Astral Chain (Switch, 2019) Review

Before getting into Astral Chain I had only seen the reveal trailer which made it look like a sci-fi action game. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I was playing a game with a mix of cyberpunk and sci-fi with a speck of fantasy.

The world building and designs coupled with a fantastic soundtrack are what makes this game stand out. Story and characters are mostly pretty generic, but the great setting really helps to make the plot interesting nonetheless. There is not much happening in terms of character development, but it is not like there is none of that at all. Unfortunately the story jumps the shark near the end, but it delivers quite well up to that point roughly three quarters into the plot.

My impression of the gameplay is mixed. Astral Chain feels like the director had no clear idea of what kind of game they wanted to create. The game is a mix of action, RPG, platformer and puzzle elements. While that should not be a problem as there are many games like this, in this particular case it feels a lot like some of these elements were added to pad the game's playtime.
The combat is quite fun, but it does not play in the league of DMC or Bayonetta. It's quite chaotic and often difficult to have full control. Especially since it often depends on gimmick mechanics that are hard to get used to. You can tell the combat is not fully mature because killing enemies allows you to restore all of your HP. I understand that I may have just been terrible at it, but it does not seem like the combat here is as refined as I had hoped for.
As much as I enjoyed how much there was to explore early on, as the game went on I felt less and less rewarded by finding consumables and materials and increasingly frustrated by how few costume items I came by. The astral world honestly became too much rather early on because real world maps were a lot more fun to explore. Not to mention the abundance of gimmicky puzzles. It really felt like the developers just wanted to add a lot of padding so that players would not complain for a lack of playtime. But I honestly loved how short DMC1,3 and Bayonetta were. Quality over quantity is the maxime. It also goes hand in hand with the rating system and replay value. A game that filled with padding is not exactly fun to play over and over for score. And not to mention the collectathon aspect. Why was that necessary? I eventually came to hate always moving my Legion around to collect red splots.
tl;dr I would have preferred the game to be a short, straight up action experience over this padded wannabe RPG. Sure playing police officer has its own charm and many of the side quests are short, to the point and often creative mini games - there still came a point where all that got old to me and I just wanted the game to be over. But maybe the problem is just that the story was thrown out of the window halfway through because of budget and time constraints. At least that is how I felt when things got apocalyptic all of a sudden.

All in all still a game worth checking out for its great world, ideas and soundtrack. Too bad it could not reach its full potential. But at least it scratched my itch for cyberpunk well enough so that I no longer feel compelled to try out Cyberpunk 2077.