Despite having been around for quite some time, the influence of the Souls series is becoming bigger and bigger as the years come by. From storytelling to level design to combat, it seems like almost every developer is willing to give the genre a try, offering interesting takes on a gameplay formula that has become dominant. And while it is better suited for dark and oppressive settings, the Soulslike formula can work just as well in a more colorful title, as shown by Acme Gamestudio with Asterigos: Curse of the Stars, an action role-playing game that is enjoyable enough, despite some shortcoming.

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars stars a young warrior called Hilda who makes her way to the city of Aphes in search of her father, who embarked with his Northwind Legion on an expedition to the city, and has been missing for some time. The once prosperous city has been cursed, turning its inhabitants immortal and preventing them from leaving. Determined to find her father and his legion, Hilda agrees to collaborate with the Adherents led by Minerva, who have taken shelter under the city to rid the city of the curse in exchange for the Echo Stones that can help Hilda save her father.

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One thing that Asterigos: Curse of the Stars definitely gets right is the setting and the general atmosphere. While the city of Aphen is mostly in ruins, haunted by all sorts of dangerous creatures in true Soulslike fashion, it is set apart by the ancient Greek and Roman inspiration that gives it a very unique feel. Long marbled roads, gorgeous statues, huge amphitheaters, and creatures like harpies and minotaurs are only a few of the things that give the city a very personable feel. The story, which is developed by a combination of environmental storytelling, dialogues with NPCs, and cutscenes, doesn't feel particularly inspired, but it is enjoyable enough, thanks to a very unique feature that very few action role-playing games come with.

Each of the game's main quest can be completed in a few different ways, treating players with a different cutscene at its end to show the consequences of their actions. In one of the first, for example, Hilda is told to proceed with discretion and avoid any direct confrontation, but it is possible just to go all out to achieve the objective. Interestingly enough, if the player decides to go all out, disobeying the order from Minerva, not only will NPCs see Hilda in a different light, but she will become cockier as well. While there isn't a proper way to complete quests, as it is possible to reach the end of the game no matter the choices made, doing things right reveals more story details, making the game more enjoyable. Feeling the consequences of one's own action is something that very few games do properly, and Asterigos: Curse of the Stars does it in a very interesting way.

If there's now a genre called Soulslike, then Asterigos: Curse of the Stars belongs to another subgenre that I would call Soulslite. At its heart, the game comes with many of the features that define a Soulslike, like stamina-based action combat, multiple weapons with different movesets, enemies that hit hard but that become considerably easier to take down once the player has their patterns and abilities down, and epic boss battle, but each and every one of these elements is toned down, compared to your typical Soulslike experience. Stamina, for example, doesn't determine if Hilda can perform any action in combat but only dodging, blocking, and performing certain special attacks. Weapons, to make another example, are limited in number, as there are only six of them, and they are all available from the start of the game, although their movesets are not static, as they can be expanded via a skill tree. Only three stats can also be enhanced with Attribute Points received upon level-up, and experience points are not lost upon defeat. Something similar to the bonfire system is also in, although it only serves as a checkpoint system since leveling up can be done at any time.

While toning down or tweaking the typical Soulslike mechanics makes sense so that Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a little more accessible (in conjunction with the three difficulty levels available right from the start of the adventure), it does not do the experience much service. Combat does have some nice ideas, such as the ability to equip two different weapons at a time and switch between them seamlessly, a signature attack for each of them, such as a parry for the spear, a charged attack for the hammer, and a quick invincible dash for the daggers, and powerful skills that can be used as long as Hilda has enough AP, but the execution is a little subpar, as combat lacks weight and is not particularly satisfying. Enemy design is decent enough, so it is still somewhat enjoyable. Handing the player all six weapons at the start of the game is also not a very good choice in this type of game, as it takes away a possible reward for exploration, of which the game has very, very little.

The absolute worst feature in Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is its level design. Following a short, straightforward trek through nature to reach the cursed city, Hilda will explore the labyrinthine streets of Aphen and other nearby locations, and it's here that the issue becomes evident. Level design seems to lack direction, as it's basically a combination of different paths that often lead nowhere. When they lead to something, it's usually to some meager treasure, like materials to upgrade weapons, or Salves, healing items that are available in limited quantities outside of shops. Some extra gear can be found exploring locations that let players further customize Hilda's abilities, but they do not change things too much and don't make exploration feel any more rewarding.

Fully exploring the game's locations is often an exercise of patience, and after a few hours of getting lost or reaching dead ends with no reward, I started shooting straight for the main paths that led to bosses. This resulted in a very unpleasant experience at times, as I felt I was fighting the level design more than the minotaurs, harpies, and werewolves that roam Aphen. A solid level design is what makes or breaks a Soulslike or Soulslite, and Asterigos: Curse of the Stars falls short in this regard. Even the main hub, the Shelter, from which Minerva hands out quests to Hilda, is designed in a confusing way that doesn't feel flow well like the vast majority of the locations. A shame, considering that combat, while flawed, has some moments of brilliance here and there.

Where Asterigos: Curse of the Stars does well, for the most part, is the presentation. While visuals are far from being the best we have seen for years, the colorful style gives the game a cartoonish feel that works quite well, especially regarding characters and enemies. Locations around Aphen look decently detailed as well, although they tend to feel a little samey after a while. I haven't encountered any major visual bugs in my 20 hours or so with the game. However, some issues with asset loading in certain locations break the immersion a little.

Despite the visuals not being cutting edge, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars on PC has some pretty high system requirements, but AMD FSR 2.0 support will make it so most users can enjoy the game at a decent framerate without having to use low settings. On the machine used for the test (i7-1700 CPU, RTX 3070 GPU, 16GB RAM), the game runs quite well, although I had to use FSR to achieve framerates higher than 60 at 4K resolution with a mix of medium and high settings, of which the game has quite a few. There are some performance drops with multiple enemies on screen and particle effects going off, but nothing truly game-breaking.

With its ancient Greek and Roman inspiration and approach to choices, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars had the potential to rise above most action role-playing games inspired by the Souls series released in the past few years, but the bad level design damages the experience quite a bit. Despite this major flaw, the game can still be enjoyable, thanks to the serviceable combat and a story that, while not original, flows well enough and provides good reason to see this adventure through to its end.

PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.

Products mentioned in this post

RTX 3070
USD 766
6.5
Wccftech Rating
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars

Asterigos: Curse of the Stars had the potential of being one of the most exciting action role-playing games influenced by the Souls series, with its ancient Greek and Roman influences, cartoonish art style, unique approach to story choices, and a more gamey approach to combat and character customization, but it falls a little flat due to the bad level design that damages the entire experience. If one can look past this significant issue, however, one will find a decent enough game with an acceptable story and serviceable combat with some interesting twists.

Pros
  • Ancient Greek and Roman influences
  • Unique approach to story choices
  • Decent story
  • Good accessibility with multiple difficulty settings and streamlined Soulslike mechanics
  • Serviceable combat with some interesting twists
Cons
  • Directionless level design
  • Unrewarding exploration
  • Combat, while serviceable, lacks weight
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