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Ex Astris review – “A premium RPG in more ways than one, without the hefty price tag”

  • If you’re tired of gacha summons, Ex Astris might just be your cup of tea
  • Compelling (and sometimes complicated) combat for the premium price of $9.99
  • The lack of controller support is a bummer, though

You can’t take two steps without praying to the RNG gods in mobile games these days, but Ex Astris aims to change all that with its – dare I say it – rare premium model. Hypergryph and Gryphline’s latest mobile offering is a combination of turn-based and real-time gameplay packed nicely in a $9.99 package – a curious decision for the devs to make in a market that’s saturated with gachas and in-app purchases.

But while setting a premium price for a mobile game is now the exception rather than the norm, does this bold new move truly pay off?


Table of contents:


EX ASTRIS VISUALS

Ex Astris’ valiant efforts at monetisation aside, the 3D RPG deserves praise for its visuals alone, and it’s not surprising given the popular titles under the developer’s belt. You’ll play as Yan, an investigator from Earth, tasked with exploring the vibrant world of Allindo while battling fearsome beasts and befriending colourful locals along the way. two female anime characters standing against a blue sky

Allindo itself is a sight to behold, with its rich lore and distinct regions you can explore in your RV coach. The planet’s environmental wonders – and its looming storms – add a magical charm to the narrative, especially with the little critters I sometimes spotted here and there (there was one odd little ball that sprouted snakes from its holes, but then the squiggly things promptly darted back in each time I got too close).

The high-quality visuals come at a cost though, as you’ll likely need a more powerful device to get it to run without a hitch. My phone would always run hot while playing, and a full hour would cost a 30% chunk of my battery life.

As for the game’s story, the terms and local culture do tend to get overly complicated at times, and it almost feels it is trying too hard to give the narrative a dramatic or epic quality. It didn’t work for me, to be honest – thankfully, the gameplay itself was compelling enough to keep me going.

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THE GAMEPLAY OF EX ASTRIS

The combat, I feel, is where this single-player title truly shines, as it’s an interesting mix of both real-time and turn-based elements with quick-time events spliced in between. I do think it’s not for the beginner or the casual player, as the mechanics demand dedicated concentration and, unfortunately, lots of memorisation. a female character attacking a monster

What do I mean? Each character in your three-party team will have their own set of skills you can unlock from a skill tree, with different states that you can apply as you attack enemies. You can customise which skill to attach to a specific “style” of combat you want, which is the Wave or the Particle style. Once you set these skills, you can pick between the two to determine which set of skills you can use during battle.

Here’s where the memorisation comes in. Each skill is represented by a small icon around your character’s profile icon, and really, to maximise your damage output, you’ll need to memorise which skills do what and which skills you need to chain together. Each move costs AP, but some skills recover AP organically, like when you hit a Downed enemy with a Downed strike (status effects are a whole other thing). You have to memorise this sequence for all three of your characters, so in the end, it all becomes a matter of programming your sequence onto your brain each time it’s your turn to attack.



When it’s your enemy’s turn to attack, you can perform an absolute parry by timing your defence. You can tap an icon on the lower left of your screen to pull off an Obscuran Maneuver, which is a bit of a QTE-esque move that helps you create the perfect defence. You’ll also have to memorise certain symbols here to switch between characters right before the enemy attacks though, as some incoming attacks can only be parried by a very specific pattern. There’s also Balance, Hyper Time, Ultimates, and Roy’s Ionix to worry about, plus Orbitals you can level up and Conjugates you can equip.

Confused? So was I. It’s wonky; I know. I did start to get the hang of it after a lot of trial and error, and once I did, battles became extremely satisfying. There’s no auto-fight function here, no way to speed through combat by over-levelling. You can’t get by simply by raising your stats or levelling up – you really have to plan out your moves with every battle and devote your full attention to the fight.

mobile RPG menu stat boosts

It does tend to get repetitive after a while, but it’s still pretty refreshing to have something this new within a mobile RPG.

WHAT’S THE APPEAL?

That said, the game isn’t without its share of frustrations. For one thing, there’s no controller support, so you’re entirely at the mercy of your touchscreen. While it’s not an issue when you’re simply moving the virtual joystick around and panning the camera while exploring, it becomes a pain in the butt when you need some quick thumb movements like leaping across shaky platforms that crumble under your weight if you don’t hop off fast enough.

For another, the platforming also felt odd to me, as there’s no jump button here – you’ll have to get close enough to the edge for your character to perform an automatic jump, which is simply jarring for anyone who wants more control over whether or not they fall to their untimely death in the chasm below.

a female character gliding across a ravine

Speaking of dying, much like traditional console RPGs, your survival hinges upon your save files, so don’t forget to save often. You can play the game offline, but each time you go online, you can upload your local save files so you can access them on a different device. There’s an autosave function too, of course, but I still felt better manually saving at every important crossroad in the game – a quality which I actually missed.

Ex Astris offers plenty of little throwbacks to console RPGs in that sense – there’s even your multi-phase boss fights, your annoying box puzzles, and your meaningless fetch quests that littered the very beginning of the game. These little callbacks added to my enjoyment of the game, and if it weren’t for the lack of controller support, it actually did feel like a regular console RPG.



There’s no grinding here, by the way, as battles aren’t randomly generated. The progression is pretty linear, so winning battles relies more on your ability to time your parry rather than your actual strength. It can make the game extremely difficult if you’re used to over-levelling characters to get by, and especially if you don’t have the patience to read through the descriptions in the menu to study each move from start to finish (the text, by the way, is too small and too fast for my poor eyesight).

Overall, Ex Astris, while not without its flaws, is a refreshing addition to your must-play list if you’re looking to take a break from pulling banners and slaving over summons. It has that console RPG feel down pat, and while I feel like it should at least have a free trial to give players a taste of the game before a full purchase, at $9.99, it’s still not a bad investment.

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