Astral Chain by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Nier: Automata) - Switch Exclusive

I can see this being unplayable… I’m actually surprised they would even allow inversion of the camera.

Currently I’m on Chapter File 4: Siege. I’m plating on PT Standard, the hardest available difficulty on a first play through, but the one that supposed to deliver a “classic Platinum Experience”. While I can imagine a lot of new players might take a bit to get used to controlling two different characters on screen, for whatever reason it just felt completely natural to me from the get-go. This surprises me because I was expecting a bit more of a learning curve here for myself, but thankfully I was able to just dive right in and take control without too much effort on my part.

One mechanic that seems identical has actually changed a bit, dodge. It’s taking me a little longer to get used to the new way dodge works compared to other Platinum games, but unlike other Platinum games, healing items seem a little more plentiful. Although dodge might seem identical to the dodge used in Bayonetta (as an example, both slow down time on a well-timed dodge, with Bayonetta calling it Witch Time), there is a key difference between the way dodge works in Astral Chain.

In Bayonetta, dodging a monster’s attack is all about timing. If you dodge at the right time the attack will phase right through you. But in Astral Chain attacks don’t phase through you when you’re dodging, you have to actually move yourself out of the way. Simply dodging in any direction won’t cut it, if you’re hit you’re hit, regardless of when you pushed the button. This took me a bit to get used to, because I’m carrying over my expectations (and muscle memory) from other Platinum games, but it isn’t a deal breaker at all. I’m just trying to figure out the best new invulnerability frames besides dodge, as there are skills that grant these for other types of maneuvers.

Using the chain and Legion has been a joy. As a rampant jumper in other Platinum games, it did take me a moment to get used to the idea that I can’t actually jump jump jump through battles, but flinging myself all around the battlefield with the chain is great fun. Send in monster then pull myself in for an attack. Wrap a monster only half-way, then do a sort of swinging tether-ball attack with myself. I’m quite maneuverable thanks to this chain.

So far the game is scoring quite well with me. I do wish it was 60fps and had a higher resolution, but this isn’t a deal breaker here, and the game feels perfectly fine, I’m just hung up on how glorious Bayonetta 2 looked and performed on the WiiU.

Yeah, the dodging takes some adjustment. I think that dodging in Astral Chain may be slower to start, or not interrupt all attack animations or something?

I did the first two files in Casual, then replayed them in Pt Standard. Standard feels like “normal” difficulty. Healing items are pretty ubiquitous so far, so it seems like you’re supposed to use them, so the limited number of continues seems like mostly a non issue?

The standard Platinum difficulty is actually pretty easy, but I don’t think it’s just the medicine. I take a while to get accustomed to the timing and mechanics of a brawler, but even as I’ve been figuring out what the hell is going on, a lot of Astral Chain seems to play itself for me. I’ll lose focus in the swirl of graphical noise, and then I’m just spazzing out and, oh, look, I won the battle. I’ve almost never had to use continues, and I’ve almost never used all the medicine I’ve found, which is plentiful, assuming you do any search or side missions.

Of course, the really gratifying battles are the ones where I’ve sussed out what I wanted to do and made it happen. One thing I find very helpful is popping into ISIS view during battle to take a quick look at the battle with the graphical noise stripped out. I’ve actually learned a fair bit I wouldn’t have otherwise known from the ISIS view.

The real test of skill is obviously will be the unlocked harder difficulty (difficulties, plural?) with no continues. I went back to try to play through the third file that way, and hoo boy, that’s going to require a lot more skill and/or leveling up for my legions. I got to one of the sub-boss battles and simply couldn’t stay alive long enough to do any meaningful damage.

-Tom

IRIS.

Not to be confused with ISIS:

They even named it after part of your eye!

I keep thinking of this as Platinum’s Arkham City. There’s a lot of light traversal / puzzle solving and exploration, and the combat scoring seems built towards rewarding variety and mixing up the toys that you have available.

I toyed with the idea of changing control schemes, but I assume there’s a reason they had the default scheme put dodge on B instead of on a trigger, and I’m slowly coming around to it. My biggest miss is that I keep trying to exit the “special legion more (L button)” using B, but I just dodge while remaining in that mode. Which makes sense, but I keep expecting B to be a “reset me to normal” button. I’m slowly re-learning though. I suspect I will never be able to use the sword slash thing in actual combat.

