Astria Ascending is a classic JRPG with turn-based combat and an intriguing story. For some of you, that alone should be reason enough to give it a try, but what if we told you several veterans of the genre were involved in its development? Yeah, we're talking about Final Fantasy levels of experience! But hey, is that a guarantee that this will be a fantastic game? Well... not really. Stay with us, and you'll understand why.
New Studio, Lots of JRPG Experience
Artisan Studios is not a big game in the gaming industry, but this new studio is the new home to several of the creators of one of the most beloved games in the JRPG genre. For example, Hitoshi Sakimoto was in charge of Astria Ascending's soundtrack; just in case you don't know, he designed the music you fondly remember from Final Fantasy VII or Vagrant Story. Of course, no game becomes a hit for its OST alone, but these beautiful tracks certainly give the game an epic feeling.
Sadly, we can't say the same about this game's story, written by Kazushige Nojima, who also worked on Final Fantasy VII. The premise is simple—the good old from zero to hero formula—and the pace is not bad, considering the game offers around 20 hours of story, but the narrative is confusing at times, and not all characters are equally charismatic or even interesting. Instead of being focused on a single hero, Astria Ascending tells the tale of the 8 Demi-Gods of Orcanon, who are responsible for maintaining peace (or Harmony, as they call it) between all the races that live there. Unfortunately, their immense power comes at a cost, being given only 3 more years to live before a new group replaces them. As we mentioned before, the premise is not half bad even if it's not that original, but it tries so hard to be something else that it ends up being confusing and, what's worse, forgettable.
Gorgeous Art Style, Mediocre Animations
Where Astria Ascending really shines is the visual department. Instead of going for 3D models and hyperrealistic landscapes, it makes use of gorgeous hand-drawn characters and backgrounds. Honestly, the character design is the best part of the game, and we would totally watch an anime or movie with such graphical quality. On the other hand, these models are animated poorly, making the game look like a mobile title. Characters are always moving, and since every part of their body or armor is animated separately, it feels weird to look at. On top of that, some attacks don't even have an animation, which is a very bad sign and hurts the best aspect of Astria Ascending.
Definitely Flawed, but Gameplay Compensates for It
Although Astria Ascending is not one of those games you would recommend to your friends just to wow them, it definitely comes with enjoyable combat mechanics that will keep you busy building your best party. Not only you will have to find gear for your characters, but turning your enemies into tokens is vital for a minigame called J-Ster that's fairly challenging on its own. Back to the turn-based combat, we must say it's not that easy to beat whatever stands in front of you, so prepare to die a lot and hopefully learn something in the process. If you want to survive, items are important, but finding your enemies' weaknesses is crucial. Again, things won't be easy if you're not investing time in understanding every mechanic... but that's to expect in any classic JRPG, right?
All in all, we recommend Astria Ascending to anyone who truly loves the JRPG genre and is missing a good 2D title. Still, be warned that it's not perfect, and even if it was made by several Final Fantasy veterans, it can't be compared to the best FF games.
The best part of Astria Ascending is that it's available on all modern platforms, so you can either enjoy it on a big screen or play it on the go, thanks to your Switch.