Celestian Tales: Old North is made to be a beginner’s JRPG; its task dedicated to gently guiding newcomers into the daunting world of RPGs. This is both a good and bad thing.
To begin, Celestian Tales does a couple of things to stand apart, most notably in supposedly allowing players to battle their own conscience in morality based decisions.
The game itself begins with the interesting choice of allowing one to pick the storyline from one of six characters. It’s a good idea in theory, giving players the option to choose the character that they like the best. I chose Isaac, who as an imposter was intriguing.
This fizzles out rather quickly, however, as Celestian Tales looks and feels like a budget title, which makes sense, considering it was Kickstarted. This is relevant because the game’s storyline is affected the most by the cap in funding that the Kickstarter provided. For Isaac’s story, the player is thrown right into a distressing scenario—for the character, not for the actual player. It almost seems as if a large chunk of the game is missing before the game even begins, as you are asked to care when you are given no reason to do so. It’s literally the first cutscene, and I felt nothing as my chosen character Isaac was sobbing over the body of one of his loved ones. Sure it’s sad, but why should anyone care? The proper time was not taken in order to immerse me in the "Old North," and what should have been a pivotal scene is instead almost laughably overblown.
This is definitely the lowest point of Celestian Tales, which is good as the story slowly unveils itself to be a game riddled with tropes that tries, and surprisingly nearly succeeds, at being unique. Without spoiling, Celestian Tales presents issues that are handled in ways that are not obvious, which is always a welcome thing. For the characters themselves, all six of the main characters do become interesting enough that the player is engaged throughout the title’s six to eight hour run-time.
For a JRPG, the run-time is shockingly short, which is almost amusing when one considers how blatantly the developers were desperate to pad it, with Chapter 5 being so inconsequential that even the main character remarks at how pointless the whole affair was.
All of the in-game speech is delivered through text, which even Celestian Tales manages to bungle. Very important thoughts on what your chosen character is thinking and planning are hidden away in the menus to the point where it’s comical. While it does a fine job at summing up the game to that specific point, it feels like it should have been delivered in a more meaningful way then having the player read through an impromptu journal.
Another thing to nitpick is that this title is part of a trilogy, meaning that there are cliffhangers. This is to the point where one storyline is concluded, literally everything else is not. While this ordinarily would not be a problem, there is no mention on the Steam page that this is part of a trilogy or even in the game itself.
This sloppiness is reflected in the game, as it showcases spelling mistakes and the very occasional missed music cues, along with broken controller support—at least if you are running Windows 10 with an Xbox One controller. The developers have been trying to fix this throughout the past week or so, but this should not even be an issue in the first place.
Things are not entirely lost however. Celestian Tales has good looking graphics, with nice looking eight directional sprites and okay looking backgrounds, an above average soundtrack although with sometimes annoying background music, and decent gameplay that goes a little too extreme in its attempt at simplicity.
The gameplay for Celestial Tales is what one would expect from a beginner’s JRPG. Interestingly, there is no MP in this title, which is a staple in almost all RPGs. Instead, there is Stamina, a stat that players can build up by attacking or defending via a myriad of ways—either through abilities, attacking or defending. There are health potions of course, as well as upgradable weapons and armor, but there isn’t much variety. It seems almost perfunctory, like a grudging "here you go, now go away," situation.
The combat itself is entertaining, but it’s nothing really special. It features turn-based JRPG combat with no real difference aside from the Stamina, and even that has been done before. Is it bad? No. Is it unique? Not even close; it is what one should expect from a JRPG at this point.
Overall, Celestian Tales is the definition of a mixed bag. It does more things wrong than good, and it utterly fails in having me want to do multiple playthroughs with different characters … but I would probably be interested in a sequel if it ever was released.
Celestial Tales is a beginner’s JRPG with all the good and bad things that implied by such a distinction. Buy it if you seek a somewhat pleasant diversion, but expect nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary.