The fact that Astral Chain could not grow with a lot of players is understandable. It is most likely because PlatinumGames announced the game only this year exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It is unfortunately not available on any other platform. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to venture into this cyberpunk setting for you and tell you whether the developers delivered another hit after previous titles like Bayonetta and The Wonderful 101. Here is my review!
If you believe climate scientists, our life on earth will end sooner rather than later. Space programs like NASA are looking for life on other planets. Similarly, in the world of Astral Chain there is also a great threat to humanity. However, this does not mention the name climate change. Instead, you are dealing here with the evil Chimeras. These are monsters that have found their way into Earth via portals and are trying to transfer humanity and its planets into their dimension. The associated contamination resulted in scientists creating a new habitat called The Ark. Unfortunately, The Ark has also now been targeted by the creatures, which is why the police and the specialized organization Neuron are duly demanded.
It is anything but easy to fight against an invisible danger. After all, the chimeras are invisible to the naked eye. Thanks to a lot of diligence and years of research, the team of scientists finally built a defensive weapon against the chimeras called the Legions. A legion is nothing more than a captured chimera that has been neural synchronized with humans. Unfortunately, only a few earthlings have the natural conditions to lead a legion. Thus, only a handful of police officers of the special department can protect humanity. As the danger grows stronger, they need more forces and you are one of them.
The developers have deliberately chosen to mute the protagonist. For my taste, this does not work. If you had a protagonist with character, thoughts, and emotions, you could feel what your character is feeling. Instead, you communicate by occasionally selecting your answer using similar-sounding dialogue options. The developers also conjured up a robot that accompanies you wherever you go. On the positive side, you can choose a female or male player and visually modify your character.
I really liked the setting where Astral Chain is located. Of course, the idea behind the story is not fresh, but it’s still the perfect template for the over-the-top action that I’ll soon discuss. The story is told in missions and primarily driven by cutscenes. It runs rather slowly at first but picks up speed from the second half. Nevertheless, the story here will not go down in the history of video games as the best, because it is ultimately not really innovative and unfortunately does not provide a supporting protagonist.
Your hero carries a lot of burden on his shoulders. As if it were not enough that you have to fight chimeras with your fellow police officers, you are already pretty early in the game almost completely on your own. They catch your comrades in the action and in order to live up to the expectations of your boss and the hope of humanity, you can count on your legion and the so-called IRIS.
The Legion turns out to be a creature with a variety of talents. For example, you can count on its muscle strength in fighting. This brings me to the gameplay element that has the most playing time. The battles always start when the chimeras appear. Even when using a close or a long-range weapon, you still get damaged pretty badly, that’s why you need the Legion, because you are much stronger with it.
It is important to mention that such a strong being does not cooperate quite voluntarily, which is why it remains bound to the astral chain. If the Legion hovers around the enemy, the enemy is chained and is resistant to movement. The possibilities with the chain go really far and deepen the combat system. You can also use the tool to stop storming opponents and it is also possible to perform two special attacks per Legion.
Now, if you’re wondering if the gameplay combat is overloaded, that’s a legitimate question. It definitely needs its break-in period, but you will soon be able to perform masterful moves and let off steam creatively. The over-the-top action is great fun and fantastic in its best moments. Unfortunately, there are some camera problems that are primarily occurring when you control your legion and have no manual control. On a positive note are the different adversaries you will meet. You can do most of them in a similar way, only the bosses need a little more strategic skill. They are the crème de la crème and were all designed very creatively.
Usually at the beginning of a new mission, you have to do some detective work. With IRIS, you can scan your surroundings and discover injured people or chests for example. Thanks to IRIS, it is also possible to view blood traces or to play recordings. Occasionally, your Legion will assist you, for example, by listening to a suspicious conversation or by chasing a fugitive. You will always be asked by one of your team members for a summary, and then you have to select the correct answers.
There is a deduction of points for generically formulated phrases. Several times I had the feeling that not only an answer would have been plausible. The detective part of the game was interesting, but was ultimately the weakest part of the gameplay.
Sometimes you will have to go through portals and into the world of chimeras. The world of creatures make up the dungeons, evoking memories of Darksiders thanks to a dark look and environmental puzzles. While you will only encounter specific puzzles at the beginning, variety is guaranteed later on. This will allow you to collect the legions of your teammates later in the game, granting you to draw on new abilities, including lifting heavy plates with your arm legion, targeting the arrow legion with remote switches, or cutting fuses with the sword legion. You can also ride the beast legion and quickly overcome abysses that are disappearing behind you.
At the same time, this is the part that is most annoying because the controls are far too inaccurate and I often fall off the platforms in the confined spaces.
Overall, the gameplay elements are extremely versatile. I could even complete stealth deposits or skill exercises, such as during a shooting practice or while shadowing a pursuer. In order to be successful against later opponents, it is advisable to improve your legion. The role-playing elements are kept very lean. On a single skill tree, you can teach your legion new abilities or, for example, improve its attacking stats. In addition, there are items available for you with which you have at times a higher defense value.
Your mission will begin at the headquarters of the Neuron Division. Here it is possible to clean the Legion, to change your look or to buy items. In the garage or on the helipad you will be sent to your mission. The majority is the main story objectives, but here and there you can also expect secondary tasks. I had a lot of fun running around places like the fantastic Harmony Square and doing smaller things like helping people who were contaminated or defeating the opponents in the streets.
The mix of story and side tasks fits well and will entertain you for about 20 to 25 hours. Since the new legions also open up sections that were previously inaccessible, it definitely pays off to check an area several times.
Astral Chain is running at 30 fps, but very fluid. Both on the handheld and on the TV makes the game visually still decent. Only when I took a closer look, I noticed the graphic weaknesses. Otherwise, the game world thrills with great detail. I really enjoyed most areas very much. The electro soundtrack that accompanies you to the Neuron headquarters is extraordinarily good. The other in-game music, however, remains pale.
The Legions bring a whole new gaming experience to the Switch. Fighting and solving puzzles with your strong partner is great fun. Only rarely will you find some handling problems. Nevertheless, Astral Chain remains a title that I warmly recommend to every action lover.
- Fresh gameplay
- Funny fights
- Creative use of Legions in puzzles
- Cool electro sounds
- Some camera problems
- Rare operating problems