Asteria is as close as I can imagine to a sandbox Super Metroid, and I’m aware of the praise I’m loading upon the game with that comparison. Unashamedly taking inspiration in terms of exploration and crafting from games such as Minecraft and Terraria and then sci-fi sensibilities from Metroid and Contra, Asteria comes up as something unique yet familiar. Accessible in terms of controls, Asteria’s scope is huge, with randomly generated worlds, multiplayer, dungeons, tiers of items and bosses – for an indie gaming the developers have some lofty aspirations, can they deliver?
Starting off Asteria gently leads you through the basics of controlling your robotic death and drilling machine. You use the keyboard to move, mouse to aim and shoot, left mouse for your blaster and right mouse for your mining laser. That’s right, a mining laser. Whereas these kind of craftalot games have limited you to meleeing rocks until they break to piece, in Asteria you’ll quickly find yourself shooting tunnels into the side of a mountain to get at the precious ore within. There’s plenty of beasties about too and while in its current form lotrs of the graphics aren’t complete, you’ll almost constantly besieged by critters and gun-wielding troopers looking to end your life. Thankfully when you die, nothing really happens, you just teleport back to the last waypoint you checked in with.
This is one of the keys to the unique side of Asteria, everything is about having fun. Death doesn’t really matter, it just makes you lose a little progress, you don’t need to spend ages building up equipment only to lose it moments later. Similarly your inventory is basically infinite (there’s some kind of cap but it’s huge) and items can stack as high as you like, so there’s no need to dump all of that dirt you collect. The crafting system is simple and works by presenting you with things you can create, rather than you trying to work that out from the ingredients. All of these aspects put together mean you spend more time exploring and taking greater risks, rather than playing it safe and progressing slowly.
There is an end to the game as you discover dungeon entrances and fight each boss until the last one falls at your feet. To get there you’ll work your way through tiers of equipment, starting with the basic iron guns, armour and mining laser, all the way through flamethrowers, spread gun shots and mining lasers that can shoot out a cavern with a single pulse.The sense of empowerment is huge as the gulf between each tier seems to get wider and wider. When you build a new weapon it’s not an incremental increase, it’s a complete revolution, enabling you to power through all of the enemies that previously gave you grief, reducing them to a bloody mist without even breaking a sweat.
All of this speed and empowerment is fantastic but the current build isn’t without its problems. At the moment the game is still in its very early stages and while it’s functionally great, there’s still a lot of polish to be done. Sprites and animations are often missing so the world is unintentionally hilarious as you are chased by swarms of orange boxes. The game is however getting better with every new patch and release, and currently you can buy into it for a shade under $15, which is just under £10 in real money. For that price you’re getting access to the game as it is, plus all future updates, for £30 you can get a 4-pack so you can play with your friends.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Asteria but we’ve been having a blast with it already, once the devs decide to release it as a finished product we’ll be bringing you our review.