From Great Potential to Astral Fizzle
Eyougame promises that its anime-inspired role-playing game Astral Fable will give players the opportunity to defeat monsters, collect cards, develop adorable characters, and indulge in romantic encounters. And you won’t have to go it alone, says the marketing spiel. Lovable pets and NPC friends will accompany you on your journey, and joining a guild will even allow you to interact with other real-life players.
It’s an appealing prospect, one that had me excited to jump into Astral Fable and start my adventure. The game resembles a less graphically impressive version of Black Desert Mobile and has an incredibly endearing art style. Yet here I find myself in the very odd position of writing a review for a game that I’ve never actually played. And the reason is that Astral Fable plays itself.
I’ve been a gamer for a long time. So I briefly toyed with the idea that perhaps I had gotten so good at them that I’d developed the ability to control them with my mind. But, alas, upon doing some research online and reading the feedback of other disgruntled players, I learned to my dismay that what I was witnessing had nothing to do with any skill on my part. It was quite simply auto mode.
What the Heck?
Upon launching Astral Fable, you’re taken to a very limited character creation screen. You can choose a male mage, a female hunter, or a male fighter. So my tendency to play a female sorcerer in every game possible had to be cast aside. After I got over that disappointment, I selected the mage and started the game, anticipating hours of pastel-colored RPG questing and monster slaying in my immediate future.
Unbelievably, the game starts in auto mode. My sorcerer, adorable as promised, immediately began to scamper from one NPC to another. He collected quests and items so quickly that I couldn’t follow what was happening. He’d initiate conversations, but the dialogue box closes automatically after about six seconds. I tried to speed read to keep up, but the game’s localization isn’t phenomenal. So I often didn’t fully understand what I had read before my character scurried off to talk to somebody else.
You don’t have to manually loot items or hit confirm to accept quests. You don’t even have to move your character on the screen. Absolutely everything is automated. I leveled up and accumulated loot, yet I had no idea what I was doing, whom I was talking to, or why. I tried to find the game’s settings to perhaps turn off auto mode. But every time I attempted to select an icon on the screen, a dialogue box with a new NPC would pop up and interrupt me. When I finally managed to locate and open the settings menu after several attempts, lamentably, there was no option to turn off auto mode.
Wait For Me!
My mage hit level 36 within approximately three minutes of starting the game. Perplexed, I just stared at my phone the entire time. I was honestly at a loss as I watched the hijinks unfold before me. The next thing I knew, I was level 52 and had moved on to the next town. I decided to see what would happen if I just let the game do its thing. So I left it running on my phone and went about my day.
Two hours later, my character was level 170. He had acquired a giant panda somewhere, which he rode frenetically around as he collected quests. A cute little dog-like creature followed at his heels. As I watched, my mage engaged in battles with multiple enemies, took down bosses, and collected masses of loot. The number of icons on the screen had grown to an astonishing number, and I never figured out the purpose for most of them.
I eventually discovered that you can indeed stop the game’s auto mode, temporarily. If you use the touch-screen controls to move the character around yourself, auto mode will pause. However, if you remove your finger from the phone screen for even two or three seconds, auto mode will kick back in.
When I attempted to play this way, I still couldn’t appreciate Astral Fable. If I absentmindedly scratched my nose, auto mode took over. My character would speak to multiple NPCs before I could even react. If I opened a menu, auto mode began behind the menu screen. The first time this happened, the sound of combat alerted me. I returned to the game to find that my mage had run off again and started a fight. It’s impossible to enjoy a game this way. Control is wrested from you too often, too haphazardly. You can’t follow what’s happening. It’s like trying to read a book with chunks of pages missing.
My assessment of Astral Fable basically is that it’s not a game. It’s a fluffy, cutesy movie running at 2.5x speed that is impossible to follow and therefore isn’t that interesting. By the time I gave up on the game, my mage was level 182. This had taken about three or four hours to achieve. He had upgraded armor and gear, mastered spells, completed quests, explored new areas of the map, and presumably uncovered some kind of story. All without my involvement whatsoever.
The biggest let down is that I was looking forward to playing Astral Fable. The characters truly are adorable and seem well designed from what I could tell during my very brief encounters with them. It appears that a lot of thought went into the creation of quests, environments, and magic effects, though I couldn’t verify this because I was never able to really play the game. Eyougame making Astral Fable run in semi-permanent auto mode is without a doubt one of the most questionable design decisions I have ever encountered in a video game.
Is it Hardcore?
Astral Fable isn’t a game. It’s a disappointment. It’s a movie disguised as a role-playing game that runs by itself without any need for human interaction. If I had to sum up my opinion of the game in one word, it would be “flummoxed.”