Asterigos: Curse of the Stars Is a Promising (if Unpolished) Mythic-Fantasy Action-RPG
As someone who loves the melding of classical myth and epic fantasy, plus keeps having Netflix recommend him “shows with a strong female lead,” Asterigos: Curse of the Stars easily caught my eye when it was announced last fall. I was recently sent a demo build of an early segment, and while it may not be as polished as it could be at this stage, I definitely put down my controller curious to see how this fantastical adventure inspired by a combination of Greek and Roman mythology will come together.
Asterigos casts you as Hilda, a warrior of the Northwind Legion as she investigates the ancient city of Aphes in search of her missing father and its long-buried secrets. The city is said to have been cursed by the gods for its careless overuse of the world’s magic–which Hilda herself seems to be able to harness, though whether this is common for her people or she’s just Extra Special™ is unclear– and the once-great ruin is now filled with dangerous beasts and monsters. I didn’t run into anything as captivating as some of what’s been shown in trailers, though the Pixar-esque design aesthetic (reminiscent of Blizzard’s cinematic style or recent mythical adventures like Immortals: Fenyx Rising and Kena: Bridge of Spirits) made even what boiled down to “big alligator” or “giant boar” interesting creatures to square up against.
I initially thought Asterigos was presenting itself as a family-friendly FromSoft homage. You collect “Startdust” from every enemy you defeat, and once the initial movement tutorials faded offscreen the next big teaching point was about how you can rest at a Conduit (basically a “magic fountain”) to create a checkpoint and refill your HP and mana reserve—but that doing so would respawn any enemies you’d defeated since your last rest. You’ll also respawn there (for the cost of some collected Stardust) if your HP drops to zero—an “emergency teleportation” they call it, making sure to be very clear that you have not died.
However, that’s about as far as the KidSouls gimmick runs, it seems. Yes, dodge-rolling is important and taking enemies on one at a time seemed to be the best strategy to avoid losing any health, but aside from the last boss I ran into, I was hard-pressed to find myself being sent back to the last checkpoint—though that seemed to be demo-specific when a “this guy killed you – thanks for playing!” card showed up and the demo ended. The higher difficulty mode did feel notably different, with basic enemies introducing new tactics, and boss creatures definitely hit a lot harder—though even here, defeat was rare. That’s not a bad thing, of course; as someone who barely made it out of Limgrave in Elden Ring, I’m the last person to say a game needs to be difficult to be enjoyable.
As such, Asterigos’ combat system is relatively simple, but enjoyable: you can equip two magic-infused weapons, each of which has a unique ability in addition to its basic attack combo. The sword and shield, for instance – which counts as one weapon – lets you parry incoming attacks, leaving your opponent momentarily open to a counter, while the twin daggers allow you to make a long dash past (or sometimes through) nearby enemies. My go-to combo for most of my demo was the sword/shield combined with the extended reach of a spear – though I discovered too late how useful Hilda’s bracers were, which not only allow for both close and mid-range magic attacks but also let you drop arcane land mines, which were especially useful for dealing with primarily melee-centric monsters that inhabited these regions.
The biggest hurdle to get over during the roughly half-hour span it took to search every nook and cranny of the demo’s two regions were its controls. While not inherently awful, there were definitely some choices that made guiding Hilda around the world a bit unwieldy. Not being able to jump without holding Run and having those two buttons mapped under the same finger, for example, made fluid exploration tricky, and having to open a radial-menu to before using one of Hilda’s unique skill powers causes the flow of combat to stutter.
That clunkiness did get better as I became more comfortable with the controls, but never went away completely. However, the skills themselves seem to provide a wide variety of options—the demo powers ranged from simply “doing a bigger hit” to creating a temporary shield around yourself to absorb damage or creating an arcane lightning storm that tracked enemies to deal damage over time, and trailers have shown what seem like even more complicated maneuvers—meaning players of all fighting styles should have lots of tactical options.
We didn’t get a full picture of the progression system, but it appears to be a blend of fairly standard action-RPG conventions. You’ve got your RPG-style attribute points (Precision, Constitution, and Arcana, which determine your attack damage, HP and stamina pool, and magical strength/defense, respectively) or passive perks you unlock as you level up alongside those weapon skills, and can collect equippable trinkets with various resistances/vulnerabilities around the world., While I wasn’t able to do anything with the thousands of Stardust points I didn’t spend on emergency teleportations, I’m told it becomes a valuable currency once you get further into the world.
Yes, it’s still a bit rough around the edges—with some lurching animations and unsynced dialogue—but overall I’m curious to see how the full version of Asterigon comes together. Odds are my issues with its button layout will be alleviated once we’re able to configure our own controllers, and hopefully the story and ongoing action will become as compelling as its novel art style. Its Greco-Roman mythic fantasy vibe is one I can easily see myself getting lost in, and I’m always game to tinker with a litany of tactical options to hone the just the right build for my arcane war maiden in what was ultimately a promising, if simplistic, combat system.
Follow along for more on Asterigos: Curse of the Stars as we approach its scheduled launch window of Fall 2022, and for other animated mythic fantasy adventures (and serialized titling) check out our reviews of Immortals: Fenyx Rising or Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
JR is a Senior Producer at IGN, you can follow him on Twitter for more video games and tabletop RPG shenanigans.