Gamers have been waiting for a new JRPG for a long time. Just check out the comments on our review for FFXV below, and you’ll see the frustration that many had in not getting a JRPG for several years. Sadly, we don’t have the same frustration for Astria Ascendant because it’s an entirely different kind of game.

Astria Ascending is a competent RPG with some interesting ideas that never truly soar. The real question is whether it’s worth playing, but if you want to see what the game’s all about, you can check out my preview.

Astria Ascending isn’t breaking any new ground (particularly when it comes to the RPG genre) but it’s a competent and entertaining title that stands on its own. The magic system, for example, is very intuitive and useful, as it’s limited to a handful of simple spells and can be crafted to suit any situation. The combat system, meanwhile, is far more satisfying than the average turn-based RPG, as you can manually position your characters and even set their AI to tackle specific enemies.

Since its inception, Astria Ascending has gone a long way. Artisan Studios is undergoing a complete gameplay reconstruction of Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey, which was released on iOS in 2015 as Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey. The game’s environment will be retained, but the narrative will be rewritten.

That version, which includes many Final Fantasy veterans such as Hitoshi Sakimoto and Kazushige Nojima, will be released on September 30 for PC and consoles, and will have a beautiful visual presentation. At full release, the game promises 25 dungeons, five explorable towns, and 30-50 hours of gameplay, but our hands-on preview only covered a fraction of that.

Preview of Astria Ascending: A Competent RPG That Never Soars

Astria Ascending transports players to Harmonia, a beautiful planet divided into five towns. These powerful people, guarded by eight Demigods, serve for three years before rising to the next plain and being replaced by a new group. This tale follows the 333rd group of Demigods as they investigate strange entities known as Noises that have started destroying towns and appearing in unexpected places.

Each individual has their own narrative, and you’ll start as Ulan Merer, the 333rd’s commander. Eko, Dagmar, Kaydin, Alek, Kress, Arpajo, and Alassia are among those who are instantly accessible. In that respect, Astria stands apart from other RPGs in that friends frequently come later in the game.

Each Demigod may be customized with basic battle gear and accessories, but Astria’s employment system allows you to further develop them. While Demigods start off with a basic profession — captain, soldier, or thief, for example – they may subsequently be given three additional jobs: main, sub, and support.

They also provide additional fighting abilities via the Ascension (skill) Tree, as well as stat enhancements such as increased HP and defense. To get them, you’ll need to spend skill points (SP), which you acquire by finishing fights. Each character has a different SP limit.

You’ll start adventuring throughout 2D locales once you’ve assembled your group.

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Exploring dungeons, leaping over ledges as in an old platformer, finding treasure boxes for new equipment and money, and taking down Noises were all part of this preview.

You may pre-emptively attack a Noise, which appears as big bubbles, by slicing it, boosting your chances of going first when battle starts. If a Noise approaches you from behind, though, they will always attack first. If you don’t want to fight, you may use a zodiac ring to freeze them, allowing you to leap right over them and avoid the battle.

If you fight, you’ll be thrown into a bout of turn-based combat, with each fighter having their own set of vulnerabilities and resistances. For example, Alassia can withstand Water strikes but is vulnerable to Lightning, while Kress despises Fire but excels at Ice.

Combat is simple for an RPG, with options like physical attacks, MP powers like elemental magic and healing, guarding, item selection, retreating, and changing party members. Alassia also learns how to summon Astraes, strong creatures capable of ferocious assaults that may temporarily replace your group, later in our demo.

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Rather than replacing a character that is useless, you may use focus points (FP) acquired by exploiting opponent vulnerabilities or using the “focus” command to enhance damage output, which means characters will spend their turn charging the meter. This boosts damage by 50% each FP, up to a maximum of four points, and it’s a fun mechanism that keeps players from feeling helpless in combat.

There are four difficulties to select from for challenge seekers, but there are also additional choices. To make Astria more accessible, you may deactivate field encounters and monster respawns in dungeons, turn off XP/ SP Gain/ items/Lum (money) gains, and choose how much XP backup party members receive.

Aside from dungeons, Astria Ascending includes a minigame called J-Ster, in which you compete against residents from all of the game’s cities. With 5 tokens and a 7-slot hexagonal grid, you’ll try to turn over an opponent’s pieces.

To do so, your token’s value must be greater than the defender’s, and tokens may possibly block such movements depending on your assault angle. J-Ster isn’t very profound, but it’s a fun diversion.

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Astria Ascending has a lot of potential, but I was never really enthralled by the preview. When things came to a conclusion for me, Astria’s narrative was still finding its footing, combat was functional but largely unremarkable, and dungeon exploring bordered on boring. It was never bad, but the main gameplay mechanics lacked creativity.

Finally, I left the screening of Astria Ascending with no strong emotions. Sure, Artisan Studios has laid the groundwork for a fun RPG, and although Astria never fails to delight, it also never shines.

There are a few things RPG fans will like in Astria, including its excellent presentation, unique FP system, and gameplay customisation, but I’d struggle to suggest it above other games right now. I’m hoping that a second playing will persuade me differently.

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