Astellia Impressions

Astellia isn’t a game that’s really been on my radar, but the Massively OP staff were given a number of keys to the beta, and I’m always up try a new MMO, so I decided to check it out.

At least Astellia is prettyI won’t say it’s as bad, but Astellia reminds me of Trinium Wars in that it feels less like a real game and more like a parody of bad MMO tropes.

To start with, the tutorial is about 90% cutscenes and 10% gameplay, or at least it feels that way. I admire that the developers actually wanted to make story a priority, but they’ve mistaken more story for better story.

There’s not really an effort to explain the setting to you, to develop any characters, or to give you any reason to become invested. There’s very little context for anything. Instead you’re just bombarded by an onslaught of corny dialogue and ridiculous fantasy names — and this is coming from a guy who willingly and happily reads a series where the name “Celephriandullias-Tildorangelor” is a central part of the story.

As far as gameplay goes, the main selling feature of Astellia — and the source of its name — are the Astels, fey spirits you can collect and then summon to aid you in combat. Very much shades of Pokemon here.

Looking over the journal of potential Astels you can get, it seems there are more options later on, but the Astels available to me at the start were all in the form of seven year old girls. It’s exactly as creepy as it sounds.

My archer and her Astels in AstelliaAlso, one of them has a giant cup of tea on her head, and her abilities centered around buffing allies with “soothing tea” mid-combat. I acquired her whilst an army of demons burned my character’s home village, presumably murdering everyone she ever cared about, and the tonal dissonance was so whiplash-inducing my immersion never really recovered.

It’s also probably worth noting that the Astels didn’t really seem to do much. Maybe they feel more impactful when you’re in more challenging content and/or have leveled them up more, but in the time I played it felt like I could have ignored them entirely and nothing really would have changed. Not a good sign considering this feature is the Astellia’s chief claim to fame.

The graphics are pretty, but not so pretty as to make the game really stand out. The bar is pretty high these days, and Astellia isn’t going to compete with the likes of Black Desert, especially since there isn’t a lot of personality to its art style. I will say some of the character and mob design is pretty cool, at least.

Combat in Astellia is your standard tab target affair, complete with mobs that drop dead after a few hits and don’t seem to require any tactics to defeat. There’s an active dodge mechanic, but I didn’t encounter anything that actually needed to be dodged while I was playing.

Female armour is alive and well in Astellia

This is reasonable attire for an adventurer to wear into battle.

What surprises me more than anything, though, is how bad the animations are. None of my abilities had any kind of flair to their visual or audio effects, and it felt like they had no impact at all.

If there’s one thing you can usually count on Eastern games to deliver, it’s great combat animations, but in Astellia — at least as an archer — they were at best on par with those you’d see in a ten year old Western WoW clone.

This, at least, could be attributed to beta jankiness. This was a true beta test, not a soft launch, so there’s still time for combat to improved. A lot of the game’s other problems feel pretty deeply ingrained, though.

The worst thing is that without Astellia’s glaring flaws — its overbearing attempts at story-telling, the vague whiffs of child exploitation, and the like — it wouldn’t be memorable for anything at all. There’s really nothing about it that’s unique or interesting — it plays like it was built using a checklist of generic fantasy MMO tropes.

The classes, for instance, are as generic as they come. Warrior, assassin, archer… There’s not even an attempt at originality.

While it seems a bit arbitrary to me, the trend seems to be to compare Astellia to Bless Online, and for my money, Bless is a much better game. Bless had better graphics, a better story, better classes, and better combat.

My archer in AstelliaI’d still tentatively recommend checking out Astellia if/when it becomes free to play, but only as an exercise in kitschy silliness. This is definitely not a game I see as worth playing seriously. It’s all the ridiculousness and creep factor of TERA minus the good combat, which was about the only thing TERA did right.

Advertisements

Of City of Heroes, Livestreams, and Singing

This past Wednesday night, nearly the entire Massively Overpowered staff gathered together to play City of Heroes on the Homecoming rogue servers whilst being livestreamed by our own MJ Guthrie. I’ve been meaning to give CoH a try — having never played back in the day — for a while, and it seemed like a good team-building exercise, so I opted to swallow my stage fright and join in.

The Massively Overpowered staff in City of HeroesI rolled a blaster, mainly because Bree told me it wasn’t a good choice for a newbie. I focused on pistols as my main power set and went with a Victorian-inspired outfit — I was thinking Helen Magnus.

It was a fun evening. I only died once. It wasn’t a good way to learn about the game, though, as we mostly just zerged through things.

To that end, I’ve now made a villain alt to play solo. She’s an Elf, because of course she is. I went brute as my archetype, initially with savage melee and regeneration as my power sets. However, I didn’t like the aesthetics of savage, so I used the ability to import and export costumes to quickly reroll with psionic powers instead, which seem to fit a bit better.

I’m still very early in the game, so my impressions are very basic, but so far I’m enjoying it. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll sink a lot of time into in the long term, but I see the appeal.

I tell you, that character creator could consume my life. I never thought I’d say this, but it might have too many options. It’s overwhelming. Each character took me at least an hour to create because I just got lost in all the options.

My Elfy brute in City of HeroesWith the wealth of costume and build options, I can see why so many CoH refugees ended up in The Secret World. In a cosmic irony, we may now find ourselves in a world where TSW refugees flee to CoH.

I am impressed with how incredibly well the graphics have held up. They’re clearly not state of the art, but this is still a very nice-looking game, in a cartoony sort of way. I especially like how moody the villain starting area is. I think I heard something about the Homecoming team tweaking the graphics, so that might have something to do with it.

The combat is also better than I expected. I’d heard a lot of people say it was very slow and old school, but it’s actually not that bad. It’s very much “whack-a-mole with cooldowns,” as I tend to call these things, but there’s very little downtime in my rotations, and the lack of auto-attack is welcome. It’s a long way from great, but it’s tolerable.

On the downside, so far there doesn’t seem to be much of a story, and you all know how important that is to me. If anything kills my interest in CoH, it will likely be that.

So it’s early days, but at least for now, I see more City of Heroes in my future. If nothing else we’ll probably be doing more streams over at MOP. Surprisingly I had almost no nerves at all. I guess being surrounded by familiar people (and not reading Twitch chat) helps.

My steampunk blaster in City of HeroesTechnically, this wasn’t my first time being on a livestream. I was on a number of Moiren’s TSW streams back in the day. I just wasn’t on voice chat then.

Speaking of Moiren, she’s been trying to hit world first level 200 in Twitch Sings. Now, I’ll admit I don’t really follow Twitch Sings, so I don’t really know what that means, but I’ve never known her to be unrealistic in her goals, so I don’t think she’d be trying if there wasn’t a decent chance she’d succeed. Maybe head on over to her channel to cheer her on as she pushes on to 200.