Asterigos: Curse of the Stars Review – A Star is Born

    Title: Asterigos: Curse of the Stars
    Developer: Acme Gamestudio
    Release Date: October 11, 2022
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: tinyBuild
    Genre: Adventure

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars joins a hectic 2022 lineup as a title that is rough around the edges and yet still offers something uniquely charming to anyone after a fantasy-esque backdrop and an alternative take on a tried and tested gameplay formula.

It has an aesthetic inspired by Greek mythology, sort of like Immortal Fenyx Rising, and no doubt the protagonist and their interaction with the game world will remind some of Kena: Bridge of Spirits. The gameplay is the interesting part; it certainly follows familiar tropes and beats of popular action games of recent years, it’s a bit like The Legend of Zelda in its world and level design, and yet the closed-quarters combat takes after something like Nioh.

Like any higher-tier indie effort, Asterigos takes after a lot of different games and draws from several influences, mythology or otherwise. The result is a cohesive game world with a lot to explore and discover when it comes to design and progression. There’s a great variety of locations here that are diverse and interconnected logically. Exploration feels satisfying, and there’s a nice mix of combat and non-combat segments.

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Even though it feels like a sum of many parts, the game’s lore, protagonist, and primary storyline impress. Here we follow a warrior named Hilda from the Northwind Region, who embarks on a journey to rescue her father, who just so happens to have got into politics with the wrong crowd.

Along the way, she finds herself dealing with and fixing all sorts of problems. This leads to unwilling alliances and makes her all kinds of adversaries. These foes aren’t pure evil either, as the story delivery does a great job of painting grey areas, making it all the more difficult to know who actually is on Hilda’s side.

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Perhaps the most inconsistent thing about the story presentation is the tone. It feels like a whimsical affair with a sense of humor before immediately shifting to dark and twisted themes and then back to being cheerful. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition of moods and themes.

What doesn’t change is Hilda’s headstrong personality, who almost always has a practical approach to even the most difficult situations and has a way of rolling with the punches. She engages in personal monologues a fair bit, and her interactions with other NPCs are interesting, thanks to dialogue options.

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The game has the right idea with its artistic influences, but it can all feel inconsistent and messy in execution. Some character and enemy designs are stronger than others, and even some of the environments are blander than others. But, of course, this goes with enemy designs too.

The inconsistency further amplifies the inconsistency in the art direction in the graphical presentation. There are moments of brilliance and some detailed monster animations, but for the most part, everything is just so choppy, and the texture mapping feels dated. The game starts strong in the opening sequence before the graphical prowess and presentation take a noticeable dive.

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Despite graphical inconsistencies, the amount of content remains enjoyable about the adventure, as all types of collectibles lend themselves to world-building. It’s a pretty bleak and twisted setting, and the mythological lore is both dark and fascinating.

The adventure and exploration are almost akin to The Legend of Zelda, with some environmental puzzles and a greater emphasis on boss encounters. The main bosses represent pivotal moments and often showcase the best game and graphical design, even when segments in between don’t fill the gaps in a compelling way.

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The combat system isn’t quite a Z-targeting affair, but Hilda is surprisingly versatile. Although it takes a long time for her repertoire to develop, some dedication to level farming can significantly enhance the gameplay experience. It may initially seem like a dodge, roll, and attack affair, as you try to work around a stamina bar, but this is just the early stages as our hero has a lot more up her sleeve.

From various weapons to skill trees to elemental enhancements to even special attacks, there are many things Hilda can do, but it will take quite some time before players can get the most out of the combat. And yes, Hilda can, in fact, jump! Strangely enough, the game waits a fair bit before it teaches you how to do this simple thing. It would have been good if the pace of learning these things was a little quicker, but as an RPG, you can level-grind a bit to make the most out of the skill tree earlier.

It is a challenging game, but not ridiculously so. The challenge feels satisfying even in the easiest setting, and there is an organic flow to the difficulty progression here. Navigation can feel a little opaque sometimes, but after the early sections, the game lets you tackle most main objectives in any order you wish. There are plenty of optional detours, too, so you’re free to engage with this interconnected map.

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It’s almost too easy to call Asterigos: Curse of the Stars derivative, and yet it is hard not to find so many familiar gameplay tropes in this mechanics and design. The experience also struggles with consistency, especially in its graphical and artistic presentation. And yet, this feels like a worthy alternative to everything else.

Are there already much better games of similar gameplay style out there? Absolutely, but Asterigos can still surprise you if you’re after something different and far less punishing.

Score:
7.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!