time, his precision and luck quantities weren’t as substantial. Toss in 4 doable “jobs” (or classes/roles) with precise unlockables for every single playable character, and you can make a squad that’s ready for any engagement … or so I thought. 

Sudden problem spikes are incredibly punishing and make awkward lulls in marketing campaign progress. At one particular stage, I came across a manager with four grunts that felt almost unachievable to defeat. That 1 manager solid “stun” and “confuse” on anyone, immobilizing and turning them from one one more, healed its allies for much more than double the damage I was dishing out, and even respawned its downed minions. I immediately knew that I’d have to grind to prevail over this obstacle, but that demanded me to depart the dungeon solely to repopulate the small variety of wandering enemies. Accomplishing this in excess of and in excess of yet again drove me up the wall. 

I tended to steer clear of subquests for the reason that some locations weren’t obtainable but, and most aims required me to eliminate punishing monsters or obtain miscellaneous supplies for forgettable NPCs. A mini-video game named J-Ster saved me preoccupied when grinding grew to become exhausting (we all know how considerably I really like tabletop aspect things to do). J-Ster is vaguely equivalent to the Japanese technique sport Go in that you location 5 tokens on a board and use their electricity stages/positions to capture the opponent’s tokens. It took a whilst to grasp the procedures, but as soon as I did, I was delighted to sit again and just take on a bevy of various challengers when the lackluster plot wore slender. 

Astria Ascending explores destiny vs. fate and detest vs. like (between a bevy of other traditional JRPG motifs) which tends to make perception since the major location, Orcanon, is a continent divided. Five races – the feathered Awisi, amphibious Peyska, bestial Arktans, reptilian Zefts, and humanoid Meryo – flourish in their possess realms but have difficulties mingling and living in proximity to just one another. Your crew of mighty misfits, the demi-gods, symbolize the greatest warriors/mages that each individual race has to present. Blessed with enormous powers, the heroes shell out their temporary lifetimes (3 several years!) preserving harmony and vanquishing “Noises,” grotesque creatures that get in touch with the wilderness dwelling. 


Astria Ascending establishes its narrative stakes and substantial lore from the get-go, and I’d be lying if I reported I wasn’t instantly fascinated. Even so, the eight figures with which you embark on this Noise-slaying journey are a single-dimensional archetypes. For occasion, Uhlan, the flaxen, defend-bearing chief of the troupe, is a “cordial youthful lady who would like every person to get along” – an apt description observed in your journal due to the fact, outdoors of this observation, I just can’t recall any other specifics about her individuality or motivations. The youthful Peyska, Eko, has some redeeming qualities he faces continual scrutiny and is topic to tasteless jokes from his companions throughout the game’s early several hours. Further than his purpose as the pitiful underdog, he (and the relaxation of the team) failed to are living up to the Ultimate Fantasy ensembles that influenced them. 

Jarring realizations like this are commonplace and so disappointing for the reason that Astria Ascending is a single of the best-wanting 2D titles of the year. Meticulously hand-drawn figures and metropolises make up for the absence of interactivity and character dynamism. In addition, the polished animations are remarkable. Every single attractive hair flick and mouth-covering giggle valiantly try to personalize/characterize the many fighters in your occasion, but there is not enough compound to keep most players hooked.

Astria Ascending launches for PlayStation 5, Xbox Collection X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox 1, Switch, and Pc on September 30. 

If you can’t stand the English voice acting  never fear, I empathize with you  try out participating in with the Japanese VO. This doesn’t treatment the distressing dialogue, but at least the deliveries are a great deal stronger!

Originally posted 2021-11-11 13:14:31.