Asterigos: Curse of the Stars review. We all are Stardust in the wind.

Welcome to Aphes – a city-state full of magic and wonder. From the mist-covered bazaar streets to gloomy sewers, the enigmatic forests at th...

Welcome to Aphes – a city-state full of magic and wonder. From the mist-covered bazaar streets to gloomy sewers, the enigmatic forests at the city’s outskirts to deep chasms full of glittering crystals, the landscapes of Aphes are full of beauty and dangers.

Astergios is a new game published by TinyBuild and developed by Acme a studio founded in 2016 by seasoned developers from Blizzard, X-Legend, XPEC, and Runewaker. The game is set in a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome and classical Greek designs and mythos. The main story plays out as a Greek Tragedy with a helping of the supernatural poured over it. As you explore the massive city you will encounter many mini stories that intertwine with the main quest, providing motivation and meaning behind the world you find yourself in. You play as Hilda a young woman from the Northwind legion who starts her journey by entering a cursed city of Aphes in order to find her father and commander of has not returned from an urgent expedition for the king. She soon encounters a group of seemingly resistance fighter who are working behind the scenes to keep peace in the city as well as find a way to break the curse that has reigned for thousands of years. The question remains if their intentions are pure.

When I had firsthand experience with Asterigos at PAX East I was quickly impressed by the presentation of its combat system and exploration. I had only seen a small part of the game, but the mechanics felt familiar and comfortable and that feeling continued when I got my hands on the review copy. It is easy to call this a "souls" type game and leaving it at that, however despite its similarities the game has its own personality and features that set it apart.  Besides the art style for starters, it also has a more action-oriented slant and more forgiving mechanics (note this does not mean it is easy by any means). As I got through the first few hours of the game I quickly I learned there was even more to the game to shape its own identity in the genre. 

As mentioned, you will see a few things in this game that will give a souls like vibe. From the need to read the enemies telegraphs and block, dodge and counterattack with precision to collection of their energy or "souls" if you will which is used as currency, to the save point locations that allow you to rest at the cost of resetting the enemies in that area. There is even a hub location where you can retreat to purchase new supplies and learn about the story. 

The combat in Asterigos is mainly straight forward, attack, doge, block, etc. but it has a somewhat unique approach. Playing on console I could equip two weapons at the same time. One was controlled by the shoulder buttons and one by the triggers. the right-side initiates attack where the left side would correspond to a defensive or counter action. It is surprisingly easy and fluid to switch between each and to make combos this way.  There are actually a total of six weapons in the game and all of them are available right from the start. It is up to you, which ones you use, allowing a custom experience for the player base on playstyle and preference.  I decided to stick with shield and sword and spear combo, but there are also dual blades, hammer, staff or magic bracelets.
As you gain experience and gear you will be able to upgrade them and unlock skills to use in combat. These skills can be equipped on your skill bar and will cost Action Points that can be regained by hitting enemies or blocking attack as well from a swig of a potion. You also have a stamina bar which depletes when running, blocking or performing certain attacks. A quick "rest" and stop using the stamina quickly resets it.

The NPC's in the game are build out of this stardust and as you eliminate them, they burst apart, and you collect it in order to use as currency to get new items and upgrade yourself. You also build up XP and level up. Each level will give you attribute and Talent points. If you hit zero hit points your medallion starts glowing and hurls you back to the nearest pedestal. Any used consumables stay used but any experience stays allowing you to grow while failing until you are able to master the enemies within the area. 

The attribute points can be assigned to three different attribute categories. Some might increase your attack damage, other might increase your health or your stamina etc.

Your talent pool has different function, first of all it allows you to get better skilled with the weapon you assign points too, but each tree also contains unique unlockable perks and skills as you progress through it such as more HP, counters etc. You can split the points anywhere you like and if you mess up you will get a few opportunities to reset your points either by potion or an NPC. In fact I swallowed a potion by accident to discover I had to redo all of them, but it turned out great because I now knew better what they did, and it allowed me a more focused build.

