A nice JRPG from Final Fantasy Devs

Image of Astria Ascending female protagonist standing in front of an image of her wooded surroundings.

Illustration: Dear villagers

Ascending astria is a turn-based JRPG with gameplay that pays homage to Bravely predetermined and Octopath Traveler. I enjoyed the combat in both titles, but the colorful art style of Ascending astria it felt like an update to the gloomy color palette of those games. It also puts an interesting twist on the “brave-adventurers-save-the-world” story formula, although I’m not entirely convinced the execution will land.

Astria was created by French-Canadian developer Artisan Studios, but some of the developers behind the game are veterans of the game. Final Fantasy Serie, NieR: Automata, and Bravely predetermined. The game also includes voiceovers in Japanese and English. So even though the game is not from Japan, it does feel like a JRPG in terms of aesthetics. Astria promises a 50-hour campaign, eight robust characters, and a more mature narrative than other games of its genre.

the Final Fantasy influences carry over to the fantastic art style. Astria it has some of the most distinctive and eye-catching character designs I’ve ever seen in a western RPG. All the backgrounds in their two-dimensional environments are lovingly hand painted. Sometimes he would go back to old places to go sightseeing. And somehow I find a fascinating new detail in the background every time. If you asked me to describe Astriais art in a word, I would tell you that the game is a “storybook.

And maybe that aesthetic style is meant to soften the way she lands her serious plot. The twist is revealed at the beginning of the game: Astria‘s heroes are dying. Literally. By obtaining special powers as one of the “demigods” of the continent, the hero will die in three short years. When the story begins, all of our heroes are only three months old. And despite the jokes about his impending doom, not everyone is taking it well.

Astria Ascending's combat screen where four characters face three enemies.

Screenshot: Dear Villagers / Kotaku

Most of the JRPG heroes may have their disagreements, but ultimately they have to be educated with each other if they want to survive a dangerous journey. This is not so in Ascending astria. Group members are constantly at odds. Rather than camaraderie, the general atmosphere of the party is filled with impatience, jealousy, and prejudice. Every time a scene started, I would prepare for the heroes to start verbally attacking each other. Does solidarity matter when your star-crossed destinies are inevitable? From what I’ve seen of the first half, the demigods don’t think so. I hope they solve their shit in the second half, but the adventure feels pretty excruciating in the meantime.

On AstriaIn this scenario, world peace was achieved because each nation sent one of its peoples to become a doomed demigod. They also use emotion-regulating fruits called harmelon, which are supposed to maintain coexistence between races. The central plot also asks the player if coexistence between different groups of people is worth it if it comes at a high personal cost. It’s an interesting philosophical question, but it didn’t stick with me.

In practical terms, coexistence between different groups does not they require sacrifice, but it is never a life or death consideration. No one has to take medication to stop being prejudiced against people who are different from them. Stories are powerful when they rhyme with real life. Astria It is so fantastic about the concept of coexistence that it loses me in the relevance of its themes.

More importantly, the constant sniping and fantasy racism was uncomfortable to experience in practice. Maybe the game has something poignant to say about racism in the second half, but that doesn’t diminish how much I was dreading moving on to the next scene.

Because of how bitter the characters are with each other, group combat feels very, very good. Ascending astria take after JRPG as Octopath Traveler and Bravely predetermined as you can store shifts to use later. Normally, in a JRPG, the player must consider the composition of his team very carefully, as elemental weaknesses play a large role in the results of the battle. While these mechanics exist in Astria, it feels less punishing when I bring the “wrong” characters into a battle. The ability to store one character’s turns to transition to another character helps relieve some of the pressure that comes with coordinating an optimal party for different fights.

However, the battles also feel chaotic because the game does not have a turn indicator. Although Astria has a speed mechanic present in a lot of JRPGs, it was hard for me to get involved when I can’t remember who needs that punch. The lack of transparency in turns also makes it very difficult to plan ahead and coordinate my attacks.

Despite efficient quality of life features, like being able to teleport around the map, the signage in this game is pretty egregious. I spent a significant amount of time trying to find the next main mission location. Sometimes the game feels nice enough to tell you where to go next, but not how to get there. He would often replay cut scenes to figure out how to advance the plot, and wish he had a detailed quest log in place. It almost feels like Ascending astria is intended to allow you to lose yourself in its inspiring scenery. Which is nice, but I want to have the option to prioritize the main campaign.

The game has its indie charm and sincerity. It’s easy for me to forgive when the game is narratively and mechanically wrong when Ascending astria he goes so hard on artistic details and tradition. Even the job classes of the characters are assigned to specific zodiac signs. Although not necessarily like all the characters as people, it is an impressive feat that each one of them feels so different. I am also much more tolerant of feeling lost in AstriaIt is the world when I feel compelled to admire the colorful brush strokes along the way. Astria It’s not a perfect game, but I’m not even mad about it.

If you love Octopath Traveler as much as me then Ascending astria it is an obvious choice for accumulation of games.

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