Generally good issues come to those that wait, and few issues embody this idea higher than ASTLIBRA Revision, the ultimate launch of a sport that’s been developed by one man for over 15 years. KEIZO, a humble Japanese salaryman, began work on Astlibra as a result of he felt there weren’t sufficient 2D motion RPG video games that crammed the area of interest he most loved. Over time, he launched the sport in elements as an ongoing freeware venture, and within the final couple of years, a staff got here collectively to assist him lastly get it throughout the end line. Astlibra Revision isn’t with out flaws, however that is general an fulfilling and distinctive motion RPG that we’d suggest you try.
Astlibra’s story primarily follows a anonymous blond boy who loses a younger woman near him in a sudden monster assault on his village. When he involves, he’s been struck with amnesia (ugh) and has no thought who or the place he’s, although he finds himself accompanied by a mysterious however pleasant speaking crow named Karon. The 2 got down to discover their approach again to the protagonist’s hometown, however they spend over eight years roaming the wilds with no success, and with out seeing a single different human for your entire period. The gameplay picks up whenever you encounter your first traveler and share a campfire, solely to search out that he and the hearth have seemingly vanished with no hint by morning… as in the event that they have been by no means there to start with.
Over the 40-ish hours it should take to clear the principle story, issues naturally get much more attention-grabbing, looping in ghosts, witches, time journey, dimension-hopping, and god-killing. It may be fairly exhausting to observe at instances, maybe partially due to the prolonged, stop-and-go nature of the event cycle, however Astlibra finally tells a memorable and emotional story. In some ways, we have been reminded of among the early Xeno video games with the ‘weightiness’ of its tone, but this narrative nonetheless feels approachable sufficient.
Gameplay in Astlibra might be most precisely described as an action-focused JRPG, with components of an ’80s text-based journey and a Metroidvania thrown in for good measure. It’s damaged up into remoted chapters, every of which has its personal storylines, characters, and locales, after which you come back to a hub metropolis. In some ways, you possibly can very clearly inform that this venture was made in stops and begins over the course of 15 years, as it could appear reasonably disjointed and stitched collectively, however the remaining product is finally value sticking with.
Fight is the star of the present in Astlibra, presenting as a combination of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Ys collection. You have interaction foes in primary hack ‘n’ slash battles, evading assaults with a fast backstep or a well-timed block together with your defend. In the meantime, each hit you land together with your weapon builds up ST, which might be burned by a D-pad enter that briefly summons a magic assault or creature, akin to a rock spire erupting from the bottom or a small dragon dealing AoE harm with its breath. Land sufficient assaults on a foe, and you will knock them into the ‘Break’ state the place they’re frozen and take further harm.
This fight system options the proper stability of simplicity and complexity, however essentially the most alluring characteristic is the moment-to-moment suggestions. There’s a satisfying crunch with each swing of a membership or a slash of a sword, because the display screen briefly pauses or shakes to promote the burden of the affect. Generally it could nearly look like these animation results trigger battles to get too chaotic whenever you’re being swarmed with enemies, besides, there’s an amazing sense of texture to encounters that by no means will get outdated—Astlibra does an awesome job of creating fight really feel suitably weighty.
Character development is dealt with through a multipronged method that offers you just a few completely different avenues to energy up your character. Leveling up through defeating enemies grants you just a few ability factors you possibly can manually distribute to completely different stats, whereas enemies will even drop coloured orbs that may be invested right into a mazelike ability tree that unlocks an assortment of extra one-off stat bumps and skills. On prime of this, gear objects you put on might be leveled up and ‘mastered’ individually, with every one often granting you a brand new passive means for Karon that may be activated by utilizing crystals you discover whereas exploring. We appreciated this multi-tiered method to constructing a personality, because it ensures that you just’re all the time getting stronger it doesn’t matter what you do, and grinding subsequently feels a lot much less tedious.
And grinding will be required sometimes when you progress, as the problem scaling might be all over. Fortunately, there’s an nearly Diablo-like sense of mindlessness to the fight that basically satisfies the lizard mind—battles in opposition to trash mobs sort of require your consideration, however you possibly can simply have your consideration on a podcast or Netflix present when you slowly work to make the numbers go greater. These fixed stat rewards actually add some good suggestions to encounters, and also you don’t have to spend all that lengthy toiling in an space earlier than you’re able to tackle the following boss or dungeon.
Although we liked the best way that fight and character development is dealt with in Astlibra, one space during which it notably stumbles is in its obtuse puzzle design and signposting. That is the type of sport that expects you to speak to each NPC, and even doing it will typically solely yield a imprecise trace about the place you’re purported to go subsequent. Different instances, you’re probably not advised what to do and simply must stumble round at nighttime till you work it out.
For instance, we famous one egregious occasion early on the place progress was gated behind a dialog with a shopkeeper, however the one technique to set off that particular dialog was to speak to one other fully unrelated NPC elsewhere within the village. Had we not regarded it up, we wouldn’t have any approach of understanding that the shopkeeper had anything to say, a lot much less that they’d solely say it after you talked to another person and returned to aim one other dialog.
The purpose is, Astlibra can typically really feel antiquated within the worst approach. There’s nothing fallacious with an RPG that refuses to carry your hand and forces you to have interaction with the world extra deliberately, however Astlibra typically goes effectively over the road into territory that feels spiteful and tedious only for the sake of it. That is the sort of sport that we wouldn’t suggest enjoying with no information able to go on a second system, as you’ll in any other case end up intermittently working into virtually invisible development partitions and attempting to determine what the developer needs you to do.
Visuals in Astlibra are one other disappointment, though they aren’t essentially unhealthy. Your character roams throughout varied 2D planes positioned in entrance of photorealistic backdrops, and it has the impact of feeling like an unfinished construct of a sport with momentary artwork belongings. Character designs are additionally primary, whereas the animations are usually stiff and reasonably awkward. Positive, there are actually enhancements in visible constancy when evaluating this to the unique freeware launch, however there’s an underlying incongruity to the artwork course right here that merely cannot be neglected.
Fortunately, the soundtrack nearly makes up for visible shortcomings, imbuing the journey with a great deal of ambiance that reminded us of ’90s JRPGs in the very best of how. Whether or not or not it’s the quiet piano medley whenever you enter a swamp or the high-energy battle theme when enemies leap you, the music right here does an awesome job of stoking your sense of marvel and giving Astlibra the sensation of a grand journey, even when the visuals can’t fairly promote the fantasy. That is the sort of soundtrack that’ll have you ever in search of a YouTube playlist, and we’d suggest enjoying with headphones if potential to get the total expertise.
Astlibra Revision will not be a very nice sport, however it’s most actually an attention-grabbing one. On the very least, it’s unafraid to problem JRPG conventions in distinctive methods whereas additionally demonstrating mastery of the style’s most elementary tropes. It could possibly really feel a little bit too archaic in its design and haphazard in its pacing, whereas the vaguely Flash game-esque visuals are a little bit of a letdown. On the entire, although, it proves to be a worthwhile expertise, one which we’d particularly suggest to followers of older RPGs. When you can look previous its faults, there’s lots to like about Astlibra; we’d recommend you examine in case your curiosity is piqued.