For most MMO players, it’s incredibly easy right now to be caught up in the hype surrounding the impending release of World of Warcraft Classic. After all, although the early game and expansions were a little less forgiving in terms of its gameplay, World of Warcraft quickly became one of the first MMOs to be recognized on a more societal scale, introducing the world of MMOs to a new audience. Although World of Warcraft has had its ups and downs, it has helped open the realm of possibilities for other MMOs to enter the scene and make a name for themselves. One of the latest titles to make its way to players’ machines is Astellia, from Barunson E&A and STUDIO 8.
Welcome to Astellia
Astellia is set within a world of fantasy, in which player-controlled Astellians are heroes blessed by the stars, granting them the special ability to call upon magical entities named Astels whenever they may be in need. Astellians are tasked with protecting the innocent from the chaos that encompasses the world. Players will traverse open battlefields as well as dungeons, and can do so as a lone wolf or with a group of party members. A PVP element also exists for those more interested in testing their skills within the battlegrounds of Avalon.
If this all sounds vaguely reminiscent of other MMO games that you’ve played, that is by design. Astellia categorizes itself as a “Classical MMORPG striving to return the genre to its roots.” The description goes on to say that it’s not just rehashing what’s been done before in other games, but is “instead, a tribute to the original tenants of the MMORPG Phenomena combined with innovation and promise.”
Based on my playthrough experience during the game’s last closed Beta, I can confirm that not only is that statement correct, but also that Astellia could potentially be the next major MMO.
Before diving into my first few hours spent in the Closed Beta, it needs to be stated that I am by no means an expert with the MMORPG genre. In fact, ever since I entered the world of MMOs as a “BC Baby” in World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade, I could probably be considered one of the most casual players in the genre. I enjoy running through various settings and visually-stimulating environments, following the story close enough to understand what’s going on without being super knowledgeable in the deeper lore, and leveling my character while outfitting them with powerful gear that also happens to be awesome-looking. In all these ways, Astellia seems to already be succeeding.
The classes were gender-locked during the Beta, but the character creation process was very in-depth and well-done. I selected the Scholar class - Warrior, Assassin, Mage, and Archer were the other classes available - and spent a good 30-minutes fine-tuning my character’s features.
Classes eventually become more defined (such as a Cleric, Shaman, or Oracle for the Scholar Class), which allows for players to specialize based on their gameplay experience preferences.
The game drops you into the action immediately, sending you on some quests to battle it out with demons and level your character (rather quickly) as you make your journey through the lands of Astellia. The default UI is as any MMO player would expect, but those with prior experiences will quickly make sense of chaos. The overall visuals of the game are also what you’d expect from a fantasy MMORPG, with charming environments accompanied by whimsical music.
"People Let Me Tell You 'Bout My Best Friends"
Beyond the typical combat abilities, Astels are essentially your new best friends. Rota, for instance, an Astel of the Clockwork who turns the wheel of Fate, is the first Astell to join your ranks, bringing her tanking skills to help keep enemies’ attention off of you. Each Astell comes with their own abilities and moves. Once you start gaining more Astels, you can start receiving stat bonuses based on the Astels you have grouped together, also known as “Deck Effects.”
These effect bonuses include everything from looting (increasing the chance that you’ll get twice as much asper - Astellia’s currency - when looting corpses) to combat (increasing the chance that you will ignore the damage upon taking a hit). The higher the level, the higher your chances.
Finally, one of the Astels is an armor-wearing duck named, Tetrinio, who is a far more superior support character than anything Donald ever offered in Kingdom Hearts series, so that alone should make you more than eager to play.
So Far, So Good
This was the second closed Beta for the game, which opened up PVP arenas. You can get an idea as to what you’re in for by checking out this gameplay video.
Unfortunately, my time spent in the Astellia closed-beta was not as much as I would have liked it to have been, and mostly focused on performing quests, falling just short of gaining access to the game’s first dungeon that unlocks at Level 15.
Ultimately, in my opinion, Astellia could be the next great MMO, assuming more resources are spent on marketing the game that, before this preview, I had no prior knowledge of. The game has me both excited for its future, as well as nervous that plenty of my free time will soon be spent within the magical and mysterious world of Astellia. Coming from the most casual of MMO fans, this is the ultimate compliment.