In 2017 we saw Platinum Games deliver us a Nierly Perfect action adventure role-playing game in the form of Nier: Automata. Two years later, Platinum is back with another masterpiece of a game. With Nintendo publishing the Switch-exclusive Astral Chain, Platinum Games have once again delivered an exceptionally good game that oozes both style and substance.
What exactly makes Astral Chain so great though? The answer to this question lies in the myriad of gameplay elements that blend together so well. Once you start playing Astral Chain, you’re going to have a hard time putting it down.
Astral Chain’s story takes place on a futuristic version of the planet Earth and on the “Astral Plane” itself. Humanity has been facing extinction for a number of reasons and the mega corporations that run the futuristic world decided to band together to build an artificial, self-sustaining man-made island known as “The Ark”. The Ark is humanity’s last megacity and the remnants of mankind have retreated to The Ark to seek refuge from a foreign invasion of entities known as “Chimeras”.
The Chimeras stem from the Astral Plane and they capture, kill or corrupt living things with energy known as “Red Matter”. These Chimeras are not unstoppable though and mankind has thankfully developed a mechanism of fighting back. Neuron, a peacekeeping police force using the latest in advanced weapons tech, has been established to fight against the Chimera invasion. Players will take on the role of one of two twins that work for Neuron.
Upon selecting your gender, your twin will be assigned the opposite one and they will carry the name “Akira Howard”. Players will be able to customise their own character with a range of hairstyles, skin tones and eye colours as well as assign them a name of their own. The character customisation is rather rigid though and more cosmetic items are only unlocked later in the game.
During the course of the first mission, your playable character and your twin are soon gifted with a “Legatus” to take on a more powerful Chimera enemy. The Legatus is a handheld system that effectively leashes a Chimera and keeps it under control. This leashed Chimera which is known as a Legion, is controlled via an Astral Chain. The Astral Chain allows players to send them out to attack at long-range or reel them in to defend you at close range.
Gameplay in Astral Chain is a perfect blend of various types of gameplay elements. From linear on-rails shooting segments to more visceral third person hack and slash style battles, Astral Chain has a clear similarity to Platinum Game’s Nier: Automata in terms of its excellent stylistic combat-oriented gameplay. That’s not a bad thing at all though since the combat is incredibly fluid throughout and being able to control your Legion sweetens the deal further.
Players will be able to move the Legion around themselves and can wrap enemies in the Astral Chain to disable them. Additionally, players will be able to augment their Legions with new skills and power-ups that boost their combat prowess. Astral chain’s combat is incredibly addictive and even though the game can be a bit on the button-bashy side of things, players will have to apply strategy to beat Chimera enemies and bosses. The only minor gripe we have with the game is that the camera control can be a bit iffy in close-quarters at times.
All Tied Up
Apart from the combat, Astral Chain features a base of operations where players will be able to chat to NPC characters and take on “Side cases”. These are side missions that usually involve completing specific tasks or delivering certain items to someone. The actual main storyline missions are “Cases” and these can have side missions to complete within them as well. Apprehending criminal citizens or using your Legion to interact with the environment to complete side cases adds another layer of depth to the game that is highly appreciated.
Upon completing story missions, players will also be awarded a rank for their gameplay. Perform a specific combo and you may rack up bonus points. Achieving a specific rank for a mission results in more rewards as you progress through the game. These rewards range from items to outfits for your character or different colour schemes for your legion. It’s satisfying and checks all the right boxes in terms of driving you forward into the game and in adding a replay-ability factor that’s lacking in some story driven titles.
Graphically, Astral Chain is gorgeous. The anime aesthetic and flashy effects never disappoint and there are genuinely numerous moments in the game where you’ll want to take screenshots because of how gorgeous it is. Thankfully, there’s a photo mode which gets unlocked later too, which capitalises on how great the game looks. The soundtrack used in Astral Chain is just as good too. It’s filled with infectious tunes and the battle music never gets annoying throughout. The voice acting is well done but we wish that every line of text from NPC were voiced too. When a major non-playable character starts off a conversation with voiced lines and then stops for the rest of the conversation, it does break the immersion somewhat and we wish that all lines were voiced throughout for consistency.
Overall, Astral Chain is another great game that calls the Nintendo Switch home. It has fast paced combat and a captivating story to boot. If you’re a fan of hack and slash type games such as Devil May Cry 5 or Nier: Automata, Astral Chain will definitely appeal to you and keep you captivated for hours and hours on end. It comes highly recommended from us.
Astral Chain was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided to us