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Astor review
C2 Game Studio

Gaming

‘Astor: Blade of the Monolith’ review: A satisfyingly simple adventure to save the world

Astor: Blade of the Monolith may not surprise, but its cute characters and varied gameplay deliver a fun experience.

We’ve all heard the tale before – prophecy states a chosen one will appear from our midst, obtain great power, and save the world from whatever threats are knocking at the door. The “chosen one” story structure has been done time and again, and for good reason. It’s a reliable formula, one in which the reader/viewing audience/player can project themselves onto the main character and say, “Yeah, I am the hero.” Astor: Blade of the Monolith, the first non-mobile game from C2 Game Studio, takes the chosen one formula and presents an interesting, if not wholly surprising, story wrapped up in a breezy adventure game.

You’ll start as Astor exploring some ruins with a friend, Zan. They’re cute lifeforms made of wood and metal. Astor falls into a previously unexplored area and gains runic power because… well, the game isn’t called Zan: Blade of the Monolith for a reason, I suppose. Astor’s powers signify he is the chosen one according to Diokek prophecy. He ventures off in search of new runic powers to fight the warring Hiltsik and, you know, save the world.

'Astor: Blade of the Monolith' review: A satisfyingly simple adventure to save the world

Blade of the Monolith’s story does its job well enough. It presents an engaging mystery, and the pieces really come together well by the end when more and more of the world’s lore is revealed. But learning about the lore and following the story beats isn’t ever very engaging. Most everything is narrated to you during gameplay or told to Astor via text boxes by the supporting cast. I never really felt like I, the player, was putting in work to solve mysteries; rather, I simply played through levels and was passively told the story as the game went on.

It doesn’t help that Astor himself isn’t much of a character. He doesn’t get any text boxes, and mostly just has a shrugging animation as his default response in conversation. We don’t get many glimpses into Astor’s personality (Diokek-ality?) or learn about who he was before he acquired his abilities. Ultimately, he’s a generic chosen one protagonist who is more in line with silent, character-less FPS protagonists of yesteryear than the fully-developed characters of modern gaming.

'Astor: Blade of the Monolith' review: A satisfyingly simple adventure to save the world

I can forgive the story’s shortcomings as the gameplay was good enough to keep me engaged throughout the 20 or so hours Astor: Blade of the Monolith delivers. Attacks may seem basic at first; Astor has a light and heavy attack with each weapon and relies on dodging, blocking, and parrying for defense. But each weapon has a variety of combo extensions and runic finishers to be unlocked, making it so you’ll have an arsenal of attacks at your disposal. One of my favorites was an early runic attack with the sword where Astor would summon a wall and push it forward after two light attacks, dealing great damage and pressing enemies back.

Each weapon feels unique in its use. The sword is a trusty, all-around companion for battle; the gauntlets slow but high in damage, and easily able to send enemies flying (which is especially fun when you can whack them off the side of the level); the spear has useful reach; and the hammer is great for crowd control as you can spin like a top swinging it around and walloping enemies. Astor also can command a ranged runic blast attack, but, as you can’t directly aim it, I only found it useful on flying enemies.

While the combat packs a satisfying punch, you may find yourself growing reasonably tired of fighting the same enemies over and over again. There are the Hiltsik, over-sized spiders, robot guardians, and… that’s basically it. The Hiltsik, who have been attacking Diokek for some time now and without cause, comprise the bulk of the forces you’ll match up against. By the end, when Astor is fully kitted out and upgraded, they won’t offer up much of a challenge. The only real difficulty comes when Astor is overwhelmed by too many enemies at once. There’s a slight delay in blocking/parrying as Astor takes just a couple seconds to summon his runic shield after you press the button, so you can’t easily or seamlessly switch from attacking to countering, a la Spider-Man or the Batman Arkham games, when surrounded.

'Astor: Blade of the Monolith' review: A satisfyingly simple adventure to save the world

Exploration is the other main gameplay draw of Astor: Blade of the Monolith. The maps are a mix of open hub worlds and linear levels, with some light dungeon crawling mixed in. Shards and orange orbs, currency for upgrading Astor, are bountiful throughout the world, and you’ll stumble across health, stamina, and runic meter upgrade chests as well. Astor can enter the spirit world briefly, which is used for light puzzle solving and exploration, often leading to some sort of upgrade.

The maps are varied, each with a different biome. You’ll venture to the desolate desert, populated by giant skeletons of creatures long gone, a snowy tundra, and a vibrantly purple forest. They’re all home to their own communities of Diokek, some of whom will engage Astor with simple side quests. One of the most interesting levels takes place inside a monolith as Astor must repair it as he travels from floor to floor, each home to a unique environment.

While Astor: Blade of the Monolith doesn’t bring much new to the table, it does harken back to a simpler gaming era. I consistently felt like I was playing a PS2 or GameCube game in Astor, with its easy-to-learn combat, combo meters, and light storytelling, and I enjoyed the game for its simplicity. Sometimes you just wanna kick back, not think too hard, and watch the combo meter climb. For only $24.99, Astor: Blade of the Monolith achieves what it set out to do at an affordable price: deliver a good, fun time.

Astor review
‘Astor: Blade of the Monolith’ review: A satisfyingly simple adventure to save the world
Astor: Blade of the Monolith
Plucked straight outta the gaming world of yesterday, Astor: Blade of the Monolith is well worth checking out. It may not surprise, but its cute characters and varied gameplay deliver a fun experience.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.1
Fun, weighty gameplay.
Good variety of weapons and runic finishers.
Story includes interesting lore and mystery...
...but the formulaic "chosen one" plot doesn't entirely engage.
Lack of enemy variety.
7
Good

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