Second impressions: Astellia Online’s launch version is a solidly average MMO

    
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Here we go again.

So… here’s the thing about Astellia Online. You remember my first impressions piece? I freely acknowledged that the game was fundamentally a fine title that wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind wildly, that shot at “solidly competent” and seemed to be hitting that mark well enough. And now we’re here at the launch version, and I feel like I can safely say… well, yes, those first impressions actually hold up.

That’s not to say nothing has changed, though. In fact, I also feel like enough has changed that if you were on the fence about the game before, this might push you over the fence. And I also kind of like the game to begin with. It’s a set of conflicting feelings – that’s what we’re getting at here.

Let’s start with the basics. If you haven’t read that piece, this one is basically a sequel and expansion from that, so… start there. The bottom line is that if you think Astellia Online looks like a specific type of imported MMO that’s a rung above “temport” but below titles that clearly have big budgets and pushes behind them, you’re not wrong. That’s always what it looked like and always what it was going to be.

But let’s talk about those changes for the full launch version. It’d be nice to say they’re all good or all bad, but they’re really, a matter of both. Let’s start with the Assassin I kicked off playing immediately.

Assassins and Warriors were two of the game’s five gender-locked classes, but one of the big promises ahead of launch was that the gender locks would be abolished. Lady Assassins and Warriors were promised for launch, with male versions of the previous female-only classes planned for later patches. And the good news is that these classes are indeed in the game, playable, and fun.

Here’s the downside: The removal of gender locking does not unlock wildly different character models. If you were hoping that the change in restrictions would mean the option to play a female character not in high heels or without the same sway-backed posing, well, get used to disappointment. But, at the same time, Assassin outfits seem to be generally less one-note “look sexy and maybe put some leather on there” than the comparative Archer outfits, which is actually a pretty significant change on its own.

I’m happy to see this option here regardless, though. It’s something promised but not available in testing, which could always result in it getting shoved to the wayside ahead of launch. Nope! Here it is, and the interface to switch genders is nice and smooth for a game that didn’t have the option during its initial launch. Good show!

Oh, that's different.There are also various story beats that are different, and it’s here that my feelings are… well, mixed. On the one hand, it’s nice to see more cinematics and more explanation of what’s going on in the story here. On the other hand, some parts of the changed story wind up either making less sense or just swapping a more interesting story for a more boring one.

For example, after the battle in the tutorial, we now learn that it’s been four months since that attack hit. On the one hand, it does explain why the initial attack isn’t still a going concern and why things have largely been put back together. On the other hand, it seems sort of weird that you wind up gaining four levels in a single evening, then spend four months standing around doing basically nothing and then get on with your quest.

Then there’s the main story you start following right away. In the beta, it was set up that the knights you were working with had a leader who didn’t particularly care about the smaller problems like kidnappings, even if those smaller problems were themselves inherently tied to much bigger problems. I kind of liked that. The implication wasn’t so much that there was a den of corruption so much as, you know, standard obstructive leadership.

Not so now; instead, the knights are completely on-board with everything going on and you are being explicitly supported from the word go. Perhaps this is based on your choice of class, but I think it’s more likely a change for the worse on the level.

Still… it’s not like any of this is really game-breaking, is it? Even the addition of female Assassins and Warriors is more of a change of skin than a change in gameplay. The stuff you were going to be doing for the majority of the game hasn’t changed.

It’s why I find my impressions kind of wandering all over the place. These are some pretty significant changes from a large-scale standpoint. It’s a big deal that the first quest dungeon is now a charming beachside area instead of a dank cave. But the new area has the same actual map as the old one, so while it’s a change in skin, that’s not going to really rewrite your experience of play.

But maybe it will because when you have so much of your emotional reaction based in part around what you’re playing something as little as a new set of visuals can make a big difference… and so we go, circling round and round again without much of a conclusion.

By the sea shore.

All of this leads me to ask what I actually think about Astellia Online, now that we have its launched version and not just its beta. For a game where my first impressions were “well, this is average and acceptable,” I have devoted an awful lot of time to playing the game and thinking about it. This is not usual behavior for me. So why have I spent this much time on the title when by my own admission it’s kind of middle-of-the-road?

“Because you’re an idiot” isn’t quite the same as an explanation, for the record. It’s not wrong but it doesn’t explain it.

I’ve actually given that a fair amount of thought, and I think that part of the reason is just that Astellia Online scratches a particular itch that doesn’t get scratched all that often in MMORPGs of late. Yes, it definitely has some flaws, and no, it’s not a singular triumph. But at the same time, it’s an MMO that appears to have had actual thought and care put into it. The addition of new gender options, the system changes for the North American release, the little touches here and there… this isn’t a game that was shuffled out the door by a studio that has dozens of other temports to move through this year, even if it also wasn’t another large-budget triple-A release.

That earns the game more than a small bit of affection for me. It’s just nice to play that. There has to be space in the world for that sort of thing, for games that you might not want as a main title but at least make you feel like the time and money spent on them were not wasted. Vacations, or if you’d prefer, day trips out into the world.

