It’s almost a week since the western version of Korean MMORPG Astellia entered its closed beta test phase one. Astellia by Studio 8 and Barunson and EA is the next MMORPG to hit the global market this summer. While the CBT 1 access is granted to pre-order packages of the highest tier, many have gotten in with keys being offered regularly on social media. Based on our experiences with the game so far, here’s what you need to know about Astellia if you’re wondering about the game.
It’s All About The Astels
Astellia is a theme-park MMORPG at its core, filled with the usual quest hub crawls from town to town, region to region until you hit the max level of 50. Along the way with your chosen class, players will collect Astels. This are tiny companions, each designed in a way that mimics a combat class. They have abilities, XP progression and Star Grades, which means they can be improved as you level up. They accompany you in your adventures and in battles, are competent with tanking, healing and DPS depending on your set up. You can have one Astel summoned always, but to bring out more depletes your AP meter, which replenishes when you go back into your Astel deck. It’s an interesting take on MMORPG combat systems, and may take some time to get used to, since players will need to juggle between firing off their own class skills and that of their Astels. However, they are very much important to the game’s main story and should be treated as an important progression mechanic throughout. In the Western version, Astels can be acquired through PvE, and they might make an appearance in the cash shop too.
Localization and Aesthetics
Most Korean MMORPGs do adequately when it comes to localizing the game in English for a global audience. Unfortunately, last year’s Bless Online launch on Steam left many with doubts about the future of games coming out from the East. The good news is, Astellia seem to have invested plenty into making the game enjoyable in the localization department. No typos, no grammer issues, and best part is that even the voice acting is of bearable quality. As for how the game looks overall, much of it will seem generic. That means, you’ve probably seen similar games looking like it – Blade & Soul, TERA, Ascent: Infinite Realm and Revelation Online – these are just some of the eastern MMORPGs that runs on the same engine, and unfortunately Astellia doesn’t do enough to stand out. Character models are bland, and textures on the highest graphic settings won’t blow you away if you’re expecting a gorgeous game that looks like it was made in 2019. This does not deliver there. Elsewhere, the bloom options and other graphics settings does make the world and environments pretty, and the soundtrack isn’t bad to say the least. Your mileage will vary here, and it’s down to combat and questing to convince you.
The Main Story, PvE and PvP
Astellia does feature a main story complete with cinematics, cut-scenes and CGI scenes too. With fully voiced ones appearing once in awhile, it gives the story some sort of credence. The world is reeling from the dark turn of its greatest hero – a woman once revered for stopping the darkness, now turns to evil and once to bring vengeance upon those who treated her wrong. In her wake, Astellians are rising – people born of the stars that can command Astels to save the world. It’s a basic storyline, but one that will see you follow it right up to the level cap. There’s a good amount of side quests that you will pick up along the way but all feature the same questing formula – fetching, killing and talking – which does little to offer you any sort of ‘wow factor’. The game’s dungeons are available in solo scenarios and group versions, with harder difficulty coming down the line, and for the most part these are fun and have narratives to follow. PvP is a separate matter, and its biggest draw is by far the 3-way faction PvP in a persistent map, that takes inspiration from games like Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online. Overall, there’s sufficient content here to keep you buys for a couple of months at best.
The bad news is, Astellia suffers very much from the same issues that plagued Bless Online at release, and it’s due to the Unreal Engine 3. Players can expect to encounter choppy frames, freezes and stuttering in-game during changing zones, combat and other areas. It’s not as bad as Bless, but it could and should be smoother than it is currently. Luckily, CBT 1 is all about the technical tests, so here’s to hoping that Astellia improves performance tremendously, or risk drawing the ire of the same folks that crucified Bless Online for the exact same reasons.
While the Korean version of Astellia is free to play, this western version will not be the same. Using a buy to play model, Astellia wants to offer global players a chance to ‘Play to Win’. This means no advantages being sold in the cash shop. Sadly, that cash shop was not available for perusing during the CBT, so we don’t actually know what’s in it. We do have some inkling though. Pre-order bonuses for the Legendary version contained scrolls that can unbind dungeon drops to sell. In addition, it also contains a ring that can auto loot drops, and there’s scrolls that does the same on a timer. Astels may very well make it into the game too in the form of card packs, should they introduce more over time or as a means to bypass grinding for it. All in all, as long as it’s not overly pay to win, the game should be alright.