Nintendo Benelux invited us over to come and play the games that were being demoed at E3, for the unfortunate souls that didn’t make it to LA. I’m not one to shy away from such an opportunity, so off to Utrecht we went. The day started with an Asral Chain hands-off live demo on the big screen.
Sadly we didn’t get to have a go with Astral Chain ourselves, but I feel like this was because they were running the full game and hadn’t caged of a safe area for people to experience yet. Nevertheless, I grabbed pen and paper to write down some of my findings to share with you.
Story & Setting
Astral Chain takes place on a near-future version of earth where the planet finds itself under attack by creatures from another dimension. These “Chimeras”, as they are called are attacking certain locations and even abducting people. It’s up to you to investigate the “crime scene” and battle the Chimera when needed. Earth’s police force has created a special forces section dubbed “Neuron” for this exact reason.
You get to fully customize your character to your liking, which is always a feature I’m bound to waste at least an hour in. Each Neuron officer also has one or more Legion partners working with them, attached to them via an astral chain: a being from another dimension that can’t be seen by anyone else and that can both be used to investigate & battle the enemies.
You start the game with only a Sword Legion: a physical attacker that can deal heavy damage to enemies. From what I’ve seen and heard before, there will be five different Legion units in total, but the demo only shows us the Sword & Bow ones. They share a few traits, like using their chain to lock enemies in place or the fact they can be used to spy on humans. You control them at the same time as your human character and can even use them to pull yourself over gaps. From the looks of it, the simultaneous control is something that will take some getting used to, but this is Platinum Games we’re talking about: there’s no doubt the gameplay will be smooth. You can also set them to attack automatically, just take into account that they need to be unsummoned every once in a while to restore their energy. But enough about their similarities, it’s their differences that are the most interesting.
- Can cuts Astral Chains between enemies, as some more powerful foes also have the same symbiosis going on between them.
- Can perform a spinning attack that can be used as an Area of Effect “crowd-control” ability
- They can analyse weird crystals blocking your path in the other dimensions
- Can shoot far away targets (not just enemies but switches too).
- Can use a focus ability to slow down time.
From the above paragraphs, you’d think your human character is defenceless without a Legion by their side, but you can also perform attacks yourself. In the starting level, the player character had a stun batton that could be used as a melee weapon but could also fire fast bullets (with a low damage output). When the Demo skipped ahead to show us some extra environments and abilities, the player character looked totally different (new outfits had been unlocked) but he was also wielding a giant broadsword. Seems like there will be something here for every playstyle. Though a battle rating after every encounter did encourage you to use as many different attacks and abilities as possible (after all, you’re going to want that S+ rating)
There’s also a perfect dodge move that slows down time just like in Bayonetta and a knee-slide just like in Vanquish. The gameplay loop, on the other hand, seemed to have more in common with Nier: Automata. If you ask me, this game seems like Platinum Games is combining everything that has proven to be successful in their other titles.
Outside of combat
That new gear doesn’t come for free apparently and you’re going to want to earn money in some ways. No doubt you’ll get some for achieving better rankings in battle but even while exploring you can pick up cans and recycle them. You’re already in the business of saving the planet, might as well save the climate.
Whenever an attack has occurred, the Neuron agents are sent to investigate. You’ll have to uncover clues to progress the story: investigate paw-prints, talk to people (or listen in on them via your Legion, which they can’t see, remember?) or use your IRIS technology which reconstructs past events through holograms, based on camera recordings. The gameplay loop of investigating seems fun, but it was a bit simple in the demo. Probably because that scene came from the opening moments of the game, however.
Astral Chain looks like it’s going to be another awesome action title by Platinum Games and I’m very much looking forward to exploring the world and different dimensions. The gameplay looped seemed satisfying and while a lot of story elements are still unsure, it was intriguing enough that I’ve been speculating about it with friends and colleagues after the showing.