The combat scoring is pretty all over the place I can get S+ or C kind of at random, when I think I’m performing about the same. The only time I’ve ever felt totally screwed by the combat system is when one of the little buff-armor guys was flying above my head and I just couldn’t find him for several minutes and multiple lives. But the recovery items and AEDs were generous enough to let me tank through.

I like the dumb world-exploration stuff, and I like the Field-Supply item balance: on the first run, you explore everything, and get lots of items, and you’re also probably bad at combat. On subsequent runs, you can skip all the chests and exploration, but you probably don’t need what’s in them because you’re getting better.

I do this constantly, especially with Slice. I end up just dismissing and recalling my Legion to quickly exit the screen when I’m in too much of a rush to remember the better way.

The standard difficulty mode seems tuned to allow you to survive pretty much every combat by just flailing around while your Legion does its thing, but you won’t score well unless you study the thorough help menu and learn the systems (which is quite the undertaking in this game, whew). At least, that’s been my experience. I rarely score better than a ‘C’.

I thought I was finally starting to grasp the combat in File 4, but I’m up to 6 now, and I’m still having these moments where a move doesn’t do what I thought it would, or seems to trigger without any input from me. For instance, why does jumping to the Legion with LT + RT sometimes trigger a slide, and sometimes lead right in to an attack on the targeted monster?

Today I learned that I can take pictures of monsters during combat to unlock a file with combat strategies back at base. I totally forgot about that thing!

You’ll slide if you’re sprinting when you RT.

I’m really nonplussed when I score an S+ and had no idea what I was doing. Sometimes these are during fights that are obvious “gimmes”, but other times these are fights in which I thought I was doing poorly. I understand the scoring system far less that I understand the fighting system!

There are some legion abilities that require Street Fighter style stick moves, like full circles or back --> forward + button press. There’s no way I’m going to be able to pull those off in combat with any meaningful consistently. I mean, yeah, I can do them in training battles, but in the heat of combat? Forget about it. Those were wasted skill points, as far as I’m concerned. :(

-Tom

I don’t have a solid grasp of the scoring system yet, but based on the breakdowns given, Astral Chain appears to place a lot more emphasis on style and attack diversity than a game like Bayonetta, which seems to weigh damage taken heavier than all else.

While still a factor, damage taken seems much more forgivable here, at least on Pt Standard.

So far my favorite fight was an optional arena fight I took part in near the end of Chapter 6. Medkits and potions were off limits, and survival was heavily reliant on your ability to pull off finishers (the (A) button kill) and heal up from those. It was great practice and had a great fight in the final wave.

I couldn’t beat that one. :( I tried three times before deciding I’d rather advance the storyline instead of beating my head against it. I guess I’m not ready to play without potions just yet.

By the way, and this might be a spoiler that merits spoiler tags, but does anyone know how many chapters (Files?) there are?

-Tom

I believe there’s 11 Files, and a secret 12th file (an epilogue) that’s less story based, and an all-combat mode. But I don’t know much more.

What kerzain said matches my understanding of the scoring system so far, but I’ll have to take another look at the score section of the help menu and the score screens for files I’ve completed next time I’m near my Switch.

I’ve noticed that I tend to perform much better in longer fights, and I think this is because I have more time to use a variety of moves and a greater need to use health and buff potions, both of which are rewarded on the score screen.

Aw, that sucks! The rotation moves for the sword and beast Legions are really distinct and have been worth the investment for me. The help screen fails to communicate that you need to hold down on LT after rotating the stick to execute those moves; it’s not sufficient to just “press” LT.

Grade inflation!

I just finished the main campaign tonight. I played through on Pt Standard, and have not yet replayed any of the case files (for higher scores etc). The campaign took me about 30 hours total for a single playthrough, and this is with me mostly scouring maps for loot and quests, but by no means 100%ing anything.

