Astor: Blade of the Monolith


If there's been a better action-RPG this year then we haven't seen it yet...


In Astor: Blade of the Monolith "The Makers" have abandoned the Diodek people and they need a hero, a mythical "Chosen One” to save them from the invading Hiltsik scourge!

Two young Diodeks, Astor and his buddy Zan, are out exploring their homeland of Gliese and discover the ruins of a mysterious temple. Zan is deciphering some hieroglyphics on a massive door when Astor falls through the temple floor. A magical runic blade (the legendary Zulfiqar) appears in his hand and he is prompted to kill a few enemies in an initiation tutorial. 'Y' is normal attack, 'B' is strong attack, 'LB' is block/parry and 'Right Trigger' is sprint–or evade if standing still. I'd rather not have had "block" mapped to 'LB' and the strong and normal attack buttons feel like they're the wrong way round, but maybe that's just me. Other than that it's an intuitive control system. 

So… It turns out that Astor (that's YOU that is) is the “Chosen One.” Inspired by the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, the swordplay is simple, fast, responsive and massively over-the-top, and therefore great fun! The character models are a bit weird and doll-like, they all appear to wear masks, have wooden legs and no feet. The Diodeks' origins are revealed during the story, and yeah, it's mankind's fault.

You battle a lot of spiders, and eventually get your own to ride!

Astor has a special ability given to him, so press > on the D-pad opens a bubble into the spirit realm. This greys out all the world's colour and reveals scenery that may be completely different to the normal world. Openings, platforms and bridges that were previously unseen are now visible and usable.

The main quest is to complete three trials and find the Heart of Soma. Along the way you will collect further weapons in the form of Ascalon (a Runic spear), Yagrush & Ayamur (incredibly powerful gauntlets) and finally Sharur (think: Thor's Hammer.) You may equip any 2 at a time and switch between them with “RB”.

The big guy is about to get a mighty punch in the plums and see stars!

Power Enhancement Orbs are dotted around the world. At these, red orbs and monolithic shards (that are collected along the way) can be spent to "Buy Skills", unlock special powers, abilities and upgrades. Red & green crystals are also scattered around the landscape, red can be smashed to convert to red orbs and green replenish health. The Power Enhancement Orbs are also save points, and it's wise to use them.

Bottom left of the screen is Astor's health gauge, a stamina gauge (which powers Astor's various special abilities) and a Runic power gauge. The previously mentioned red orbs can be farmed from red crystals, and health replenished by smashing green crystals. Astor's stamina gauge is replenished by performing combos.

Meteor Rain will sometimes clear a room!

For the most part Astor forges a lonely trail, but there are a few villages where Astor can pick up extra side missions, all of which are worth doing as they all add to the stash of red orbs and shards. Apart from sidekick Zan, there are a few NPCs who actually help you on your epic quest–mainly a huge soldier named Tank and a magical girl called Psy. Later on, surprisingly a Hiltsik warrior called Niilo converts to your side, becomes a buddy and helps you in your final battles on the way to defeat Haken the uber-baddie.

Runic Constructs enhance Astor's power and will make short work of most Hiltsik. These powerful but temporary weapons are summoned by holding the Left Trigger and pressing a Face button when Astor has enough Runic power. The Constructs are: Ancient Minion (a Robotic spider that fights alongside you), Block Drop (a huge, semi-aimable monolith that drops from the sky and causes huge damage to enemies), Decoy (a spinning beacon that distracts enemies), Quake (a short but violent earthquake that messes any enemy up), Whirlwind (a localised Tornado that only damages enemies), Meteor Rain, Ancient Bison (robotic walking tank), Ancient Dron (a flying squid-like drone) and Golem (an aggressive metal robot).

Three of the best Runic Constructs.

Ok, so Astor: Blade of the Monolith is hard to dislike but has more than a few issues. I had a glitch where I defeated a spider boss and its minions kept attacking Astor during the subsequent cutscene when I had no control! Astor becomes so powerful that sometimes the fight is over before the music gets started, other times the music stops before it should. Water (or any liquid) more than waist deep will kill Astor. I literally HATE this feature of the game, and think it's a cheap copout. The narrator's voice is way too quiet and there are also some sudden endings to chapters and rough cuts to and from cutscenes. When rescued, NPCs just stay in their cages, which is disappointing, but these minor gripes are all I can whinge about, the fact is that Astor controls and fights like a dream.

Astor: Blade of the Monolith might not be that big name “Triple A” action RPG you've been waiting for, but it's definitely “AA” and supplies a substantial campaign with smooth, exciting action, and is available for an Xbox, PlayStation, PC or Switch near you at a bargain price of £20.99 or less. What are you waiting for?

Many thanks to C2 Game StudioTiny Build, Versus Evil and Plan of Attack for the review code