In late 2015, a brand new sport got here to iOS known as Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey, providing up a fairly high-quality basic JRPG expertise. Although it was initially slated to reach in some kind on the PlayStation consoles of the time, this console venture by no means received off the bottom and was subsequently cancelled. Now, that venture has been revived by Tremendous Neptunia RPG developer Artisan Studio and reimagined for contemporary consoles as Astria Ascending. This reworked model basically deconstructs the unique launch and rebuilds it in a manner that feels extra consistent with typical RPGs. Some could also be cautious of the cellular sport origins right here, however we’re completely satisfied to report that this appears like a top quality, feature-complete JRPG that it’s best to give a good shot.
Astria Ascending takes place within the land of Orcanon, whereby you play as an ensemble solid of demigods known as “The Fated Eight”. See, in Orcanon, the world is essentially at peace due to a magical fruit known as Harmelon that causes folks to stay in concord with one another, however issues naturally don’t all the time go in line with plan, which is what the demigods are for. Every of them represents one of many eight most important races that stay in Orcanon, and being a demigod brings with it nice energy and status, however there’s a slight catch: after three years, all of the demigods die and are changed by one other eight that make up the following class.
The world itself and the plot set inside actually appear fascinating and unique sufficient, however the primary downside with Astria Ascending is that it doesn’t supply the participant a really compelling manner into this narrative. This fully new world, full with every kind of races, guidelines, and Very Essential Capitalized Phrases you aren’t aware about, is foisted upon you with hardly a phrase of exposition.
Moreover, all eight of the demigods are instantly launched collectively after having served of their roles for nearly three years, and also you’re simply sort of anticipated to deduce how everybody is aware of and feels about one another. That is clearly a dense world with every kind of fascinating potential, but it surely very a lot appears like Astria Ascending is the third or fourth entry in a long-running collection. Finally, you can begin to piece issues collectively and make sense of all of it, however your expertise with the story by no means feels such as you organically received to know and care about these characters and the world they’re in.
For a JRPG, that may be a quite damning situation, and it doesn’t assist that the writing itself falls quite flat. Characters really feel shallow and most of them not often contribute something significant to regardless of the present cutscene is about, which results in numerous moments the place this entire posse is available in to speak to 1 individual and most of them simply stand round wanting powerful or chime in with one or two feedback that don’t add something to the dialogue.
On this respect, Astria Ascending is an efficient instance of why most JRPGs will slowly introduce celebration members to you because the story goes on. Having all of them current from the start like this isn’t inconceivable to drag off, but it surely requires expert writing to offer each member of such a comparatively giant most important solid a compelling cause to be there and to really feel just like the gang is greater than only a assortment of mannequins. It will’ve been higher if Astria Ascending both trimmed the solid all the way down to 4 or so, or structured the story round slowly introducing every of the members so you could possibly higher perceive every character and the way they relate to 1 one other.
Your missions will take you everywhere in the land of Orcanon, which is specified by a style vaguely paying homage to the world of Little one of Mild. All dungeons, cities, and environments are organized on a strict 2D aircraft, which sounds restrictive at first, however proves to have some good depth over time. For instance, dungeons are sometimes laid out as a collection of enormous rooms related by doorways, with every room that includes an honest quantity of sunshine environmental puzzling, hidden treasure chests, and roaming enemies to struggle. Areas aren’t fairly as meandering and maze-like as a typical Metroidvania map, however there’s loads of room for exploration right here, sufficient that it doesn’t really feel too ‘A-to-B’ in its design.
Fight unfolds utilizing normal turn-based guidelines, however there are some good wrinkles to assist make battles extra fascinating. Probably the most notable instance of that is the FP system, which has similarities to the BP of Octopath Traveler. The celebration shares a gauge of as much as ten FP at a time, and 4 factors at a time might be drawn all the way down to do issues like buffing up the injury performed by assaults or the quantity of well being you’ll be able to restore. Enemies and celebration members have varied elemental strengths and weaknesses, and in the event you hit an enemy’s weak point, you’ll acquire 2 FP.
