Astria Ascending on PS5 from Dear Villagers and Canadian-based Artisan Studio is a story-rich turn-based JRPG with an amazing art style. Check our Astria Ascending review!
Explore a vast world on the brink of chaos in a mature, emotional JRPG. Experience an epic story with rewarding, turn-based combat and expansive customization rendered in glorious hand-drawn visuals. Astria Ascending tells an expansive story of fate, sacrifice, and new beginnings.
Astria Ascending from Dear Villagers and Canadian-based Artisan Studio on PlayStation 5 opens up with an impressive hand-drawn cinematic introduction, explaining the context and who the main characters are. You’re following the demi-Gods of this world, who are living among the regular citizens. They are the 333rd generation of Demi-Gods, and each generation lasts for no more than three years, after which they vanish. We begin our story with Ulan, a Demi-Goddess and the leader of this 333rd faction. ‘Noise’ (enemies in this game) show up, and it is their task to get rid of them. It’s after this that you’re introduced to the battle system.
One of the things I liked a lot about this battle system is how it’s fully unlocked right off the beginning of the game. This offers you the chance to explore and having fun with it at your own pace. The battles are turn-based and often fast-paced, depending on how you tackle them. Each character can select and attack and then executes it immediately, and then it’s on to the next character. Each one of them has a specialty, and some are better at attacking or using abilities or magic. One thing I would have liked to see, however, and what felt like an omission for me was a character attack order gauge like in most recent turn-based RPGs, so that you can know who is next on the list, and you can focus on the monster that will be the next attacking. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s something that I did want to bring up.
In the game options, there are a few switches that can be changed to render the game easier or harder. A few of them are quality of life improvements which I liked, for instance, showing the enemy elemental resistance or weakness to any elemental attack. With this switch activated (which I definitively recommend you do), select a fire-based attack, and you can see which enemy will be weak to this before casting the spell. There’s also a much-needed switch that allows reserve members to get full experience points so that you can definitively select your best team out of the available characters without worrying about anyone falling behind.
One of the other main elements of this game is the concept of Focus Points, which allows you to dynamically boost attacks using weaker party members. Boosting can be done for any attack by pressing the R1 button at the time of the command input, and it boosts the attack damage from +50% to +200%, which does make a difference during a boss fight. I liked how it was possible to use this at any point, but the boosted attacks were often so powerful (hitting an enemy with its elemental weakness while also adding the 200% boost) that it usually meant that every character was adding focus points so the mage could cast a spell until the fight was over.
Each Demi-God has its own upgrade tree, which is node-based and did feel similar to the one in Final Fantasy X, albeit on a smaller scale. The characters can spend points on nearby nodes as long as they have enough unlocked points, and you have a little bit of liberty on what to upgrade.
In the normal setting, regular enemies aren’t too aggressive, but the bosses are on a difficulty above regular enemies. Each one of them will require you to go all out in order to get past them. Luckily if you die, you can restart the combat without going back to the last checkpoint. One of the recurring issues I had in dungeons was running out of MP, which rendered the magic users mostly useless when this situation happened. There are portals in the dungeons that allow you to warp to the cities, and it isn’t said as-is, but do use this to heal your HP/MP.
One of the things that I wasn’t impressed with was the battle UI. I didn’t like how the menu options were presented at the bottom of the screen since their icons were similar, and I always ended up searching the menu for what I needed when it wasn’t an attack or abilities. Since the menu options are identical for all the characters, there wasn’t a clear visual cue as to who’s turn it is. It can feel a bit tedious if you don’t get used to it.
The level design is simple in the first dungeons but quickly becomes more intricate and complicated, with a good amount of exploration needed to complete them and a lot of branching paths. I often got lost in them searching for the exit, even using the very impressive in-game map accessible by pressing Triangle in the dungeons. At least you can save everywhere.
As for the presentation, the art style is truly amazing, and it’s easily this game’s greatest asset. Every character and monster is also carefully designed and perfectly animated. The voice acting in English is great for the main characters, but some of the side characters’ voices felt too exaggerated for my taste. Voiceovers can be changed to Japanese in the setting at any time for that anime-style experience, so it’s good to know you have that dual audio option. On the PlayStation 5 SSD, loading time is minimal and only lasts for a couple of seconds when changing zone. There’s practically no loading when entering battles, which is great to see.
Finally, on the trophies side, there’s a great trophy list with 38 Bronze trophies, 10 Silver trophies, and 2 Gold trophies to obtain before you can unlock the Platinum. They are awarded for progressing through the story’s chapters, for experiencing story-related events. Outside of the few miscellaneous ones, the last ones are for having completed every side-quest in this game, which will definitely keep you busy for a while!
Astria Ascending is a fun turn-based JRPG on PlayStation 5. I liked its amazing art style, great soundtrack, and its battle system features, although the omission of a character attack order gauge does feel weird in this turn-based game. Other than that, it is an enjoyable game that will certainly please those of you craving some JRPG action on PlayStation 5.
This Astria Ascending review is based on a PlayStation copy provided by Dear Villagers.