Asterigos: Curse of the Stars (henceforth Asterigos) is a soulslike title in which players take control of Hilda on a quest to break the curse that has befallen the city of Aphes, Asterigos.
One thing to know about me: I'm enthusiastic about any challenge that comes my way. If you tell me a game is challenging, I won't question twice trying to play it and beat it; the more a game challenges me, the more I enjoy it. This naturally caused a connection between me and the soulslike genre when my adventures began with the third instalment of DARK SOULS. Asterigos not only enticed me with its promise of soulslike combat but its Greek setting and Kena: Bridge of Spirits-esque graphics were significant allures for me, too.
In Asterigos, we take control of a young girl from the Northwind Legion who embarks on a journey to search for her father. This quest leads her to become the heroine who tries to cleanse the mythological city of Aphes from a terrible curse that has afflicted its residents. Although the simple story isn't the game's most appealing aspect, the characters are delightful to speak to, and I was happy to see that Asterigos avoided the poem-like storytelling paradigmatic of the soulslike genre. Characters speak clearly and concisely, and I didn't need a Shakesperian dictionary to get through every second word of the dialogue. Every character is rooted in one way or another in Aphes, and you'll get to know more of their stories and origins, and some of the characters are very lovable — specifically Vulcane, I love you, Vulcane.
I feel a bit iffy calling Asterigos a soulslike title. Although the game has the signature rolling mechanics of soulslike games, it doesn't actually force you into a hard difficulty and, even in the hardest one, it isn't all that challenging to begin with. The three difficulties make it a very accessible title, with the lowest one (Story) essentially trivialising fights overall — this isn't me critiquing Asterigos, but rather praising it. Instead of getting stuck in its soulslike roots, the game does its best at venturing forth and breaking the usual stereotypes present in the genre. Although it's hard to call it a soulslike title and fails at being one in some areas, it does a great job at providing a moderately difficult experience on its hardest difficulty whilst also not gatekeeping itself for other, less apt players that aren't willing to fight paramount behemoths. Asterigos is what I would call a soulslite — it has soulslike mechanics to meet the bare minimum of the genre standard, including dodge rolling, difficulty, and the like, but it introduces features meant to be friendly to newcomers, and that's a good thing.
Combat in the game is gratifying, as you'll be able to build your own loadout to make sure that the fighting style best matches your preferred approach to combat. Hilda is adept at using numerous weapons and can cycle between two (from an arsenal of six: sword & shield, daggers, hammer, spear, staff, and knuckles), each of which has two forms of attack and a slew of specials that can be unlocked in the talent tree. I didn't find these weapons to feel either remarkably stronger or weaker than others, though I did gravitate towards the daggers fighting form, which is uncharacteristic of me, who usually goes for heavier fighting styles. Although I wouldn't say that there are countless builds you can do, the weapons alone offer over a dozen different combinations, and that's before including the slew of unique talents and special abilities you can carry into combat. Even though you might choose a specific loadout to enter battle, that doesn't mean that you have to stick to it until the end, as Asterigos gives you the accessibility to enter your profile and change weapons on the fly, which has helped me more than a handful of times now.
Enemy variety isn't immense, as you'll get to meet around 1–3 new foes per area you explore, but they won't always appear in the next one. This made the game feel far more straightforward and more forgiving than your average soulslike title, as these foes will often have only two or three abilities that you have to learn; the animation team did a fantastic job at making them all individually discernable. The enemies weren't challenging, but when facing several at a time, the situation could become dire extremely quickly; it often took one mistake for me to fall into a spiral of bad choices that led to my demise. Groups of enemies were formidable, but it never felt like an unfair challenge once I'd learned the enemy patterns.
This same ruleset is applicable to bosses, as their kits weren't so expansive that it made it difficult for me to learn their pattern and make it an arduous battle. Likewise, however, it made these bosses far too simple, leading straight back to what might be the quarrel people have with Asterigos: it's simply not challenging.
Much like the saying, "Third time's the charm", I managed to beat the third boss of the game on my third attempt with little to no effort after learning only two of the attacks and decimating them with my special attacks deriving from the dagger talent tree — the first one you get. This would be something far more understandable had I gone for a glass cannon build, but I'd essentially focused on HP in my attributes because of fear that I'd regret it later on. Although I was disappointed with the combat difficulty with Asterigos, once I reduced my expectation to something less soulslike and more a challenging hack-n'-slash, I enjoyed the game far more.
Despite the simplicity of the bosses and enemies, each area of Aphes that you venture into is still exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping; the punishment for death isn't too steep, but that doesn't stop the nerves of exploring a new district. Aphes perfectly simulates how I'd expect a Greek city to look, offers gorgeous music, and does a phenomenal job at building the history and lore of the game without information-dumping on the player. Slowly reaching the end of your particular mission is exciting, as these aren't overly long but offer enough exploration and information for the player to know when the finale is arriving. Don't let what sounds like boring enemy design fool you — these didn't personally detract from my experience of exploring the world.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars isn't a soulslike title, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Its soulslike mechanics and gameplay, paired with the more straightforward combat, make it an enjoyable experience that should be accessible to any who wish to explore it; judging the game as a hack-n'-slash title changes the experience completely. Build variety may not be the greatest in the genre, but that doesn't deter the fun to be had, though it's likely that predictable enemy patterns and attacks might be too simple for those seeking a higher challenge.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Despite its difficulty not fitting the soulslike expectation, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars manages to be a phenomenal entry, as long as you don't come in expecting challenging gameplay.