So, yes, my original assessment holds up. Astellia Online is a solidly average MMO that aims for the good side of competent and consistently hits it without ever far surpassing that bar, and it’s entering a market where there are a lot of other quality titles competing for your attention. But in many ways, I find it refreshing and pleasant despite its shortcomings. Your mileage may vary, but it used my time in such a way that it did not feel at all wasted.

Also, I really like that soundtrack. The title screen music is spot-on.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?

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Castagere Shaikura

I just can’t get past the loli crap. That lame-ass loli with the hoop bugs me along with that little girl at the start. The game is a ripoff Arua Kingdom anyways so I will stick with that on the private server. And in the Arua Kingdom, you get to pick which companion you want to start out with and one is a baby dragon.

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Diclonius Franbunny

Well first off you don’t understand what “loli” is and 2 this game is TAME compared to other games with ACTUAL loli content in them. Most of the characters, btw the charater with the hoop is not a loli, that’s Rota, and she’s an adult figured doll who behaves like an adult not a child, are just small and short cute, rather than actual “loli.” There’s only 2 companion characters that would actually be considered “loli” and they’re not sexualized in anyway. Most of the characters are just chibi cute style, and not loli. The real issue with the “lolis” in the game is the Mage, which unlike other MMOs with loli characters actually have boobs and breasts, and options to make them more adult and mature.

This game is a 1 out of 10 on concerns of “loli.”
The only real issue with it, is the players exploiting that niche, but they’re rare compared to the garbage filth of them in TERA and BnS and the lala creeps in FF14.
The issue is more with their annoying *CUTE COMBAT NOISES* Because it can get annoying.

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Steven Williams

“adult figured doll who behaves like an adult not a child, are just small and short cute”

“1 out of 10 on concerns of ‘loli'”

“you don’t understand what ‘loli’ is”

It’s a loli class. Come on.

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Solaris

Thank you. Couldn’t agree more. Astellia is good at what it sets out to do. Nothing ground breaking here. Some nice design elements that does provide some unique gameplay. I think the dev team did a fantastic job of Westernizing the title as much as humanly possible in a very short window of time. I think this dev team really deserves some kudos for their hard work.

Will I play this game faithfully? No. Enjoy dabbling here and there and casually playing, Yes.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Thanks, Eliot. Very helpful and informative.

I agree that some middling games can scratch an itch that high-flying games don’t or can’t. I’ve put hours into an MMO called Eldevin, which its developers put in maintenance mode years ago. But I enjoy its world, the crafting and the laid back design. I’ve also put considerable hours into Alganon, the infamous WoW clone, simply because it is a WoW clone, but far less demanding. And pig mounts. Right now it’s off line, but I keep tabs on it, hoping it will eventually come back.

Anyway, looking forward to giving Astellia a try.

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JBNL

Thank you for this article.
I’m now much more likely to take a plunge into the game and see what it’s like!
(Even though I’m still nursing reservations)

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Diclonius Franbunny

I am thoroughly surprised at the optimization efforts put into Astellia. The game runs surprisingly well considering it’s UE3 and DX9, as well as it’s age in development. Not only that but functionally the game operates well, and feels smooth, and clean. It doesn’t have hiccups and serious issues that are present in so many Korean MMORPGs, and MMO games.
It absolutely puts BnS, TERA, BDO, Bless, RevO, and many other MMOs to utter shame. How a 1st time MMO company manages to make a better operating smoother more optimized game than these much more experienced Developers, I will never know, but’s a real joke to see how well Astellia runs compared to most korean MMOs out there.
I am enjoying the sheer quality of feel and gameplay functionality to the game, as compared to previous MMOs that I have played.(Looking at you BnS, BDO and TERA).
The devs actually listening to our issues and fixing them, improvements is a real breath of fresh air. How many times have westerners played korean MMOs and made suggestions that only float on the wind or get received with a “screw you buy more cash shop stuff, you sap.”
To see that they are actually trying, and listening, is fantastic.

The graphics, while an aquired taste I totally understand, are gorgeous. The music is wonderful, the gameplay is great, the leveling is comfortable and calm, the story is…kinda bad but the characters are endearing. The character creator is huge and impressive, and there are so many little things about the game that make it wonderful to just play.

I wasn’t going to give the game a chance, then I tried it during the CBTs and really liked it, and now live it’s even better and cleaner, and smoother running.
I just hope everyone else gives it the chance it deserves because, if there ever was a korean developer who actually deserved a bit of a chance… Barunson has deserved it.

Thanks for your insight and a good look at the game, Eliot.

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Karma_Mule

Very similar impressions as Franbunny and Eliot…. lots of idiosyncrasies and the storyline is quite bland, but actual combat and gameplay is fun, and the world is indeed gorgeous.

I’m happy they’re un-gender-locking the magic-classes and hope they do it soon. And, a little unhappy at how sexualized the female classes are and they don’t even have the decency to at least give a posterior slider for the guys. I mean, C’MON, can’t I have some eye-candy too?!?!

;-p

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Rick Mills

Good review, Eliot – I agree with you – It’s not Aion (I loved that game before the horrible changes) but it is very entertaining to play.