Astria Ascending is a beautiful and strange game. Developed by Artisan Studios who have teams in France and Canada it features famed Final Fantasy veterans Hitoshi Sakimoto & Kazushige Nojima who are working on the score and writing respectively. Featuring a unique and occasionally stunning 2D art style, turn-based combat, and easy platforming I’ve found myself both intrigued and a bit bewildered at times during my time with a preview build of the game. Allow me to explain why.
The Fateful Eight
You control a party of eight demigods whose job takes them throughout the lands of Orcanon as they fight off the “noises”. Your party has a set period where they become incredibly powerful for a short while but then they must die because of their newfound power. The game is slated to feature twelve ancient beasts whom you must defeat to protect the land, and it features full voice acting throughout. One of the first issues I had was the quality of the voice acting. It feels ripped straight out of a 90’s anime dub, and on the whole, is not up to par with where games of this type have been lately. The writing is ok enough, but I have found it to be on the predictable end of things. I find myself intrigued to see where the story will go after the events of this preview build though, and as the game is available on Game Pass at launch, there is no harm in finding out. The demigods each fill a trope of the genre and I didn’t find myself feeling attached to them after my playthrough.
Graphically things can look fantastic, though some of the backgrounds are low-quality in comparison to others. I’m also not a big fan of some of the artistic choices made for female character models. A pair of sisters have enormous legs with thighs twice as wide as my head, all skin shown, with enormous chests with rock-hard nipples always-on display. It feels childish and easily avoidable. Something that can be jarring to see in 2021 for the simple reason that it’s so out of place compared to how everyone else is decked out in battle armor or normal clothing.
JRPG Through and Through
The party system is a unique part of the game to me. You have 8 total demigods to choose from but only 4 active at a time. You can swap them out on the fly, even during combat whether they’re still conscious or not. It is a rather basic system that is entirely about weaknesses and immunities. You will constantly find yourself juggling your party as you find out what enemy is weak or strong against each damage type. There is nothing in-game to show you what something is weak to though, and it is up to you to figure it out and remember. It works on basic principles such as water enemies are weak to electricity, and fire enemies are weak to water, etc. I can see it growing a bit tedious at times, but if you know the weaknesses you can end a fight in a few moves quite often.
Your party all have their own inventories, massive skill trees, and more. For fans of the genre, the system should be what keeps them playing over time, as it is going to take a while to unlock each of the eight characters’ extra abilities and stats. There are various in-game currencies that you’ll earn through fights or quests that are needed to unlock these, and they were not handed out generously during the preview.
Music and Voice Acting Are…. Ok
The sounds of the game are a mixed bag. I quite liked the music but as previously stated, the voice acting is not well done. Sound effects are typical for the genre and weren’t distracting at all. Things feel well made in most aspects, but I do wish that if they were going to voice everything that it wasn’t so bland and off-putting. I do say this as someone who likes and doesn’t love the JRPG genre though, and if you’re used to it and it doesn’t bother you then I think you can easily look passed it.
The music is of a much higher quality, as composer Hitoshi Sakimoto brings a level of skill here that stands out in a game full of it. I never found it repetitive or in the way, and I found myself waiting to finish off a fight so that I could hear it just a little longer quite often.
Wrapping Things Up
This is the type of game I love to see coming to Game Pass. I know of a few friends who are interested in it simply because they technically already “own” it for the time it’s on the service. With more and more genres coming to the platform I suggest you give this game a try when it releases on September 30th if anything you’ve seen here looks interesting. It’s not great in every area, but it can be fantastic when it comes to gameplay, story, visuals, and music.