Last week, I was able to explore a new world in the upcoming Japanese role-playing game Astria Ascending from developer Artisan Studios. Astria Ascending immediately caught my attention when I read who was involved in the project. Kazushige Nojima’s Final Fantasy VII, FF VII Remake, and FF X famous, plus Hitoshi Sakimoto, composer of FF 12My scores, like everyone else’s, all work together to create what I hope will be a great new entry to the genre. What I’ve found so far, instead, is a relatively authoritative JRPG that couldn’t really capture and hold my interest, even with some welcome changes to the game. type.
Party of five
Astria Ascending takes place in the land of Harmony, where eight demigods guard its five cities. We meet these heroes in the midst of a new crisis raging across the land involving invading monsters known as “Noises” attacking the kingdom.
Speaking of kingdoms, Astria Ascending is a beautiful game, with an art style that reminds me of vanilla games like Odin Sphere and Dragon’s Reward. Like those games, AstriaTheir images are hand-drawn and do a great job of capturing your attention with designs that are simply amazing. That extends to the characters you control throughout the adventure, the demigods.
These eight demigods are one of the main attractions of Astria Ascending, each of them has their own stories to be explored throughout “five cities, 25 dungeons, and 30 hours of gameplay”. Unlike other JRPGs, you don’t meet each of these characters during your trip; you will have them in your party from the very beginning.
It’s a welcome change of pace for the genre. Having all the characters on the ride from the start provides lots of opportunities for the characters to joke around. It also eliminates the problem that previous members are stronger than new members who can be very prominent in other JRPGs.
Battles are another realm where Astria Bring new ideas to the table. Before the actual battle, you have plenty of options to either strike first or avoid the Noises you’ll encounter altogether. When encountering one of these creatures, you have the option of taking the first blow by attacking to start the actual battle. Doing so gives you a higher chance of getting the first hit when the real fight begins. If the opposite happens, or a noise strikes you from behind to start a scuffle, your opponent will always get the first hit.
One thing that I like is the ability to easily skip encounters, if you haven’t completed the quest by that time. You are given a ring that can freeze the Noises, allowing you to simply walk around them and continue your adventure.
Going into actual battles, you’ll find that it’s your standard JRPG mission with some new caveats. First, there’s the ability to swap between the eight characters of your party at will during turn-based combat. This offers new strategies and loads of creativity when dealing with different situations, as each character has unique strengths, weaknesses, and skills. You have to check these attributes because enemies have them too, which means swapping characters to go directly against them is a must if you’re going to quickly wipe the floor with an enemy.
To further promote the idea that no party member is useless, Astria Ascending introduces another new mechanism of “focus point”, or FP. Instead of attacking for a turn, a character can focus on their center of gravity and deal more damage. Their damage will increase by 50% with each focus charge, which can be done up to four times. You can get more focus points by hitting the enemy’s weak point. It is a “risk versus reward mechanism” and a good solution to the “bad party member” problem.
In addition to these few innovations, Astria AscendingBattles are quite a thing to do by heart. I didn’t find anything too offensive nor amusing throughout – and that’s what I think is the game’s biggest problem.
Although wanting to be an innovator in the JRPG field, Astria is a game that really couldn’t hold my attention for too long. What I’ve played so far isn’t bad, but I don’t see why I’d pick it over any of the better titles in the same genre.
The battles are pretty average, the exploration is cut short and dry, and ironically, the story feels like a standard JRPG. I just can’t find anything too remarkable to make me think this game is worth the hourly investment in its current state. There are a lot of great concepts here that could be added, including story, potentially. I’m not sure it can stand out in such a crowded field of successful modern-classic JRPGs Octopath Tourists or more creative upcoming titles like Tales of Arise.
However, I think Astria Ascending There’s a lot of potential to push those new ideas and grow into something great. I like the visuals, pacing and fighting idea presented. Even as it hits familiar beats, Astria well worth keeping an eye on fans of the genre.
Astria Ascending released on September 30 for PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Nintendo Switch.