In a time where the soulslike genre’s influence can be felt in just about every action-RPG, it’s easy for the plethora of challenging adventures to blend together in a montage of death screens. Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a cartoonish odyssey inspired by Greek and Roman mythology with a stripped-down version of the soulslike formula at its center, and while at first I thought its formula might feel a bit too familiar, it ended up surprising me with consequential decisions in each act that made me lean forward in my chair. I’m used to being punished for my foolhardy behavior with numerous character deaths, but it was another thing entirely when my questionable decisions had an adverse impact on the story, and that raised the stakes for me in an extremely refreshing way.
Upon first look, I felt a sense of deja vu with Asterigos’ simple hack-and-slash combat that had me dodge-rolling and drinking potions as I fought my way through each area and boss. Similarly, its Greek and Roman mythology-inspired world and cartoony art style reminded me a whole lot of last year’s Immortals: Fenyx Rising. That’s not to say Asterigos doesn’t carve its own path – it clearly goes out of its way to be more accessible than typical soulslike games thanks to things like multiple difficulty options, resources you get to keep even after dying, and more. It also tells a fantasy story set in a larger-than-life world of Gods and monsters that feels quite unique so far. But with the embarrassment of riches currently available when it comes to action-RPGs, I still couldn’t help but struggle to find what set Asterigos apart…at least in the beginning.
But that differentiator smacked me right in the face when I discovered that many chapters present major decisions that have a serious impact on the story in the long run. For example, early on I was sent to retrieve a magical object and explicitly told to avoid open confrontation with the faction in question. But when I came face to face with the bad guys I chose to throw caution to the wind and attacked a character upon first sight who I was explicitly told not to kill. If I’m being honest, I’m so used to the soulslike formula that I assumed me not bothering to negotiate with this character first wouldn’t really matter and was caught completely flatfooted when my actions resulted in a group of people being furious with me and my character’s personality shifting based on that decision. As it turned out, if I’d sought out a peaceful solution first, I would have gained additional insight into the story, saved face with my allies, and gained personality traits that would have made my character act more maturely, which would have story consequences later on. But unfortunately my monster-killing brain activated autopilot and that recklessness came back to bite me in a major way.
The fact that Asterigos allows you to make enormous mistakes that impact my character’s personality and eventually the story was a game-changer for me, and after getting slapped on the wrist by several NPCs for being a bloodthirsty killer, I approached future missions with greater care. It was no longer just about fighting my way through each area and killing everything in sight – now I kept a close eye on my journal and paid very close attention to which characters I was allying myself with and which I was making enemies of, in hopes that I would at least see future mistakes coming. And honestly, part of me just wanted to intentionally do the opposite of what my quest givers were asking of me just to see what would happen. Either way, it made things much more interesting than your average “fight to the boss, kill the boss, then report back” formula I’ve become so accustomed to.
Are there still things Asterigos could do better? Absolutely. The controls are a bit wonky, animations are stiff and unpolished, and combat gets pretty repetitive after just a short time with it, but the high stakes with which the story and your decisions are handled goes a long way to redeeming many of those rough edges.
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Author: Ryan McCaffrey