Nonetheless, in the event you hit an enemy with one thing they’re immune to, or in the event that they hit considered one of your weaknesses, you’ll lose FP. We actually appreciated the inclusion of this mechanic, because it makes battles (particularly bosses) much more strategic and targeted on planning. Going all-in on a regular basis is bound to see you getting bodied, so you have to know forward of time what every group member contributes to the group and the way they’ll finest be used to expedite a victory.
When you’ve gotten the spoils out of your battles, you’ll be able to then make investments any SP gained into every character’s talent grid, every of which incorporates a completely different association of stat good points and new talents. Very like the Sphere Grid of Ultimate Fantasy X, you’re began at one node after which given the choice to fan out from there to varied others, which suggests you need to put a bit extra thought into the way you need every character to develop. Issues are difficult even additional once you finally unlock as much as three new Jobs for every character, every bringing with them a brand-new talent grid so that you can make investments your preciously restricted sources into. You may get by simply tremendous with the bottom class grid and never even contact any of these different jobs, however they’re there for these of you who actually like stepping into the weeds of taking RPG characters to their most potential.
These of you on the lookout for an abundance of content material shall be happy to know there’s fairly a little bit of meat to Astria Ascending, between about 25 and 75 hours relying on how a lot of a completionist you could be. The standard smattering of forgettable aspect quests are right here and accounted for in the event you’re seeking to grind up some further sources as time goes on, however there’s an ongoing quest line in which you’ll be able to take out contracts to hunt particular monsters that provides fairly a little bit of fascinating taste to the primary gameplay loop. These hunts normally are a bit of more durable than a typical boss struggle at your present stage and require you to backtrack to earlier areas, however they provide an exhilarating problem and a few tasty rewards in the event you can handle to beat them.
Along with this, there’s a complete card battling minigame all through which makes for a pleasant diversion. You’ll be able to battle most of the NPCs you come throughout in your journey and guess playing cards over the winner, and there’s a good quantity of depth to it for a easy aspect sport. The fundamental rub of the sport—known as J Ster—is that you just every have a deck of six hexagonal playing cards which might be performed on a small board. Every card has a numerical worth, whereas every of its six faces has completely different modifiers on it that can enhance or lower its worth when performed. Placing a card down on the board initiates a ‘struggle’ between your card and any adjoining enemy playing cards, and also you’ll flip the enemy playing cards to your shade in the event you performed proper. After a number of turns, the participant with essentially the most playing cards on the board wins the match, and normally wins a number of of the opponents playing cards within the course of. It could take a while to come back to grips with it, however J Ster provides up a enjoyable expertise that meaningfully provides to Astria Ascending.
We’d be remiss to wrap the evaluate with out discussing the distinctive artwork course. Each body of this launch, whether or not it’s a battle or someplace within the overworld, seems prefer it’s been taken straight off the sketchpad of the idea artist in the very best sort of manner. Characters and monsters are drawn with a powerful stage of element, and it’s arduous to not be wowed by the extent of effort put into getting that excellent mixture of kind and performance. Every portion of the world is visually distinct from the following and splashes out loads of shade, making for some completely beautiful eye sweet whether or not you’re taking part in in docked or handheld.
Moreover, the rating by Hitoshi Sakimoto brings simply the correct quantity of that Ultimate Fantasy-esque magic. It’s not an particularly memorable soundtrack, but it surely matches the gameplay and world like a glove and also you’d be hard-pressed to ask for a lot better.
Astria Ascending is probably not a flawless launch however the strong fight system, spectacular visuals, deep character talent constructing, and wealth of content material make for an expertise that JRPG followers will really feel proper at house with. We’d give this one a suggestion to anyone on the lookout for an unique RPG to sink their tooth into; the writing and plot may have performed with extra growth and a spotlight, however there’s tons to like about Astria Ascending and we’re eagerly anticipating no matter Artisan Studios does subsequent.