When it comes to new MMOs entering the market, many keep their eyes peeled for the next big breakout hit. Unfortunately, for many of us MMO gamers, the genre has become rife with homogenized games that rarely, if ever, deviate into something truly spectacular. Enter Astellia, a Korean MMO by Barunson E&A. Does Astellia have what it takes to be a unique title in the ocean of mediocrity?
Astellia starts players’ off with what most players expect, class selection and character creation. From the jump, I was fairly disappointed to see that out of the 5 classes you can choose from, you could only create male character for the Warrior and the Assassin. While there has been some talk of gender changes being available later on, gender locked classes have never sat well with me, especially when there are zero ranged options for male characters to start the game with. Despite these minor class-based issues, I created two characters, a male Assassin and a female Mage so that I could get a good idea of the flow of combat for both melee and ranged toons.
Character creation is very straight forward and has a ton of options, but there really isn’t much that blew me away here. Astellia utilizes DirectX 9, and it shows, as some of the options looked outdated. Still, it was fairly easy to create attractive characters without spending too much time fiddling with the different options. After the obligatory naming of your characters you’re cast into a vast game world that actually looks pretty good considering the outdated engine. The colors are vibrant, there are ample amounts of trees and NPCs littering the towns and adjoined grasslands. A lot of work has been put into making your first experience in Astellia a good one.
Unfortunately, minor annoyances creep up quickly, which marred my enjoyment. One example of this, is the UI. There are 5 different UI bars, and as you level, Astellia will assign skills to your bar as you obtain them. While this sounds great, I ran into an issue where I reassigned my skills based on how I use them, but as soon as I went into the first dungeon, it reset the entire skill bar. Furthermore, at level 10, my Mage has 8 abilities. While this might sound great for players that like a lot of options, the inundation of so many abilities so early, and the necessity to use them for even the trashiest of trash mobs, gets tedious even at low levels.
In addition to the plethora of abilities that players are given, Astellia attempts to differentiate itself from other MMOs through a “pet” collection system. In Astella, the player is considered a Star Caller, who has the ability to call upon Astels, which are pets that will aid you in battle. As you progress, new Astels will join you, which will allow you to build a team that will make your battles infinitely easier. Each new Astel that you earn also has to find a place on your hotbar, along with your consumable items, your mounts, and a completely separate bar that controls your Astels so that they don’t go rogue and start attacking random things when you go AFK.
Personally, I think the addition of the Astels are solid, but my misgivings revolve primarily around the aesthetics of the Astels you get. Yes, this is a Korean MMO, so there are some tropes that are expected, but it does seem a little strange to me that many of the Astels you get are little girls or strange anthropomorphic animals. Despite that, looking through the Astel cards, it was clear that there are plenty of more stylish and dangerous looking Astels that will certainly appeal to other gamers like myself, who may not feel right summoning a group of little girls into battle with them.
Astellia, if nothing else, is a game that is feature rich and complex in nature. As this is a review in progress, there are a lot of systems for me still to explore, levels to gain, and regions to conquer. I have yet to be fully enamored with this title as it stands right now, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised before. If you are still on the fence after this preview, keep an eye out as I render my verdict in the full review.
Full Disclosure: Astellia is represented by Team Critical Hit, a games PR company co-founded by former MMORPG Managing Editor Bill Murphy. Review code was provided to MMORPG for the purposes of this review.