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Astor: Blade of the Monolith Review

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One of the joys of being a game reviewer is that every now and then a game appears that you thoroughly enjoy, even if perhaps you wouldn’t have otherwise played it. It happened to me with Vampire Survivors, and at risk of slight spoilers for the review ahead, this particular game is another example. 

The game in question is Astor: Blade of the Monolith from Versus Evil and C2 Game Studios. Promising to be a vibrant romp through a ruined world, can we prevail against all the odds, or will we bleach under the desert sun?

Astor Blade of the Monolith review 1
Get adventuring with Astor

I have to say, the presentation of Astor: Blade of the Monolith is pretty cool. The game plays out as a third person action adventure, with a traditional over the shoulder perspective as we control Astor, our hero. The various biomes that we need to explore are pretty large, albeit a little linear – there’s no real incentive to go off piste and explore, save for finding some runic shards. And whilst there is an achievement for collecting all the runic shards, there’s no counter to tell you how many you are missing, which is a little annoying. 

Anyways, Astor is a well designed little fella, and his friends are equally full of personality. The enemies are suitably evil, ranging from cannon fodder little guys all the way up to massive bosses – there is a lot of variety here, both in the foes you’ll face and the places where you’ll face them. One annoyance, however, is in the invisible walls that are dotted around to keep you going the way that the devs want you to go – it is somewhat galling to think that there is an area you haven’t explored ahead, only to find out that you cannot get there. 

The sound is all pretty good too – the language Astor and his fellow Diokek (as they are called) speak is largely nonsense, but the narrator does a pretty good job. The combat sounds and the music are also very good, and all in all, except the invisible walls, all is well in terms of how this one is set up.  

There is a story to take in too, and a pretty good one at that. Astor and the other Diokek have a legend, the legend of The Makers, who were all destroyed in a great cataclysm many, many years ago. The Diokek are creatures made of wood and so on, almost like dolls, brought to life using a procedure that I won’t spoil. Anyway, one day, a hero will rise looking to restore the Makers. And guess who that hero is? Yes, it is Astor, and by extension, us!

Astor Blade of the Monolith review 2
Hack and slash your way through this one

So, we have a long journey ahead of us, as the hero of legend has a prophecy to fulfil, and so the scene is set here for us to get cracking. The story really kept me playing up until the end, and despite a twist that can be seen coming a mile off (no spoilers!), the writing is very good. 

At its heart, Astor: Blade of the Monolith is a hack and slash adventure. Astor starts out with only a pretty weedy sword, and so the early portion of the game does see him outgunned. I’ll just mention the difficulty setting here – you can choose Normal or Hard when you start a game, and there doesn’t seem to be any happy middle ground. Normal was how I completed things, but it does feel a tad easy, yet when I moved on with New Game +, with all my powers intact and bumped up to hard, I got my ass roundly kicked. It would be nice to have had some middle ground… 

Now, as Astor goes through the game he gains not only more health and stamina, but also new weapons and skills. There’s a choice of four weapons, of which two are selectable at a time, and can be switched between on the fly. Along the journey, Astor will also gain abilities, such as a double jump and also the ability to call allies to the fight – ranging from a small spider bot right up to a giant golem. Again, there are a lot of these summons, and only four of them can be equipped at once. Finding the loadout that works for you then is vital, and quite easy – I liked the hammer and the gauntlets, personally. Combat is pretty flowing, and with blocks, parries and dodges to learn the timing for, there is a lot to get used to. And as you defeat foes, you get some red gems given to you; these are used to improve Astor’s weapons and abilities, allowing him to do more damage and unlock new attacks for each weapon. 

The majority of Astor: Blade of the Monolith is great, but there are some annoying niggles I have to mention, besides the invisible walls. First of all, the camera is easily confused – if you are pushed into a corner by enemies or a boss, the camera freaks out completely, and you just cannot see what is happening. The only thing to do then is keep swinging and hope to create a bit of space to get out of the situation. 

Astor Blade of the Monolith review 3
Looks great – but invisible walls…

And there’s a weird glitch that occurs when using the gauntlets – every now and then Astor gets locked into an animation loop where he starts to punch, but never manages it, stuttering about the place until an enemy takes pity and clobbers him, breaking the loop. As you can imagine, this is very annoying when it happens. It feels like a little bit more playtesting, a little bit more love could have seen Astor: Blade of the Monolith move into realms of ‘must play’, but as it is, it falls just short. 

However, Astor: Blade of the Monolith is well worth a play. It isn’t often I finish a game and then go straight back into New Game +, but this is one that will tempt you. There are annoyances, but the action and the story are both good enough to ensure this is a recommendation. Give Astor: Blade of the Monolith a try – it really is enjoyable.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Great story
  • Combat flows, and experimentation is rewarded
  • Progression is satisfying
Cons:
  • Invisible walls
  • Camera woes
  • Odd stuttering, yet only with the gauntlets equipped
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Versus Evil
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 30 May 2024 | £TBC
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Great story</li> <li>Combat flows, and experimentation is rewarded</li> <li>Progression is satisfying</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Invisible walls</li> <li>Camera woes</li> <li>Odd stuttering, yet only with the gauntlets equipped</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Versus Evil</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 30 May 2024 | £TBC</li> </ul>Astor: Blade of the Monolith Review
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