by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Living in harmony
Harmonica is a peaceful land, a place where different races live together in harmony. This is mostly through the work of the Demigods – chosen representatives from each of the various races who inhabit the land. These Demigods seem to be chosen in some Hunger Games style ceremony with the Demigods then working together for three years to keep the land working in harmony before inevitably dying and ascending to the heavens upon completion of their tenure. But with three months remaining on their term, the current Demigods are notified that there are Noises disrupting the peace, and this could potentially bring the land of Harmonica into chaos. It is then up to our heroes to find out what is bringing these Noises and the chaos that results from them and return Harmonica back to the serene land for which it is known.
In the Astria Ascending, players take on the role of the current Demigods, and travel across the different lands in Harmonica to find and destroy the Noises. Upon finding each of the Noises, the game moves into turn-based combat. Four of the eight playable Demigod characters can be on the battlefield at any one time, and using the varied skills of each, they take on the opponents. Although there are four on screen at any time, the benched characters can be swapped in and out at any time during combat. This is handy - particularly early in the game - when players come up against new opponents. Like our heroes, each opponent will have a weakness that can be exploited via one of the character’s standard or special abilities such as elemental attacks. In true RPG style, these unique special abilities will require the use of Mana Points to activate.
Hitting the mark
Early battles can be rather short, so it can be difficult to work out what the strengths and weaknesses of your entire squad are. Each begins with an assorted amount of Hit points and Mana points and you will soon be able to see which of your team acts as a tank, and which is best used in a support role. And until you’ve fought against each of the varied enemy units, you won’t know which of the elemental attacks they are vulnerable to. But once you’ve worked out how to combine their collective powers, the squad can be configured to defeat just about any opponent. However, once you come up against the various bosses in the game, you’ll likely need to utilize the skills of all your squad as the boss battles can be tough.
Winning battles earns several bonuses. Characters will earn experience points and level up once they’ve earned enough. But the spoils of victory may also include potions to increase health or mana which can be used in later combat scenarios. Levelling up will enable players to further improve the characters skills as well as their attacking and defense stats. Improved weapons and armour can also be purchased from a range of vendors, giving our heroes a boost in combat.
The voices of reason
Although the dialogue is somewhat generic, it is fully voiced throughout the main storyline. The characters are well voiced, with each of them having specific tones to their conversations. Eko has the attitude of a young, somewhat naive boy, whilst Arpajo has the gruff voice of a disgruntled seaman and Alassia is a softly spoken bookworm who always seems to be calm and relaxed. As well as the varied character voices, the districts from where each of them has come from are quite distinct as well. The hand painted backgrounds are vibrant and give each locale a gorgeous appearance.
Keep calm and ascend
The preview build we played was reasonably short, with only around four hours of gameplay across the main story and several of the side quests that can be completed. But according to the developers, our preview build only accounts for about ten percent of the full game, so there will be plenty of content and lore for gamers to get into once the full game is released. The battles are quite basic, but there is a clear progression as players learn the skills and weaknesses of both the Demigods and their enemies. We’re definitely looking forward to playing more of Astria Ascending as it gets closer to release.
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