A decade or so ago, everyone wanted to make a first-person shooter, mostly after the success of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Having adopted the controller configuration for first-person shooters, developers went all out to create the next big hit, with some successes and a lot of failures. In more recent times it’s been the Battle Royale scene which has had the same treatment, feeding off the glow of Fortnight. The newest trends in games are those of the roguelites and Souls-likes. Now we have Asterigos: Curse of the Stars waiting to appeal to the gods of souls. Let’s see what it has to offer from the rest.
The good news is that in Asterigos: Curse of the Stars you can change the level of difficulty to determine what kind of experience you are after, rolling from a nice relaxing RPG to something more akin to Dark Souls on acid. The game uses some of the same troupes as the Souls’ games with its boss battles, checkpoints, and soul collecting. But it goes its own way and has enough in its arsenal to ensure that it is an original take on the genre; one that can surprise you at times.
The story is based loosely on Roman and Greek myths but works in a completely original story and uses these references as its muses. You play the part of Hilda who is searching for her father after being separated from him. She is part of a group called the Northwind Legion and she finds herself entering the ancient city of Aphes which has been corrupted by a force of badness. Monsters lurk on the streets and Hilda finds herself battling around the avenues. Underneath the city lies a shelter where the survivors are hiding. There are a host of rebels as well, led by the famous Minerva who gives out tasks and missions for Hilda to do.
The world-building and narrative arc of Asterigos are very unique and interesting takes on old mythologies and characters. The dialogue is good, but sometimes suffers from the old adage – the “show, don’t tell” problem. Hilda has the annoying habit of self-narrating a bit too much for my liking and sometimes there is a lot of narrative and different arcs to take in. But the overall story is great, and you can influence it through the actions you take in a real way; something which is an admirable element.
The gameplay isn’t anything unusual or different from games you’ve played before. You move your character as normal and when attacking creatures or bosses have a light attack and a heavy attack depending on the type of weapon you are wielding. Whether these are your daggers, a large hammer, or extras you pick up on the way. When an enemy is defeated you collect stardust which is the equivalent of souls in this world. You also have some shield defenses, a very handy roll to get you out of trouble, and of course a lovely collection of special attacks you can trigger with limited-time bursts.
There are fountains – bonfires – allowing you to save your progress so you return if you die or you can teleport back if you are in trouble. All enemies are reset though, and you can gain access to different skills and attributes when you level up. I must say there is the most interesting and unique skill tree with some fascinating branches and things to invest in. However, the control systems are a bit awkward and need getting used. This is especially bad when you come to jump, when you have to hold down the run button and then another button to jump. But after a while – as with all these games – you’ll soon get used to it. In fact, the boss battles that play out are great fun, and there are tons of them too; some twenty-two in all. Each feels unique and challenging, even on the lowest difficulty.
But, the visuals found in Asterigos: Curse of the Stars aren’t the showcase you might expect from something of this gen of consoles. The locations and characters are very cartoony, feeling like that of Immortals Fenyx Rising. The textures aren’t the best either, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that much because the gameplay is a lot of fun. I did love the cutscene animations and the little echoes of memories you find throughout the game. The voice-over work is very good too, with a brilliant job done with the dialogue. The soundtrack is solid throughout giving out those fantasy vibes with relish and gusto.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is an RPG that comes with great ideas, fun gameplay, and some brilliant boss battles. I like the fact you can choose your difficulty level, so this will certainly appeal to those looking for something aside from a hardcore Souls-like. There are control issues to get used to and far too much self narration from the lead, but there is a lot to love here.
I just hope Asterigos can stand out in the crowded RPG market.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is available from the Xbox Store