Lastly there are trinkets and enchantments which in turn allow you to build up resistances against elements as well as use elementals in your attacks. Of course, all of these cost money and will take time to get unlocked as you complete quests.
With such a large arsenal of things to improve and tweak it is going to take trial and error to find a build you like. In some cases, you might have to go back to the hub area to change your build to better deal with a boss. In one instance I was getting absolutely destroyed by ice. I took a trip back to restock and decided to look at available trinkets. Armed with full on ice protection the boss battle was a singe compared to before.

Speaking of boss battles, the game is full of enemies and boss types. Through the game you fight your way through 60 different monsters and encounter 22 unique bosses – each with its own unique battle mechanics. The challenge for each is to figure out what the best way is to take them out as well as patience, a lot of patience. That is not to say I did not curse the moments I was hauled back to a pedestal after another defeat, frustrated at not knowing what I was doing wrong.

The city of Aphes is enormous and offers multiple pathways to discover through each massive area. Over time you will unlock shortcuts that allow you to move through the areas much quicker and they stay unlocked. There are no maps aside from some hastily scratched sketches so understanding the layout of each area becomes important to prevent you from going circles and exploring is encouraged by all the lore and items you can find.  Many of the missions given to you can be accomplished in any order, but what I found a great feature is that you can stop midway and pick up the other missions. At one point I had too much of a hard time with the end area of one place. In order to not get fed up I retreated and went a different direction. Later when I had more levels, more skills and a clear head I went back, and I solved it. All without any punishment. 

A unique feature of the game is the way the story is presented and how your choices and actions can influence key moments in it and change how the world around you perceive you. Maybe you go in all "guns blazing" sort of speak and mindlessly destroying everything in your path. But if you take your time conversing with the NPC's scattered through the game you might learn information that changes your perspective on the situation and might force you to be more diplomatic. Not every moment will weigh this heavy but paying attention to the little stuff will help you make wiser decisions if you so choose. Additionally, this option also creates great replayability that comes with a new game + changing perhaps the way some paths get crossed and who to approach as a friend and whom as a foe. Everyone seems to play by their own motivations in this world, and as a stranger you constantly feel you are put of balance in your understanding of the situation. This whole element of the Asterigos makes you think twice about hitting that dialog skip button. 

Is everything perfect in the world of Asterigos? I cannot say it is. The fight mechanics can have moments where they seem to not respond as well as you want, the camera can have bothersome moments and the lack of direction can have you easy miss the obvious causing frustrating moments. Not all dialog for characters is voiced, but the key moments are, however the charachters just stand there occasionally waving an arm without any lip sync. That is fine for written only text but when it is acted out it breaks the immersion somewhat. Additionally, the areas are so big that while on one hand they offer an impressive city that speaks to the imagination, in some areas it feels too empty.  None of these are deal breakers by any stretch of the word but it does show that lack of final polish some people might expect.

Finally, and this is intended in the game and a personal note, I HATE the mimics hidden in the game. I felt I never stood a chance until much later in the game and then I still prayed every time I opened a chest to not be a mimic. Little bastards. All joking aside there are plenty of challenging and hidden dangers in this world to learn from and overcome.

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a lengthy action-adventure game with an action focused souls-like combat system, that blurs the lines between triple A and smaller publishers for fraction of the cost. The game delivers an experience that starts of familiar but then takes a detour challenging not only your skill on the battlefield but also your skill in diplomacy.  It brings engaging gameplay, massive levels for exploration and an engaging storyline. Asterigos is a triumph in world building and delivering a great time with a ton of value and replayability of the 20+ hour romp. This is one Odessey worthy of the Greek and Roman mythos that were its inspiration. 

The game is out now on xbox, playstation and PC and retails for $34.99

GameAsterigos: Curse of the Stars
Developer: Acme
Release Date:11 October 2022  
Platforms:  PlayStation, Xbox Series, PlayStation 4, and PC 
Review Platform: PS5
ESRB: Teen (for Violence)

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks 


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