In 2019, a small French studio, Hibernian Workshop, released Dark Devotion, garnering mixed reviews but amassing a devoted fan base. This year, they launched a new roguelite game, Astral Ascent, which exceeded its Kickstarter goal in just two days. Today, we're excited to report that Astral Ascent is among the best of the Switch’s roguelite library.
Astral Ascent is set in the vibrant, fantastical world of the Garden, a stunning yet stifling prison overseen by twelve divine jailers, each based on a Zodiac symbol. The players play as a prisoner attempting to liberate themselves and their allies. Throughout their attempts to escape, they slowly unveil the connections between the characters and explain why they are stuck in this cycle.
While the narrative isn't exactly a hard-hitting RPG, the backdrop is intriguing, supported by excellent characterization. Logs scattered across runs reveal complex histories, and the colorful personalities coupled with stellar voice acting create an unforgettable cast.
The gameplay adheres to standard roguelite conventions: challenging gauntlets of enemies and bosses spread across linear biomes, with each biome generated randomly. Your character gradually levels up, accumulating a roster of attacks and abilities claimed from victories. However, a sharply played challenge will send you right back to the start.
If you have played roguelite games like Dead Cells or Rogue Legacy, you will be familiar with the experience Astral Ascent offers. Despite being unoriginal, Astral Ascent has already established itself as a top-tier contender among Switch’s roguelites. The game prioritizes precision, mastery, and polish in every aspect of its gameplay loop, making for a riveting experience.
One of the standout elements in Astral Ascent is the combat design. Complex yet strategic, it keeps players in control, despite dealing with hordes of independently moving enemies. The game also offers four different characters, each with a diverse approach to combat, providing an additional layer of strategy and excitement.
A major appeal of Astral Ascent lies in the array of difficult yet rewarding decisions it presents. Every stage cleared opens up a choice of potential rewards and difficulties. This choice-based system makes for engaging gameplay, continuously challenging players with tactical decisions.
The game's visuals are truly remarkable, utilizing a hi-bit art style that brings to life dreamlike, larger-than-life landscapes brimming with detail. The game offers smooth movements, responsive controls, and splendid visual effects, making it a delight for the eyes. The soundscape, a mix of whimsical serenity, complements the visual experience, creating a comprehensive package of sheer brilliance.
Despite being unoriginal, the sincerity of Astral Ascent in keeping things simple sets it apart. Instead of getting hung up on innovation, the game focuses on perfecting the basics, and it does so with fantastic success. It is a testament to the lessons gleaned from other roguelites, resulting in a polished, stunning, and excellent action roguelite experience par excellence.
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