In a faraway fantasy world inspired by Ancient Greece, a young, passionate, cheeky warrior named Hilda carves a path through the cursed city of Aphes in search of her father. Along the way, she meets friends and foes alike, all of whom have been cursed to live for centuries. In our Asterigos: Curse of the Stars preview, we've only scratched the surface, but we can't wait to discover more.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars is a hack-and-slash action RPG that takes some inspiration from the classic Soulslike formula. The combat is very flashy and stylish, and developer Acme Gamestudio provides a variety of ways for players to customize their fighting style.
With lots of big bosses and armies of enemies ready to slay Hilda, there’s a lot to dig into while exploring Aphes. Is it a journey worth exploring? After roughly 10 hours of gameplay, there's a lot of potential. The exciting combat shines with the pretty, cartoony art style, showing that the only thing sharper than Hilda's wit is her blade. But questionable mechanics and level design will leave some scratching their heads – and possibly gritting their teeth.
Slicing and Dicing in Asterigos: Curse of the Stars
Back in April 2022, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars made it onto our list of the nine most anticipated games from PAX East, primarily for its high-speed combat. Hilda gets six weapons at her disposal right from the start: sword & shield, daggers, hammer, spear, staff, and magical bracelets. The player can have two equipped at any time.
Each weapon comes with a basic combo string and a special ability. For example, the sword & shield’s special ability is, well, blocking with the shield, providing a solid, reliable means of defense. Meanwhile, the daggers give you a hyper-fast, invulnerable dash, perfect for getting past enemy defenses in the blink of an eye.
What makes this dual-weapon system fun to experiment with is the weapon switch attack. When you’re mid-combo with one weapon, you fluidly swap to the other using a unique attack animation, letting you continue the combo in stylish ways.
For example, a fun attack pattern I figured out was dashing in with the daggers, getting a few hits in, then swapping to the staff while mid-combo. The staff’s switch attack creates a shockwave that does big damage while pushing Hilda backward. It’s a quick, cool way to create distance so you can fire off some magic missiles.
Bolstering this dynamic system are your Skills, which cost Astral Points to use (you gain these with every hit). Skills play a canned animation that does big damage, provides utility or has some other big effect. There’s nothing more satisfying than opening up a fight by approaching a group, pulling two enemies into each other, and creating a magic explosion that does massive damage.
What’s the Curse Though?
Outside the combat though is where things get a little questionable. While Asterigos: Curse of the Stars proudly wears its Soulslike inspiration on its Steam page description, it misses some key points that make the genre as popular as it is.
For example, resting at Conduits (read: “bonfires”) heals Hilda, but they don’t replenish your healing salves. Right off the bat, they lose that “lighthouse in a storm” feeling that Souls games nail. They’re handy checkpoints if you die, but on the other hand, every time you die is an exercise in lost progress and wasted salves.
To get more salves, you have to find them in the world, like in Bloodborne. However, unlike Bloodborne, the drop rate for these can only be described as abysmal, so if a boss gives you some trouble, you’re in for a lot of grinding unless you lower the difficulty. If you reach a tough spot, you’re punished by having to waste more time, and it feels like a huge roadblock to the fun parts of Asterigos.
Beyond that, after 10 hours of play, it feels like there’s a lot of running around that straddles the line between exploration and tedium. The levels, while interesting in their Greek-inspired aesthetic, feel like labyrinthine mazes with winding corridors. More often than not, shortcuts feel more like another way to get around, instead of a quicker way to a destination.
Looking ahead, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars seems to have a lot more story and content to offer, and I’m curious to see where Hilda’s journey will take her. With her tongue-in-cheek humor and penchant to disrespect authority, she’s an engaging protagonist to watch as she shakes up the foundations of Aphes. However, it’s up to her slick fighting moves and playful attitude to keep the game’s more tedious parts at bay.
TechRaptor previewed Asterigos: Curse of the Stars on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by the publisher. It releases on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows PC.