Making a video game belonging to the soulslike genre is certainly a complex work, because it is difficult to decline its constituent elements according to one’s own vision, which is both recognizable and coherent (speaking of soulslike, here the proof of Lies of P) . It is a challenge that the components of Acme Gamestudio have also faced, who with Asterigos: Curse of the Stars have decided to combine the game mechanics typical of FromSoftware’s productions with almost action game dynamics, much less rigid in terms of combat system.
The adventure of Hilda, who is the protagonist of the game, is immediately configured as a sort of light version of Dark Souls and the like, not so much in the level of challenge, however accessible, but in the complexity and depth of the various elements that constitute the playful system. The combat system, in fact, but also the progression and customization of the heroine have been made in such a way as to be immediately decipherable and intuitive. Giving up any form of complexity makes Asterigos: Curse of the Stars an easy-to-use production, but it is also the roof that prevents it from taking off towards higher peaks.
A complicated story
The Asterigos that gives the game its name is a curse. For a thousand years he has weighed on the city of Aphes, crystallizing its inhabitants into an eternal present. However, their appearance has changed, they have a purplish color and depend on a mysterious substance. They cannot die of old age but neither leave the borders of the settlement, on pain of death. Yet from Aphes the curse managed to get out, touching the nearby kingdom of Anbari and infecting its king.
Here then is that a group of Anbari warriors set off for Aphes, in search of a remedy for the condition of the sovereign. But our Hilda is not one of them: she is the daughter of their general, Hector, and she sets out in search of her father after her traces of the group are lost. Complicated? A little, and the constant search for a certain complexity in the plot is a feature that the game carries with it throughout its duration.
It can be seen from the beginning, with a Hilda, already close to the gates of Aphes, who has no problem producing herself in rivers of words, between names of characters, notions about the world and more. The girl’s verbiage seems to be contagious and extends to all the characters she comes into contact with: the dialogues are frequent and long and often lead to the superfluous.
It therefore happens that the interesting and relevant elements of the game’s history and lore get lost in a sea of chatter, which no matter how well dubbed becomes at times really difficult to follow. In this story, which is therefore far from the hermeticism typical of soulslike productions in terms of narration and characteristics, intrigues of various kinds, secrets, alliances and betrayals find place, and this is what makes it interesting, always assuming that it is possible to tidying up the amount of information that both the main plot and the environmental narrative contain.
Soulslike, but only vaguely
The game system is easier to understand. The first moments spent are enough to get acquainted with the repertoire of weapons and moves available to Hilda to test the nature close to the pure action of the combat system which, in addition to proving to be very enjoyable, does not weigh on the player with various types of rigidity but, indeed, it grants him ample freedom. The stamina bar, for example, is an element that is rarely paid attention to while fighting – given its lesser influence – while the way in which the fights are declined makes the action fluid.
The warrior’s response to the inputs is instantaneous, the quick combos, the dodges have a wide window of invincibility, traits that make it really easy to get used to a playful system that always leaves a certain margin for mistakes. The fact that the girl immediately has a vast array of weapons at her disposal makes everything even more stimulating. Her sword and shield, hammer, daggers, spear, scepter and bracelets differ in damage, range, speed, usable abilities and more, and freedom and variety are guaranteed by the ability to equip two tools of death together. Among other things, in a decidedly appreciable way, the use of another can be inserted in the combos of a weapon, and so you can really create many concatenations, until you find the ones that best suit your style. Too bad that no matter how immediate and enjoyable they may be, the clashes lack depth: few times have we really felt in danger during a battle and for a specific reason. For their movements, reaction times to hits and the activation of their respective skills, the opponents seem little more than dummies, and it is a pity that they do not stimulate the player adequately.
The situation changes in part when you have to face the bosses, which without being frustrating require a certain commitment. To the many fights, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars alongside the exploration of Aphes. The various environments explored by Hilda show a certain complexity, but the level design does not always prove to be up to it. Not so much in getting intricate – because he often bangs his head trying to figure out where to go – but in doing it with a certain refinement.
The feeling is that it is not very organic and coherent in the way it is structured, also due to the limits of a rather uniform artistic direction, which fails to make that place or that significant and therefore memorable. Technically, the work done is appreciable, in terms of the textures of the settings, the modeling of the characters and the realization of the lighting effects but on an artistic level there is no flicker that would add a certain character to a world that is too responsive to the more Greco-Roman imaginary. classic (and the same goes for the sound accompaniment). So what’s purely soulslike about Asterigos: Curse of the Stars? In practice, not much. The progression is delegated to the most classic experience points, which lead to a level up that can be spent in three different parameters: attack, health and effectiveness of the skills. At the same time, talent points are obtained to be used in a branched skill tree, so as to favor the use of certain weapons instead of others. Dying does not imply losing experience points, as you leave just a small part of the in-game currency on the way.
It is never a drama, as you get plenty of them and the prices of the upgrades are more than affordable. Falling into battle also means going back to the last Conduct (a kind of portal) visited, and this already bothers you most. Their location is far from optimal, since at times they seem too close to each other, while in some situations it is necessary to make wide turns before meeting one, to the detriment of the pleasantness of exploration.
The way in which the discovery of the game world is managed and the combat system, immediate but also too light, are factors that make this adventure for about twenty hours enjoyable but without that bite capable of keeping the player’s attention high. for its entire duration.