Saturday , December 9 2023

Videogame Review: ‘Asterigos: Curse of the Stars’

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a new fantasy third person action RPG videogame inspired by Greek and Roman mythologies. Developed by Acme Gamestudio, it focuses on a heroine named Hilda exploring a deserted city to find answers and lost family.

It can be compared visually to Breath of the Wild and gameplay-wise to the Souls style of games, but it lacks the magic each of those classic experiences possesses. Still, looking at the sum of its parts, Asterigos has charm and some interesting tricks that make it enjoyable for most of the experience.

The key hook is that Hilda is already an experienced warrior proficient in six different weapons. She can equip any two at the same time to switch quickly between weapon types as she explores the cursed city of Aphes.

These favored weapons add the ability to swap between ranged and close combat or brutal and fast actions on the fly. As the game progresses and more skills and attacks are learned, I found I favored the speed of daggers and the reach of a spear as my combo of choice, but each player can develop their own playstyle.

This variety of weapon combat is much needed as the day to day exploration of the cursed city is riddled with re-spawning enemies (after a death) that often behave, act and are placed in the same areas. This makes exploring repetitive and combat a routine affair that fails to require the strategy that Souls games are famous for.

In Asterigos death has far fewer consequences than, say, in Elden Ring or Dark Souls. Possessions, experience and loot all seem to stay after death, enemies just respawn and Hilda is transported back to the nearest place you attuned to.

This makes the game a very forgiving souls experience, which many will enjoy, but it also takes a lot of the gravitas away from dying in battle. Simply head back through and try again and again. The fact that routine enemies are somewhat boring (and annoying at times when offscreen attacks happen) makes the exploration a slog at times.

Thankfully like many games in this genre shortcuts get unlocked, new items get found and levelling up helps with the grind by making battles easier as the game rolls on. The saving grace to the exploration and combat is the many Bosses or Sub-bosses that spice up the experience and make a nice definitive goal to look forward to during each mission.

Despite being accessible from a risk perspective the game is VERY tough to navigate when new quests or storylines are added. There is no map or quest markers or even guideposts explaining where the next section of the game occurs.

This is an attempt to mirror the apparent hands-off approach of Soulslike games, but I always felt I could navigate in Bloodborne or Elden Ring. In Asterigos when I was handed three new quests that I could tackle in any order I literally had no idea where the entrance was till I walked the entire perimeter of the central hub. Some guidance is always a good thing and this illustrates how hard that is to balance.

Storywise the plot veers towards some Daddy-issue tropes in its narrative but I did find the class system and cursed city quite interesting as I was exploring. There are elite elders who looked down on everyone and pulled strings until everything collapsed and now they need help and realize they were not as great and generous as they thought.

All through the game there are memories that can be triggered and reviewed back at the sanctuary. Numerous notes and conversations with NPCs add weight to the story and world. Frankly the world building is the most impressive part of the game and rivals some of BioWare’s best work, which is about as big a compliment as I can give.

Visually all I can say about the game is that it’s fine. I reviewed the PlayStation 5 version and it could have been the PS4 or Switch version for all I knew. Designs were nice, color palette was plentiful but graphically I was underwhelmed.

I get that this is a game made by an indie studio but so were Soulstice and Bright Memory. In a low-poly or -pixel or otherwise retro-looking game I don’t focus on graphics, but this was meant to be lush and beautiful and it just failed to impress.

In the end I was impressed with the world and characters of Asterigos but found the gameplay repetitive and that the overall game lacked a sense of identity. A little more focus on strategic combat, some flair in the graphical style and leaning in on its unique strengths more could have elevated the game. As it stands it is enjoyable but ultimately fails to make a lasting impact.

Asterigos: Curse Of The Stars is available right now on Steam, Xbox and PlayStation platforms. We received a PS5 copy from the publisher for our review.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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