Astria Ascending is one of those games that tries to stick to the JRPG concept as truely as possible. By that I mean, anime art style, turn based combat and a fantastical story with multiple twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Of course, there are other elements to a JRPG, but these are the ones that really stand out in Astria Ascending. The story is probably the most interesting way to start off this review. Overall, I enjoyed what the game had to offer in terms of a plot line, and felt there was certainly enough there to keep anyone’s interest for a prolonged period – which is just as well as the game clocks in at around forty hours of gameplay. It does suffer from certain areas not having any real thought put into it – such as random NPCs preventing you from accessing dungeons that are too high level for you, rather than coming up with a lore-friendly workaround for it and it sort of breaks the immersion a little bit.
There are a huge amount of interesting characters that you’re introduced to right from the get-go though, a rag-tag party of varying races, genders and ages all pushed together as they are “the chosen ones” who must defeat the encroaching noise and return the world to light once again. It’s a fairly tropey story, admittedly, but it works quite well and your party is filled with some very cool people – although unfortunately it does seem that less air time is given to the interesting ones and more is given to the horrible racist one in the team, but overall the ensemble is well put together and very fun to play with.
The best part of the group is found in the battling. Each character has their own class which comes with unique abilities and stats, so finding the optimal party to lead you into battle is a difficult thing. Fortunately, the developers have borrowed a little from Final Fantasy X in the battle system and you’re able to switch out party members at will for others depending on the situation, at a price of missing your turn. You are able to switch out one, two, three or all four of your party members in one go though, so it does balance it out a bit. The aspect I did enjoy the most with battling was the ability to power up your moves depending on how you’ve fought in the battle. If you’re using moves that are particularly effective against the enemy, you’ll get a bonus couple of ‘crystals’ that you can use to increase the strength of any of your moves. Your party members can even cede their turn in order to gain a power up crystal for one of the subsequent party members to use and hopefully eliminate an enemy in one fell swoop.
Graphically, Astria Ascending is very pretty, with familiar anime style drawings that contain wonderful detail in both the character sprites and the backdrops for all of the many locations you’ll travel through. Every aspect seems to have been thought of and considered closely so as to include enough character in every scene and to ensure you never get bored with your surroundings. All the characters too have really unique and interesting designs, coming from all different places and backgrounds and although I found their animations for movement to be clunky, they do all have a certain charm that can’t be dismissed easily.
In the notes that I got from the devs about Astria Ascending, they recommended that you use the Japanese voice acting with English subtitles – despite there being English voice acting in the game. This should be a massive red flag for the quality of the voice acting on the English side. I feel quite bad for the voice actors too, as they’re essentially being thrown under the bus prior to the game even being played, and in some cases it feels massively unwarranted. Some of the characters are voiced really quite well, with character and interest given in each word they say. I would probably also say that this is disappointingly limited to only a few characters. On the whole, the voice acting is pretty poor. The script is fairly uninteresting, which doesn’t help, but the actors are irritating at best and the recordings themselves aren’t of the highest quality. On more than one occasion I had a weird sound glitch that occurred when characters piped up to put in their two cents and it sounded as if they were a robot that had just stepped into a puddle. Due to the fact it sounds as though they recorded each sentence separately, this could occur multiple times per conversation which drove me up the wall.
I get that Astria Ascending has a lovely art style, but I found it irritating to work with. For the most part, things you can interact with on the two-dimensional plane that you view the game in are quite obvious. However too many times I found myself assuming I could interact with something – what appeared to be an entranceway or a walkway – and found that I wasn’t and had just walked all that way for no reason. A minor inconvenience, but still something that strangely happened to me on multiple occasions, leading me to think I’m either really stupid or the game could do with a bit of a redesign.
I liked Astria Ascending for the most part. The downside is the voice acting really. Everything else is either good or not worth getting upset about, but the voice acting did annoy me a touch. You will either have to listen to some fairly rough offerings, or spend hours reading what the translation for the Japanese text is, which is something I don’t personally enjoy doing. For me, if I have to listen to a different language it really separates me from the game and feels more like a slog than fun. Other than that though, the game is massive with lots of side quests and fun people to meet, so definitely one to consider.