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Astellia Online is a game that looks to take the MMORPG genre back to its roots. The website promises that this is not just “a remake of what’s been done before, but a tribute to the original tenants of the MMORPG Phenomena combined with innovation and promise.” So, does Astellia live up to that promise? In short, yes. When it works, that is.

First things first, before we get too deep in, I’m going to mention that Astellia is a buy-to-play game, and that I was provided a code for this video. Still, the opinions found within are no one’s but my own.

Astellia Online is, as I mentioned, a throwback to the traditional style of MMORPG. Set in a fantasy world, you’ll choose a class from one of the three holy trinity archetypes. These classes include Warrior, Assassin, Mage, Archer, and Scholar. For the purposes of this video, I played the Warrior class.

Once you’ve selected a class, you’re thrown into an in-depth character creator. There are all kinds of body morphing options you can undertake with plenty of choices for scars, accessories, deformations, and all kinds of tweaks to make just the right kind of character for you. I was seriously impressed with the number of options to tinker with here.

After you’ve finished your perfect creation, you’re thrust into the game’s intro and tutorials. These work well enough for teaching you the basics of the game but run into other more technical issues as you progress.

To talk about these, we have to talk a bit about the game’s presentation. Astellia Online looks okay. It’s not the best-looking MMORPG I’ve ever played, but it’s not the worst. The major problem is the constant texture and polygon pop-in that happens which causes the game to stutter and hiccup constantly. Frames are always being dropped because the game is so poorly optimized. I tried lowering the settings, but this only helped a little. For a game that’s charging money up front just to play, I expected a lot better in terms of performance.

The game’s audio isn’t anything to write home about either. It’s a load of standard fantasy music that sounds fine while you’re playing, but you probably aren’t likely to be humming any of these tunes after you log out, much less remembering them at all.

Anyway, after the tutorial, you’re led on a standard journey from quest hub to quest hub to complete a series of quests following the game’s story. The game opens with you becoming an Astellian, or one who has the power to summon Astels. Astels are dolls that you can level up to grant you certain powers and fight alongside you in combat. Astels come in three types: servant, the most common type, Guardians, who are more powerful but fewer in number, and Savior types, who are the most powerful, but also the rarest. Astels cost AP to summon and consume it while they’re active and when you use their special skills. Astels gain levels just from being equipped, and some grant special effects when equipped together. You can also upgrade Astels by equipping them with jewels which increase their stats.

Anyway, in the midst of a massive monster attack on your humble village, a little girl who is your character’s sister is kidnapped and it’s up to you to save her. This is the driving force behind your journey to the quest hubs where you’ll start out doing menial tasks like picking up logged wood and clearing out bears to more complicated ones like bathing yourself in Orc stew and tricking a blind orc into thinking you’re one of them.

Quests grant you experience points toward your character’s level, as you may expect, as does the combat. Combat in this game functions a lot like most classic MMORPGs. You tab onto the target you want to fight, start hitting your hotkeys in time to the cooldowns, and eventually it dies. It’s nothing special, but for those who are looking for a classic MMO experience are certainly going to get one. Combat does get spiced up in the game’s dungeons, where bosses have large AOE attacks with markers that you can dodge roll away from to avoid taking damage but that’s about as involved as the combat gets in the early game.

If you like doing dungeons, you’re in luck with Astellia Online as the game believes in having you do them early and often. There seems to be one attached to every other quest hub you go to, and they each offer something new to do to break up the monotony of standard MMO questing. Dungeon difficulty can be adjusted in this game based on the number of people you bring with you, and you can solo most of them just fine as long as you bring the right items and Astels with you. Completing these dungeons and the side-quests that accompany them are a great way to get your character level up that much faster. At level 15 you’ll unlock Farming Dungeons, which should tell you all you need to know about what kind of gameplay loop Astellia Online has.

Whenever you level up, your character is given skill points to spend on improving your base abilities. Usually this amounts to a small increase in damage for a skill or a tiny decrease in its cooldown, but over time these small incremental upgrades add up to something meaningful. Don’t worry if you feel like you spent your points incorrectly, there’s always the option to re-spend your points later if you don’t like your current build.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t feature raid content like more traditional MMORPGs, choosing instead to focus on small-scale group content like normal dungeons and the game’s big PvPvE map, Avalon. This three-way faction war sees players battling each week for dominance. Players can earn points for their faction by completing objectives in this mode and will be rewarded based on their contributions.

Astellia Online has a cash shop, but all the pay-to-win items of the international version of the game have been removed. The only things that remain are basic convenience items like additional character slot vouchers, weapon skins, resurrection scrolls, and skins for your Astels. There are also special holiday themed items available for a limited time, but these don’t convey major gameplay bonuses. While I don’t like the idea of having a cash shop in a game you had to pay to play in the first place, I’ve seen a lot worse than what Astellia offers.

Overall, Astellia Online delivers exactly what it sets out to: a classic MMORPG experience for fans of the classic MMORPG formula, albeit in an incredibly unpolished package. Honestly, I cannot recommend Astellia Online to anyone but the most hardcore of classic MMO fans and even then I’d wait until the performance issues are hammered out.

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