Asterigos: Curse of the Stars Review (PS5)
I don’t care what you say, Starlight the lion is staying.
While there is debate on whether or not Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a souls-like, I have to say that I’ve learned that I’m quite picky on what souls or souls-like game that I end up enjoying all the way through. When I saw Asterigos I was definitely interested and the combat looked like I would like it and the premise seemed interesting enough.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars has you play as Hilda who is a young warrior from the Northwind Legion. A couple months ago a unit was sent to the ancient city of Aphes and, with her father being a part of it, she was understandably worried when contact stopped. Hilda was luckily able to gain permission to travel to Aphes to find them. After waking up from blacking out from the high concentrated magic in Aphes and gathering her things that were rummaged and taken by the local creatures, Hilda sets out to find her father. Except, it’s not going to be as simple or quick or even as close to easy as this first seemed.
Hilda quickly meets and allies herself with a group of Aphesian Aristoi that calls themselves Adherents and reside in a place they call The Shelter. Their leader, Minerva, has information that Hilda needs, but she’s not going to give it up without you helping her and the Adherents first. You also learn that Aphes isn’t as inhabited as it was thought, as the Aphesians here are cursed. The curse, or Asterigos, has kept everyone alive for a thousand years as it does not allow those afflicted with it to age or procreate; as well as not having to eat food anymore. However, they need to regularly consume magic Stardust or they’ll be in extreme pain, enough for them to be driven to madness, and if they die they simply turn into Stardust as well. So, Hilda goes on to help Minerva do the Adherents’ dirty work. You’re actually given multiple main quests to do at a time so you can tackle them in whatever order you want. You’ll mainly be tasked with getting an item Minerva needs or rescuing someone that she knows and has helpful information that she needs. You’ll be going all over Aphes by the time you make it to the finale.
While the story isn’t the best, it still got me interested to see what happened next and it does bring in some mystery that you won’t know until later. Like why did the Northwind Legion even go to Aphes? How did Asterigos come to be and how did it spread so quickly? Why is Aphes in such disrepair? Who is Eumenides and what’s his end game? Does Minerva actually have what’s best for everyone in mind? Where is Hilda’s father? And later on, why is the Legion helping Eumenides? Is there truly a way to cure Asterigos? Granted though, some dialogue and documents were a bit boring to read through, even if I was pretty interested in Aphes’ lore.
You’ll be exploring Aphes throughout your playthrough of Asterigos and I did feel these areas were distinct from one another. Going from seeing how it is outside of Aphes’ walls in Black Streets to the Mines where they mined Starite, or even their Academy. Though, for locations in each area does straddle the line of looking the same or being distinct. Some just look the same, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others got lost in the same places I did, with the path not being as clear to see, but some are distinct so that’s good. Especially since you have no map here (which I didn’t mind most of the time, but some will). Each area, and of course the locations, are interconnected in some way, but there are Conduits scattered around Aphes. Conduits act like bonfires which Hilda can activate to rest at (though this will respawn enemies), she’ll respawn at Conduits when she dies, and around halfway through the game you’ll be able to teleport between them. You’ll also be able to unlock shortcuts for when you’re going through the area again and you’ll often run into locked doors that you have to wait until later on when you have the key.
There are quite a bit of things you can find while exploring. There are numerous doors that you can just eavesdrop on NPCs talking or talk to whoever is behind the door. Certain NPCs, including the ones in the Shelter or those in the different areas in person or behind doors, can give you side quests to do. You don’t have to do these, but they’re here if you want to get more of the lore or more items. You can also find item pouches to pick up, documents you can read for more lore on what happened in that location, treasure chests to get crafting ingredients, Echoes to see past events, and even Mimics which give you blueprints. And let me tell you, the Mimics really get you. Asterigos lulls you into thinking there are none, I even went through half the game without running into any, before throwing one at you. And after that, when you have the feeling it’s a mimic, it’s best to take that gut feeling.
After the Trinity Nights event, 10 secret bosses also spawn into the game. You’re not really told this, the only indication being the 22 bosses being listed in featured and the achievements, but exploring each area again will have one of these Trinity bosses waiting for you somewhere. These guys can be pretty well hidden and they are hard so be ready for a tough fight.
Of course, you’ll be greeted with a lot of combat encounters and if the combat isn’t that good this going to be a hard game to get through. Luckily, the combat is really good here. First of all, you have six different weapon types and you can equip two of the ones you gel with the most. All the weapons have their own attack combo, strength, and speed, but also technique. For example, daggers are fast and agile, with the technique being a sliding dodge that lengthens the invulnerability period and distance Hilda travels, while the spear will give you a parry technique if you time it just right.
I personally went with the sword and shield and the staff. I usually go for fast weapons so it’s a surprise I didn’t go with the daggers, but I liked the feel of the sword and shield the most. Even if I usually forgot about the blocking technique. And the staff, well, I like attacking from afar. Ending a combo with the staff blasts you away from the enemy which I liked and the technique lets you snipe enemies from afar. Plus it did feel OP at times and I’m not going to complain about that.
