Welcome! This column is part of a regular series in which we share what members of the Tom's Guide staff are playing and enjoying right now, with an eye towards helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our recent entry, where we talk about Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.
The video games industry is inundated with Souls-likes. This flavor of action RPG attempts to recreate the magic of FromSoftware's landmark Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring franchises. You might be familiar with games like this, often punishingly difficult with vague stories and intense resource management.
Many have fallen flat on their faces in their attempts to be the next Dark Souls, but some have stood out as better than the others. These are often the ones that set out on their own, standing on FromSoftware's shoulders to forge their own path. One of these is the newly released Asterigos: Curse of the Stars, a game that I can't get enough of.
A different kind of Souls-like
Whereas most Souls-likes take up Dark Souls' medieval fantasy setting, or sometimes Bloodborne's Gothic/Victorian one, Asterigos uses the Greco-Roman period for its inspiration. Most NPCs have distinctly Greek and Roman names, like Minerva and Eumenides. The game's central locale, Aphes, appears like a large Classical city — complete with features we typically associate with Greek architecture like Doric columns and an agora — advanced by the use of magic.
Games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring have a swath of stats to spec into, creating a variety of builds unique to your play style. While I love that, some might find it overwhelming. Asterigos skips most of this, opting for a more accessible experience with three core stats to worry about.
There aren't a bunch of weapons and such to find, either. The protagonist, Hilda, starts off with her whole arsenal that you then improve over the course of the game. Whether you want the tried and true sword and shield, the spear for range, daggers for high-risk/high-reward gameplay, or the staff for magic, Hilda is a woman of many skills that cater to however you want to play right out of the gate. Asterigos even has three difficulty settings, one of which can be brutal at times.
Still an indie
I have very few complaints about Asterigos, which has worked flawlessly on my PC thus far. But in the end, it's an indie title and suffers from the typical shortcomings. The combat, while good enough, can feel clunky at times, even if Hilda's animations seem rather fluid. The lock-on system is pretty aggressive, sometimes leading to odd camera angles which put you in danger.
I enjoy the story quite a bit, and I like Hilda as a protagonist, but the narrative has some odd quirks here and there. Dialogue can be especially cringe-worthy, though it's serviceable most of the time.
Asterigos obviously threw a lot of its budget into its graphics and gameplay, which shows, not leaving much for the voice actors. Most are fine, though Hilda's actress grated on my nerves occasionally. Some are just outright subpar. Major dialogue sequences are voiced, but not the minor ones. It can be rather jarring going from a verbal conversation to reading out extra information and going back to spoken words.
I don't fault Asterigos for its indie nature. In fact, I love it for it. This game looks great with its cartoony art style, it runs well, and even its weaknesses don't truly detract from my experience.
I want a sequel
I haven't finished Asterigos yet, as I'm taking it slowly and trying to focus on other activities in 2023 besides gaming. However, I have had a blast so far and I can't wait to see what's next for Hilda. With that in mind, I already want a sequel. I'd like to see developer Acme Gamestudio address some of the game's shortcomings, notably smoothing out the combat and lock-on system.
If you want something a little different from the Dark Souls clones, give Asterigos: Curse of the Stars a try. It's been well worth my time so far, and I'm excited every chance I have to play it. I love Dark Souls and Elden Ring, but Asterigos' simpler nature better suits my limited time to play video games, even on the hardest difficulty.
This is definitely a game I'll come back to replay in the future.