I had fun with the game, but I still haven’t unlocked all of my Legion’s abilities, so there’s still several moves I haven’t toyed with. Also, I don’t know how in the world I missed this, but apparently it’s possible to upgrade my stupid weapons, something I didn’t discover until just before starting the final case file. I guess those upgrades don’t matter too much on Pt Standard, but now that I’ve unlocked Ultimate difficulty on everything I’ll be sure to put my new moves to the test there.

I really enjoy most of the combat. I think the worst battles are the big (mega) boss fights, if only because I prefer battlefields chock full of enemies, and because I’m not a fan of combat that can more or less be described as dodging environmental obstacles. I just like fighting creatures, not glorified buildings or stationary objects. My absolute favorite battle was a 5 or 6-wave arena fight near the end of Case 6, and I wish the game had more of these types of things. It was just go go go, without the ability to use items/medkits. if I wanted to heal, I had to pull off a takedown kill (the prompted A-button kill).

While I love the combat, I do have one complaint about the game, and this complaint mostly relates to the actual case work and exploration that takes place at the start of each chapter. I can spend an hour wandering around, talking to random people, and picking up cans and red stuff before finding something to fight, but these particular tasks just aren’t entertaining enough to keep me interested. I always felt like I had to push through them to get to ‘the good stuff’, with said good stuff being actual combat.

If I had my way, I would love to see Bayonetta 2’s Tag Climax system put into this game. Although Bayonetta 2 is mostly just wandering from fight to fight, tag Climax further distills the game down to individual, hand selected encounters. If you want to fight a certain monster, or group of monsters, you just select the right card and get to it. It’s fucking awesome. And while technically Tag Climax is Bayonetta 2’s multi-player co-op battle mode, I would kill to see a single-player version of this system put into Astral Chain, mostly because I just want to jump right into a fight, not wander around chasing cats into portals (which can be amusing, but it delays the… uh… climax).

Anyway, I really enjoy the combat, and I plan to flesh out my Legion’s skills be replaying several files on Ultimate (or Pt Standard if I can’t handle Ultimate, I haven’t tried yet). I could also try to max out my skill ranking for several encounters I got a D on, but right now I’m mostly intent on making the encounters themselves as fun and dynamic as possible, by unlocking all the cool abilities I haven’t yet tried.

I got the achievement for “Beating the Game with Rank B or higher”, but I’ve only finished Ch. 9. Maybe the ranks I did get mean that even with 0’s on the remaining missions, I’ve reached B?

I’ve tried to go back and re-play some earlier missions now that I have all the legions, since there were missions that were simply inaccessible on the first playthrough (behind doors gated by legions you don’t have yet). There’s a bunch of stuff that’s basically impossible the first time through (see also: the bit where Alan’s hanging over a ledge, and you just kind of have to know which of the 3 paths to take in order to save him). Or even things like “better have an anti-stun legion on this encounter, otherwise you’re going to get fucked”.

Replaying is…kind of annoying. There aren’t enough ways to skip story bits. I’m trying to get S+ on the intro mission (the one on the bike), but I keep getting an A, and getting to the actual combat in that missions takes me through a bunch of cutscenes, including re-selecting my character’s gender. Replaying File 2 makes you sit through all of Marie’s base tutorials over again. I actually liked all the stupid detective work the first time around, but I don’t love being forced to replay them to get to the missions I want to rank up. I don’t really want to wander around the Astral Plane ten times. You can skip to chapters within files, but I want to just play one encounter over and over until I get the rank I want (your file “progress” already seems to take your best score for each encounter).

It seems like it might get harder to S+ rank things when you’re more powerful, since your attacks do more damage, and you have less opportunity to do fancy things before you kill the enemy. The levels I consistently get low ranks are, are the ones with only 1 or 2 big enemies. Long multi-wave encounters are way easier to S+ rank on.

Might as well start NG+ maybe?

Can you select a weaker weapon to avoid killing enemies too fast?

Yeah, there’s Pt Expert eventually. There aren’t really weaker weapons, although I guess I could just use the pistol, since most of the scoring bonuses come from the Legions. There’s also a consumable that increases defense and decreases attack, so maybe there’s that.

I might just be missing something on some of those encounters. I only just realized that you can Chain-Bind on the stealth sections without losing. I assumed you had to ghost them. Maybe the short fights are just about getting the 0 damage bonus or something.