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The Orion

Astral Chain: Another strong link for PlatinumGames

From left to right: Astral Chain’s male protagonist, the “Sword Legion” and the female protagonist. Image Courtesy of Platinum Games

“Astral Chain” is PlatinumGames’ latest action-adventure title. Coming after the massively successful and highly praised “Nier: Automata,” the gaming world was excited to see what the studio’s next project would be.

The game begins with an asteroid hitting Earth and spreading the planet with “Red Matter.” Rifts have also opened up and android like creatures called “Chimera” are appearing out of these rifts to attack humans and spread the Red Matter.

A special refuge for humanity called the Ark was made to create “Legions” to fight the Chimera. Legions are captured chimera that have been modified by humanity to be tethered to a human partner via a chain. You play as one of two twins who belong to the special police force called Neuron who are in charge of fighting back against the “chimera” along with their Legion partner. Your job is to stop the chimera threat and uncover the mysteries of the rifts and Red Matter.

Coming out exclusively for the Nintendo Switch was a risk for a new title but has so far shown no signs of hampering success.

The strength of the game has to be the gameplay, although it has a steep learning curve to begin with. Controlling your main character and your Legion takes some getting used to if you have a friend you can each control one of them. The Legion attacks on its own for the most part but calling it back and using abilities and special moves falls on the player; once it all clicks the action is fun and frantic, a staple of a Platinum game.

You earn up to five different Legions as you progress in the game, that you can switch back and forth from at will, so the combat never gets stale. Customizing and earning experience for your Legion is also another great way the game keeps its combat fresh throughout its 20-hour campaign.

Where the game could use the most help is in its pacing and overall story. The story is straightforward and pretty much an afterthought most of the time. It’s predictable and at times felt like watching an episode of any mech anime you’ve ever seen.

For some odd reason, whether you choose the male or female protagonist, the one you choose will be speechless. This leads to some emotional moments feeling flat and almost comical at times. If you had the voice actor for each protagonist, why not have all the cutscenes voice acted?

You go to the Neuron station after each mission where you can customize your player or Legion and explore the facility and do side-quests. The main downside being an annoying dog mascot, and a song that is so irritating you’ll mute the game when you are in the station.

At the start of each mission, there is an hour of detective work you must do before getting to any action. You talk to everyone in sight and do so until you get 100% on the investigation, which boils to what did that person say? Even if you forget and answer wrong the story still progresses.

Mercifully the game stops this trend in the middle when it turns to straight action for the remainder of the game. The second half of the game is a joy until the end and uses Astral Chain’s strengths to carry the load. If the whole game was like this, it would easily win my game of the year.

The saving grace is a great end half but that bogged down the first half is unforgivable. It brings the game down a level because a game shouldn’t punish a player and reward them later. Pacing issues and a boring story keep this game from reaching its true potential.

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at @rtovarg13 on Twitter or [email protected].

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