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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: ASTLIBRA Revision

The wonderful thing about indie video games is the limitless imagination that can be tapped into. Some games break the mold, while others reinvent an established formula. 2023's Trepang 2 didn't reinvent the wheel of first-person shooter, but the gameplay and spectacle polished a decade-old formula to a sheen. Larian Studios released Baldur's Gate III and ascended what RPGs can do on a foundational level. Then comes along games like Astilibra Revision that reignite the magic of video games.

Astilibra Revision is a side-scrolling action RPG that seeks to capture the magic of the past in the present. RPGs have evolved into various shapes and sizes, some being gargantuan and overwhelming. Astilibra Revision dials it back to the simpler days, when games were more straightforward but more cryptic, as in you really had to work toward a goal. A passionate love letter to the genre by a single developer, Astilibra Revision is one of the best action RPG experiences around.

A timeless tale

In a mystic land, a player awakens. A mysterious talking crow is beside him. He has no idea how he got here and why, but the place feels familiar. After a grand battle, they awaken again in a familiar time and setting. Eight years pass and they haven't seen a single human. Suddenly, a village appears, alive and well. A strong demonic magic emanates from a cave, and the villagers seek a brave warrior. They come across a fellow warrior with seemingly similar ambitions. The cave twists and turns, revealing mysterious and dangerous foes. A grand beast appears, and after some trial and tribulation, the beast is slain. However, the village is gone, eroded to the sands of time.

Puzzled, the player sees the same robed warrior from before, mistaking the village to have always been abandoned when the player insists it was alive and well. The two men and bird resolve this strange mystery. From her, players embark on a grand quest of magic and fantasy, the likes of which have never been embarked on before.

A magic rediscovered

Astilibra Revision strikes with an absolutely remarkable presentation that feels born straight from the hard drives of the 90s. The environments are a combination of photo realism and life-like illustration. Every moment of the game feels like a painting coming to life, breathing a sense of spirit into the game's world and environment. Caves, forests, kingdoms, Astilibra Revision takes players on a journey through whimsical lands.

The photorealistic landscapes blend well with the more animated aspects of the game. There is a sense of vast traversal and epic scale as players run and solve the world through each playthrough. One of the game's most ambitious aspects is that each playthrough brings new surprises to the player, which is often unexpected. Even the trailers and screenshots don't encompass the game's full scope and what it ultimately leads to.

Into the unknown

In a way, this makes Astilibra remarkably special in the grand scheme of RPGs and fantasy games. Part of the quest is the mystery and the sensation of the unknown. Most games in the genre lay out what the player needs to do to progress and accomplish the next big chapter. Astilibra Revision dials back to when players needed to figure out puzzles and explore unknown areas, searching for the next goal and perhaps uncovering secrets along the way.

This brings back the genuine magic of fantasy epics that Astilibra Revision is attempting to emulate and recapture. During my playthrough, the game continuously kept throwing me for a loop. When I thought the game would zig, it zagged. When the game turned right, it turned right, then left, and right again. A constant excitement was discovering the unknown and the mystery behind it all during my playthrough. Some players may be put off by the less-than-straightforward approach, but there is excitement in venturing into the unknown. By the end, it's a grand and unforgettable experience. This mystery makes it hard to talk about the story, but rest assured, it's inspiring and worth the adventure.

Mighty Steel and Mighter Magic

Combat is a little easier to understand. The game presents itself as an action hack-n-slash. It's easy to learn and control. Light and strong attacks send a flurry of attacks. The longer the chain, the better the damage. Some attacks infuse magic, which can be beneficial depending on what's being faced. The expected dodge and block attacks are present, but players can charge with their shield. One nice addition is that special magic attacks are assigned to the face buttons. The player can launch a fire-based companion to launch fire attacks or see the earth rise into a spike. There are many such powers, and it's up to the player to grind and unlock them all.

Perhaps one aspect that is a blessing and a curse is grinding. To construct effective new armor and weapons, players have to revisit areas, eliminating enemies in the hope of attaining the necessary materials to construct something needed. This means revisiting, teleporting back to safety, and revisiting again and again. However, the combat and presentation are so satisfying that they make up for this setback.

An adventure inline any other

Astilibra Revision hooked me in right away. That constant sensation of surprise and wonder kept me going; it's clear there is so much heart poured into this game. The developer Keizo clearly sees the genre with special reverence and meaning, and in a way, it connected to me as well. I remember playing games like Odinsphere and Kingdom Hearts for the first time and being so immersed in the magic that time seemed to pause. It's a special kind of experience that has been carefully crafted.

Fighting and playing in Astilibra Revision feels like the grandest tales of old. Lord of the Rings, Sleeping Beauty, American Gods, Astilibra Revision would fit right in that grand pantheon of fantasy's greats if it were a book. Fighting and exploring constantly put me in a sense of awe and wonder. Fighting is chaotic and extravagant, with mammoth boss fights and tough enemies. Some moments are a grind, and some puzzles may involve a Google search, but it's in that story of mystery and exploration that the game shines. It was nostalgic and refreshing at the same time.

Astilibra Revision Rocks

Astilibra Revision is another example of a developer following their dreams and accomplishing them with flying colors. Astrilibra Revision is fascinating, thrilling, and majestic in the best ways possible. While it may be grindy and unconventional, its dedication and commitment to the player's time are irresistibly empowering in a way no other game has felt. Astilibra Revision is a masterpiece, and I encourage everyone to embark on the journey.

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