When PlatinumGames makes a new title, the entire industry sits up and takes notice. From Bayonetta to Vanquish to Metal Gear Rising to NieR: Automata, this is a studio that has, for the most part, delivered some of the best action titles out there. With Astral Chain, they are – once again – making a brand new IP, and it’s looking quite promising, with a unique central mechanic and a zany cyberpunk aesthetic. It’s clear already that Switch owners have got plenty to look forward to. So with its launch right around the corner, in this feature, we’ll be taking a look at fifteen important things you need to know about Astral Chain. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Astral Chain is set in a futuristic cyberpunk setting. In the year 2043, a meteorite collides with the Earth, which triggers catastrophic events across the world. Wormholes start appearing, which renders almost the entire planet completely uninhabitable. The survivors of this catastrophic event band together and set up a city called the Ark on an artificial island, where they begin preparations to rebuild civilization and, in turn, the world.
The Ark, a metropolitan city of many cultures, enjoys peace for some time. Eventually, though, wormholes begin to appear again, bringing with them alien creatures called the chimera from the “Astral Plane”, who begin polluting the people and the world with something called Red Matter, while also pulling people into wormholes. To fight back against the chimera, the Ark sets up a task force called the Neuron.
As you may have put together, we’ll be stepping into the shoes of a rookie Neuron officer in Astral Chain. Players will get the option to select between a male or a female character, while the one that isn’t chosen will appear in the game as your twin sibling.
You’ll be able to customize more than the gender of your character in Astral Chain. From your name to your hair colour and style, the colour of your eyes, and more, there will be plenty of ways for you to personalize your character as you begin the game. Once the game begins, you will, of course, be able to change your appearance.
let’s get back to the main premise of the game for a bit- as a Neuron officer, you’ll be fighting back against the Chimera, but how exactly will you be doing that? You’ll be doing so with the help of special living weapons known as Legion. Legion were once chimera themselves, but were captured, neutralized with armour, and then mentally synchronized with their wielders in the Neuron. Legion are tethered to their wielder with a chain. New Legion wielders don’t enjoy perfect synchronization with their Legion immediately, but as they fight together more and more, they become more synchronized, and eventually begin to fight as one.
There will be a total of five different types of Legion that you’ll be encountering and using in Astral Chain. Each has its own unique attributes, abilities, and look, and each corresponds to a different weapon type and/or fighting style for combat. They’re called Sword, Arm, Beast, Arrow, and Axe.
Astral Chain’s combat revolves around what PlatinumGames have dubbed as “Synergetic Action”. The player controls both, the protagonist and their Legion, who are bound together by chains, with the player having to split their focus on both characters. The main character and the Legion will both have separate uses and functions in combat – so it’s not going to be like Pokemon where you’re only controlling your captured beast. Synergy between the two entities, then, will be key in Astral Chain’s combat.
LEGIONS IN COMBAT
So what exactly are Legion’s combat applications, in terms of gameplay mechanics? Legion can be attacking, defensive, or provide support, and have both, ranged and melee attacks. They can be commanded to attack one enemy, while the player attacks another, or both can attack a single enemy for greater damage. Using the chain connecting the two in combat is also a mechanic, such as tying enemies up with the chain, or using the chain for tripping enemies.
LEGIONS OUTSIDE COMBAT
But of course, you’ll also be using Legion outside of combat. Legion will be instrumental in investigations (more on this in a bit), while there will also be platforming sections that will require you to traverse the environment and navigate obstacles using your Legion.
Unlike most PlatinumGames titles (with the exception of NieR: Automata) Astral Chain isn’t going to be just about the action. In fact, it’s a lot more action adventure than action, if we’re going to classify it. Since we’re going to be playing as a cop, a large part of the gameplay will revolve around investigations, which will require you to speak with citizens of the Ark and investigate crime scenes and collect clues using a device known as the Iris (basically Astral Chain’s version of Witcher Vision).
Astral Chain is going to pull from several games from Platinum’s catalog of titles as far as its level design is concerned. Game director Takahisa Taura describes Astral Chain’s level design as a cross between the large, open areas of NieR: Automata and the more linear levels of singular progression found in the Bayonetta games. So while it won’t exactly be open world, it won’t be strictly linear either, and will have plenty of room for exploration.
How exactly will its world be structured, though? The Ark won’t be a single, seamless map. Instead, the headquarters of the Neuron task force will serve as your hub, from where you will head out into different areas of the city to take on quests and side quests, talks to NPCs, explore, and also engage with various side activities throughout the city. Oh, and speaking of side activities…
Astral Chain also features co-op gameplay for two players, in what the developers are describing as an unconventional co-op experience. This will see each player using one of the Switch’s Joy Cons, with one player controlling the player character, and the other controlling the Legion. Keeping in line with the game’s “Synergetic Action” schtick, both players will need to work together – and work well – to be able to succeed, both in and outside of combat.
The PlatinumGames logo will surely be enough for countless people who’re looking for a reason to be sold on this game, but even within this famed studio, there’s some serious talent at play on this particular project. Takahisa Taura, who worked on NieR: Automata as its lead game designer, heads up development on Astral Chain as its director (with this being his first directorial credit), under the supervision of Hideki Kamiya. Meanwhile, renowned Japanese manga artist Masakazu Katsura has worked on character designs for the game. Several other PlatinumGames veterans who have worked on titles such as Bayonetta and NieR: Automata have also been involved with Astral Chain’s development.
And finally, just how big is this game going to be? As we’ve discussed, Astral Chain isn’t a large open world title, and games on the Switch are generally smaller in terms of file size. Astral Chain will require 9.6 GB of free storage space on your system, which is pretty much what you’d expect from such a game on the Switch.