Each time you level up, you’ll be given attribute and talent points to make yourself stronger. Attribute points basically just raise your base stats, but talent points will allow you to put points into your preferred weapons to make them better and get abilities (which uses AP) and perks that you can use. You want your bracelets to transform into a scythe instead of swords for charged attacks? Yes. Want to temporarily increase your damage before using another ability? Yes! You just can only equip four abilities at a time, and you can’t hold many Pints of Stardust to restore AP so you’ll need to be ready to restore AP through attacking.
In addition to picking out the two weapons, you’ll also have an elemental aspect that you can apply to your weapons. The game does say that each enemy has their own weakness, but it didn’t seem to be too big of a difference. So if you’re using the staff, I would mainly use whichever one you like the most. There were only a few instances it came into play the most and it was when it was an environmental obstacle, the blue aura chests (which I spent most of the game thinking it would be something you’d unlock, but it’s just the Astral element), and mimics which will be paralyzed when you use electricity. You can also equip trinkets, which you can find or have made, and upgrade your weapon and later on your elemental enchantites. And of course, you have consumables to replenish your health, AP, and throwable daggers and bombs.
In terms of fighting against enemies, I quite liked it even if there were some annoying enemies that you’ll have to deal with (at least with my weapon combo). You’ll be encountering a decent number of different enemies as you go through the game, with new ones appearing as you enter a new area of course. Each enemy type have their own attack patterns and how fast they are, but there are tells that you can notice. I really liked how the tells for enemies are easy to spot, but sometimes not easy to dodge if you’re in the middle of an animation (which depending on how far you’re in it, you can dodge cancel it). It shouldn’t be long before you see the tells that indicate that the enemy is going to attack and which attack they’ll do, so it’s all up to dodging just in time either out of the way or so it’s in the middle of the invisibility frames before getting a hit in yourself. Though, you will start out each area with enemies hitting hard and you not really doing that much damage until you level up more. And I did find battles with multiple enemies being a pain, especially if you use lock on (which is almost necessary for the staff), as it does make it feel like you have no room to attack and I’m pretty sure enemies can attack when off screen.
I also love how you can learn the tells of bosses and still be able to finish the boss off if you’re careful enough. The bosses are hard (well at least for those of us that don’t play Souls games a lot and don’t go around saying they’re too easy), but the game does give you a fair chance at learning the boss before you’re sent back to get more consumables and travel back. Although, considering that you don’t get at least a couple salves replenished when you die, I’d recommend maybe saving before going into a boss so you don’t have to worry about salve drops or having enough money to buy more before retrying.
There are multiple difficulties as well (the usual easy, normal, and hard) which you can change in the middle of your playthrough. I mainly played on Adventure difficulty, or normal difficulty, which was perfect for me actually. I didn’t venture into hard difficulty, but I did see what easy (or Story Mode) was and from what I experienced, this will have you have more health, you’ll take less damage (an attack that will take damn near half your health on Adventure will just be a small chunk on Story), and enemy AI is less aggressive and takes a bit longer to notice you and attack.
I have seen complaints on the enemy AI, but personally I didn’t have these problems (and I played on Adventure difficulty). I felt the enemies caught onto me in a reasonable time when I got to their aggro range, I didn’t feel their pathing was bad as they always went straight for me, and their attacks definitely are perfectly aimed to where I am. Although, I did wish the bosses would flinch or react to your attacks more. Especially the fast ones where you’re always on your toes and barely dodging when trying to heal or when using abilities.
Every game has their own cons and as much as I like Asterigos, it’s not an exception. It’s mostly to do with how side quests are handled. This takes the same kind of system Souls games does, with you having to remember what you need to do. If you happen to forget or you accidentally skipped over the text, talking to the NPC again often won’t give you the information again. Not to mention that there are some side quests that you can’t do until later when the area you need to go to is unlocked. There is a journal that Hilda writes in throughout the game, but it’s not really helpful as Hilda doesn’t write down what she needs to do. There are also some side quests that are pretty vague and you’ll have no idea where you have to go or if the side quest is actually done or not. Also on the journal, it bothered me a bit that events are scrambled on the page rather than in the order they happened.
One of the features listed for this game is also that your choices shape and affect Aphes and the story, but I’m not exactly sure if it really does apart from getting different or extra text of the other characters reacting to what you did. The cutscene that plays for each area after completing the main quest there makes it seem like there is at least two different endings for that area, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. It’s even worse when you get chewed out for killing a boss…and there’s no way to not kill them. There are two different endings, but it seems the Glory ending is really rare and may be tied to doing certain side quests (and what result you got).
I also do wish there were more outfits. The four that are in the game look really good and I couldn’t help but wished Hilda had more looks.
Asterigos also has a New Game+ (or Rounds) if you want to do it, which will carry over Hilda’s level, point allocations, any upgrades you made to your weapons or elements, trinkets, and a few items. Plus you get a nice-looking outfit.
To be honest, when I first started playing Asterigos: Curse of the Stars I actually didn’t like it and kind of regretted picking it up. However, as I played more I went from not enjoying it to kind of liking it to finally really liking it before I got to about the middle of the story. I liked the story enough to want to find out what would happen and learn the truth of what was going on, I liked the locations you go to (despite getting lost a couple times), and I certainly liked the combat here. If you enjoy action games and want a souls-like (or souls inspired as some call this) that is more approachable, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is definitely worth getting.
For me, as someone that played on Adventure, was pretty decent at the game, and did some side quests, I had about 35 hours in the game.