Astor: Blade of the Monolith certainly offers an enjoyable journey to embark upon full of wonderful sights and frantic encounters with foes, but it lacks the originality to stand out as a must-play adventure.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Astor: Blade of the Monolith takes place in the world of Gliese, which had once known peace led by an ancient race known as the Makers and their sentient creations known as the Diokek. However, with the Makers now long gone from the land, it finds itself under threat from vicious creatures known as the Hiltsik. Playing as the titular Astor and armed with the fabled Blade of the Monolith, you venture across the land as a means to find a way to bring the Hiltsik down, all whilst discovering the truth behind the Makers and why they vanished in the first place.

The narrative did enough to pull me into Astor: Blade of the Monolith’s world, but I found it hard to invest myself fully into Astor’s plight given his role as a silent protagonist. I know, I know, it is something which has worked wonderfully with titles such as The Legend of Zelda in the past, but it ended up feeling a little bit off here – especially when interacting with the world and its inhabitants. Does it make the storytelling bad? Certainly not, with plenty of intriguing moments to be found throughout your journey. I would have just enjoyed it a little bit more if Astor had more to say and every interaction didn’t feel so one-sided.

When it comes to the gameplay, Astor: Blade of the Monolith plays like an old-school hack-and-slasher, with players venturing across a variety of colourful locales as they batter any enemies in their path, clear the occasional platforming challenge, and solve a handful of puzzles. There’s a decent selection of weapons and abilities (known as runic powers) to utilise on your journey to give yourself the upper hand over foes, whilst you’re also able to dodge or parry incoming attacks when playing on the defensive. You’ll unlock new skills as you progress, whilst there’s an upgrade system in place to keep up with the ever-evolving threats you face. It’s familiar, but in a satisfying manner that ensures combat is enjoyable.

“It’s always cool to bring in a robotic creature to help out in battle, summon blocks to crush opponents, or manifest a shield to protect yourself from incoming attacks.”

It could be argued that the combat can feel a bit too simple at times, but at least using other weapons does change up how it feels. For example, the hammer is a slower weapon but packs more of a punch, whilst the gauntlets or your sword are more effective when dealing with quick combos. You’ll find that mixing things up can prove advantageous depending on the enemy you’re facing off against, so there’s definitely some tactical nuance to be found in flicking through your arsenal mid-fight. And those runic powers I mentioned? It’s always cool to bring in a robotic creature to help out in battle, summon blocks to crush opponents, or manifest a shield to protect yourself from incoming attacks.

It is a bit low on original ideas though, with Astor: Blade of the Monolith not doing anything that I hadn’t seen before. Whilst there’s a decent variety to your arsenal and the boss battles could be impressive, I don’t think there was a single moment when playing where the game really did something that surprised me. It’s very by the numbers, so if you’re familiar with the genre, you might find yourself a little underwhelmed that the game doesn’t do much to help make itself stand out in the crowd.

I will certainly praise the game for its environmental design though, which looks wonderful throughout. The world is packed with brightly lit colours and vivid imagery that are constantly eye-catching, and whilst you do tread through biomes that feel typical of the fantasy adventure genre, they’re all a treat to scour through thanks to the marvellous visuals on display. The puzzles and platforming segments within each area are enjoyable too, with the world itself offering a lot more than just a pretty face.

Check out some screenshots down below:

It’s just a shame that there are invisible walls found across the world, which would completely break immersion when playing. It’s something that would have been more forgivable back in the day, but it was so frustrating to see a landscape in the distance that was completely restricted thanks to an invisible wall blocking my path. Developers have been much more creative in how they handle this sort of thing in modern titles, so it’s disappointing to see Astor: Blade of the Monolith fall into such an old-school trap of game design.

There were a few other little issues I came across too, such as the camera not keeping up with the action at times (this could be particularly frustrating in some encounters), Astor falling through the environment, and the game even freezing up on a couple of occasions. In fairness, these didn’t happen regularly enough to feel like REAL problems, but it does have some quirks that could have done with ironing out. They’re nothing a patch couldn’t fix at least, with no real game-breaking issues to be found in my roughly eight-hour playthrough that will ruin the experience for players.

Astor: Blade of the Monolith Review

Astor: Blade of the Monolith is a lot of fun to play, but the over-familiar gameplay and lacking storytelling can hold it back. And the invisible walls? Get them out of here, it’s 2024.

Whilst the combat can lack originality, encounters with enemies are always enjoyable thanks to the diversity of your skillset. The environmental design is solid too, with the wonderful looking locales complemented by some decent platforming and puzzle-solving segments that ensure the world is always a treat to explore.

Astor: Blade of the Monolith just doesn’t do enough to make it stand out as an unmissable experience. It’s a good game, sure, but with so many other hack-and-slashing adventures to embark on, it needed to do a bit more to stand out in the crowd.

Developer: C2 Game Studio
Publisher: Versus Evil, tinyBuild
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch