Monday 8 January 2024

ASTLIBRA Revision Review (Switch)


We cover mainly indie games here at Retro 101 and there can be little argument that ASTLIBRA is about as indie as you can get. The passion project of a single man developed over the course of 15 years you certainly can’t doubt the dedication behind it. It’s also with some relief that we can report that, though flawed, it’s also a playable and interesting take on the action rpg.

The plot is an intriguing one. It follows a nameless blond hero who loses a young girl to monster attack one night. When he awakens, he has amnesia and with the aid of a newly arrived talking crow they set off to nearby town, only to wander for eight years in the wilderness without meeting a single soul. Eventually you find a mysterious old traveller and things pick up.

As evidence to its long development the game has isolated chapters which often move you off to different locations each time. There is a sort of central hub city eventually and despite the patch work nature of the structure it does all just about hold together enough to remain enjoyable. Tying in with this jigsaw approach to design, a lot of the graphics are acquired assets but the way everything is put together does give the game a distinct personality of it’s own which is an impressive feat.

These sorts of games live and die on how they play and though a touch old fashioned, the combat is solid. You can jump, attack, cast magic and use a parry to get the upper hand against the wide range beasties on offer. You also get a host of satisfying sound effects and numbers feedback on each strike. If anything this can become difficult as when there are multiple enemies attacking the action can become obscured with all the data feeding back to the player.

Away from the satisfying combat there are a few old school problems that players will have to breath in and just accept. One of the most annoying is that quests can be locked behind conversation sequences that need to be gone through in pretty much an exact order. Early on we were stuck for ages looking for wood simply because we hadn’t spoken to the owner of the pub at the correct point during the quest set up. Along with this, finding quests in the first place takes the very old school approach of NPC’s giving out the vaguest hints and directions possible. We would suggest keeping a guide nearby for help.

The levelling system is an interesting one and based around collecting different materials to unlock buffs on a skill tree. You level up as well, but you’ll need a certain amount of grinding to gather the materials required to move substantially up the skill tree. There is also a nice concession in that if you don’t have the specifically required material needed you can still upgrade by using three times the amount of a different one.

Overall, ASTLIBRA Revision is an interesting and somewhat unique game that is well worth your time. It does require quite a large chunk of patience to get the most out of, however. For those that are willing to put in the time and can forgive some of the archaic throwbacks to action RPGS of the past there is a rich and rewarding game here.

Overall 7/10

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