Astral Chain is the first game I have picked with our new Nintendo Switch. It took 40 hours to complete the main story, everything from the start, up to the title screen. I wasn’t rushing through the story and tried to complete as many side quests as possible. I am taking a break now, but there are still more reasons to pick it up in the future.
Visuals and story
The game looks fast and stunning, like a current-generation game. With very rich details, big maps, interactive physics and very beautiful character models which looks like anime. The entire game feels like you just live in the sci-fi anime show. Some people call the story to be predictable but I like it, it has the right amount of complexity. The world is unique and very deep. Characters are interesting and different. The main protagonist is always silent, inspired by Half-Life. You can choose the protagonist gender and even customise the outfit, all of your choices reflected in cut scenes.
Astral Chain is very different to the games I have played before. The fighting system is the most interesting part of the game because you have to control 2 characters at once: you and your Legion. Combos look amazing and they are not automatically moving you towards your opponent so not only you have to hit the right combination but also you need to be at the right distance from the enemy. It feels incredibly interactive and deep. There are many special moves that I didn’t even attempt to do because I have not remembered what button to press. They are kind of like Mortal Combat fatality moves but with a shorter amount of actions. Nothing in-game hints at you, you only can look at the combination in the upgrade menu.
My favourite move is binding your enemies with Astral Chain, to do this you have to run a circle around your enemy with your Legion. I have learned to do it fast-moving myself and my Legion at the same time, it’s incredibly satisfying, especially when chaining multiple foes.
The other interesting thing about this game is how Legion and Item Menu works. You can have 1 Legion and 1 item assigned to 2 main buttons. And you can hold the button entering the circle menu to pick up a different Legion or an item. Every time you enter the menu, time slows down with a cool audio effect for a short period, allowing you to pick the wanted thing. Spend too much time fiddling and enemies will start to attack you. It keeps you in the flow. Did I mention that all game menu systems do not take you out of the game and projected as augmented reality holograms? Awesome.
When not fighting Chimera monsters, you are constantly collecting items, completing side quests and even snapping pictures. You can pick up empty cans and recycle them, adopt cats, use public toilets, chase enemies, go through stealth missions, find secret places and so much more… Every bit of progress is recorded and assessed at the end of the level. As a result, you are given a mark for each quest and chapter you complete. After finishing the game you are given an average mark as well, I got C, which is one step higher than the lowest D mark.
The game is addictive and interesting. I was motivated to find as much stuff as I could. It is almost impossible to complete everything that level can offer, not through the first play-through. I just wish Switch has an achievements API.
I didn’t like motorcycle levels which felt like an arcade railway shooter. You can’t control the speed of your bike, just turn and shoot. The highway is littered with cars and you can hit them a full speed with almost no damage to you. It felt too simple and unrealistic.
The other thing which annoyed me is jumping sequences. Developers made the right thing by not punishing you for failing out of the map area. It happens a lot and it is incredibly hard to land in the right spot. The floor and controls just feel slippery and not polished. You can’t lose but you have to try again and again.
It’s easy to control legions and they are a joy to handle. Except, the Beast Legion, which is just too big and cumbersome. There were no problems in large round areas, but I have experienced issues when navigating through the map, I feel like there’s work that could be done to help with animations.
And lastly, your protagonist can crawl but can’t jump and climb over things. Given the very high quality of the gameplay, it felt like a thing from the past.