Yin and Yang.
Two opposing forces that are complementary of each other. They are independent and yet interconnected. They are adamantly against each other but desperately need each other to live.
This dualism in cosmology is shared in many aspects of life. Sith vs Rebels. God vs Satan. Light vs Dark. Good vs Evil. It’s a simple idea that can be applied to many things, but can also be a complex thing to master.
It’s this central theme at the heart of Astrea that makes it so fun.
Purity vs. Corruption
The main battle in Astrea is the battle between Purity, the positive aspect in this world, and Corruption, the negative. The corruption is spreading throughout the land and you are one of the chosen ones who must purify it to save the world you love.
However, corruption isn’t something to avoid completely, and you honestly can’t even if you try. The way the game is set up actually rewards you for taking corruption in small bits because it’s necessary. Astrea challenges you to not only damage your foe and heal your wounds, but to take control of the damage being done to you so that you can do even more.
It’s risk vs. reward, and it’s oh so much fun!
If You Build It…
Astrea is setup with many familiar elements to anyone who has played a builder game, deck or dice, which is good because that allows you to jump in fairly quickly, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there isn’t much variety.
After a nifty intro cinematic that feels borrowed from Breath of the Wild (but fits in perfectly with the aesthetic of this game) you choose your Oracle. This is your “commander” and is much more than just an avatar. They have unique Virtues (powerful attacks) that they can use to make short work of their enemy or help you out in a pinch.
For the demo there was only one playable Oracle, Moonie the owl, but there will be six total upon release. The game pulls many ideas from dice, like the six-sided idea, but its main inspiration is astrology as can be seen in everything from art to the story.
From the start you are tasked with choosing how you want to play this game when you choose where you start on your path on the map. What you look at in the telescope gives you a special Blessing: a Star, which has a lower power passive effect in game with no negatives, or a Black Hole, which has a powerful passive effect in game with an additional drawback. The Blessing I got below gave me 1 additional die per turn, but I couldn’t see what the enemy rolled for 2 turns. I’m not sure how many Blessings there are in the game but I haven’t come across the same two yet in my repeated playing.
The customization doesn’t stop there as you are then able to add to your dice pool. Throughout the game when you visit a chest on the map you will be able to add 2 more dice to your pool. All your available dice are located in the pool (bag) top right corner of the screen and increase as you unlock more. I have 8 six-sided dice available (which I’m sure change slightly per character): 2 Arcane Purify dice, an 2 Owl Shield dice, 2 Stellar Cleanse dice, a Refine die, and a Brainy die.
When you access the chest, you are able to choose from three more types of dice: Safe, Balanced or Risky. Each of these dice have six different sides randomly applied based on a series of factors giving all your dice unique qualities, and bigger or smaller chance for risk or reward. A Risky die obviously has a bigger chance for a reward, but also a bigger chance for landing on heavy Corruption. A Safe die lay all in the Purify field with Balanced striking an equilibrium of the two.
All of that work pays off when you get into battle!
Your 5+starting dice are randomly chosen as is a single die for the enemy. They’ll be a numerical value of 1-6, of Purity or Corruption, and sometimes another effect on top of that which defines some restriction or additional effect. Some dice are strictly rerolls, cancels, reversals or some other singular effect that can change dice in some way.
From there the idea is, on the surface, simply reduce your enemies Corruption to zero before they can corrupt you, but the journey to that point is not so simple.
You attack the enemy with Purify dice thus purifying their Corruption, but these can also heal you if needed. Corruption dice will heal the enemy but damage you, and if you have rolled any Corruption dice you must use them! That means if you can’t change that dice you either have to heal the enemy or damage yourself. Risk vs. reward. However, damaging yourself isn’t as bad as it sounds because of your Virtues.
Virtues are the special attacks that your character has to use during the game which can be seen above that bar above your playable dice. The bad news is you have to take a bit of corruption to use them, which is what that bar tracks. For instance, if Moonie takes 1 damage she can use her first Virtue which allows her to reroll any die. If she takes 3 Corruption she is able to use her second Virtue which deals four Purity (damage) to the enemy, and the final Virtue is at 5 Corruption and allows her to draw an extra die from her pool.
This methods allows you some recourse for an enemy who is dealing damage to you, but also gives you more strategy. For instance, instead of throwing the corrupted dice at the enemy which would heal fill up their Over Corruption meter (allowing them to attack immediately), you could use them on yourself which will Corrupt you but also give you access to your Virtues. You can hit the enemy with her Purity dice or use them to heal yourself. All of these options give the player strategy during the battles. A give and take that is at the heart of the game.
And hearts are what determines if you live or die. Three strikes and you are out – game over – determined by three hearts located around your avatar. 21 points of Corruption; 7 Corruption each heart. Purity per heart you can get back at the end of a battle, but once you lose a heart it is gone for good until the shrine before the final battle. That’s why it’s important to work on balance.
For the little bit I’ve played so far of the demo, this is an extremely well made game. It features stunning hand-drawn graphics that play on the good/evil blue and red color scheme. The music fits perfectly with the game and is wonderfully done as are the sound effects.
There’s a ton of versatility depending on how you want to play. No, there’s no custom dice pool building like there is in deck building games, but that motif really wouldn’t fit in this game. However, there are a ton options that allow you make that random pool more to your liking.
And there’s even more I didn’t even talk about like buffs you can apply to your character and that get applied to your enemy; the Forge Shops that allow you to buy (using Shards collected in game) improvements to, destroy or duplicate your dice; and Sentinel Shops that allow you to buy various Sentinels to fight alongside you in battle.
I am enjoying the free demo of Astrea a ton and I can’t wait to see how the other Oracles play and what the developers have in store for this game in the future!