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Official Review Astor: Blade of the Monolith Review

Astor, a young Diokek warrior, must journey across Gliese to solve the mysterious disappearance of his creators.

General Information


Humble Beginnings

Formerly known as Monolith: Requiem of the Ancients, Astor: Blade of the Monolith is an Action/Adventure title with character, charisma and chop-slice-and-dice action!

The premise of the storyline is as follows: Astor is a Diokek warrior sent on a quest to travel the vibrant world of Gliese in search of answers to the maker's demise. All sources point towards the titular Monolith, but what secrets does it hold and what truths will it reveal?

Starting the game you find yourself thrown into the thick of it, a basic stage of learning to fight, and it feels great. Triangle is your light attack, Cirlce is your strong attack, and Cross is your jump button. The R2 trigger plus a direction evade attacks, whereas the L1 button blocks and parries. For now, this is the extent of your attacks, but the settings>controller layout screen hints at what is to come.

Combining those into flurries of block/parry, jump, smash and follow-up blows is quite invigorating, and you can see that this is not only going to be a button masher, it's going to be quite a varied game to get to grips with, and the combo counter that tracks your skill only serves to fuel your desire to be more stylish, more swift, and more deadly.

In addition to the attacking moves you have, Astor also has a guiding spirit orb on the d-pad down button that hints at the path you should take, and the right d-pad button allows you to switch vision modes to see the spirit realm.

The spirit realm reveals ancient pathways, and restores long-destroyed points of interest to former glory through its kooky lens. I have to say it's a neat mechanic and I was very much looking forward to using it throughout the game, perhaps to find secrets... who knows!


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Vibrant Environments, Compelling Elements

From the outset Astor: BOTM looks incredibly alluring. There is definite inspiration on display from games like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Zelda (any Zelda you choose), with a very familiar feel to the aesthetics and how the game's presentation is portrayed.

One example is meeting a character called Ka, which is short for Kaboom, and he is an explosives expert who can demolish walls that stand in your way. The way that small interaction plays out is very reminiscent of the Gorons in Zelda, and I was shocked that I didn't end up doing a fetch quest to get my very own bomb pouch or something to that effect. Instead, the character did the heavy lifting for me and I have yet to acquire or need any bombs.

Another nod to Zelda comes from the temples themselves. Though there is no map, no compass and no keys as such, the puzzle elements shine through with large-scale enigmas to solve and almost guardian-esque enemies to defeat on the way through them.

Antagonists and protagonists alike wear masks, and mask rooms exist where there is a mysterious aura as to what the diverse disguises are for, why does everyone hide their faces, but what does it all mean? The mysteries deepen and then eventually, gradually, reveal themselves.

I'm not knocking this in any way because it's an awesome aesthetic. I like it, and it still feels fresh, intriguing and encapsulating.

Enemies (Hiltsik) themselves come in about 20 varieties, with brutes, bombers, gunners, grunts and even sand spiders, and each have their strengths and weaknesses for you to exploit to progress quickly. Some require stunning by way of a parry to break their guard, others require a launching hold of the Circle button to hoist them into the air where you can savagely stab them to death before hitting the ground.


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Artifacts of Power, Upgrades and Enhancements

Later on, you get constructs, which are blueprints to runic artefacts that can be used to smoosh your adversaries. Holding L2 brings up the artifact menu and selecting whichever one you want can then be used to inflict pain on your foes. You can also conjure runic attacks by purchasing them at the stores.

You also get a blaster of shorts, firing beams of energy from your hand to open doors or take out enemies at range. As well as this you encounter orbs that act as a shop and save point. At the shop you can spend your hard-earned red tokens on things like new combos, finishing moves, upgrades such as sword damage lvl enhancements and even a resurrection crystal that brings you back from the dead, with no fairies in sight!

Upgrades for health, magic and stamina are acquired across the maps along with the shards required to unlock proceeding levels of upgrades. You can track how many shards you have found versus the number available in the level, and you can pretty much predict when a new upgrade is going to be granted to you, as the user gratification model pumps you with endorphins at key moments.

Overall, I found the environments to be quite sparse really, and finding the shards was a real highlight of an otherwise relatively quiet world. Sadly NPCs rarely have interactions. The odd one or two offer you a quest as guided by your compass on the HUD, but the majority are nameless, faceless and have no purpose other than to make the scene look bustling with activity. This is an area that could be improved, give each one a little story, and a little personality no matter how pointless it ultimately is in terms of the main quest.


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Inspired by Greatness, Propelled by its own Merits

Similarly to Zelda games, you have three trials to complete or rather three temples. Getting those polished off grants you further missions to discovering the man who takes your face.

I like the toy-style aesthetic this game has, and the semi-cell-shaded look is one that we know holds up over time. There is possibly inspiration from games like Tear Away and Little Big Planet too. There's a narrator explaining each scene, the camera boldly sweeping towards areas of interest and a whole level of exploration that displays the cast and crew credits throughout. It's cinematic and well thought out, and most importantly it doesn't feel uninspired or tacked on.

The range of environments may seem cliche with a fire-themed one, a sand level, an ice one etc, but Astor's visuals keep these tropes fresh and inspired. Sure it's all been done before but these guys have polished it up and brought it together in a highly playable way for multiple platforms.


20 Hours is Simply Not Enough

Astor: Blade of the Monolith is stunning. As games like this go the 20 hours absolutely flew and I was left wanting more which is both a blessing and a curse. The game was enthralling, intriguing and fun to play, albeit not too taxing really, but I wanted more!

There is huge scope for a sequel that builds on this astonishingly good foundation and enough room for this to go on to be a big-selling series if it wants to. Flesh out the NPCs, fill it with more puzzles and more quests and bolster an already fantastic game with more unique ideas and set-pieces set in this universe.

I just hope that the devs are listening over here to us console players just as much as they are on Steam with PC players, which I think they will. I'm confident in Astor.

Highly recommended!


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