Video games with high-resolution 2D graphics are rare in today’s market, and turn-based RPGs are also rarer than their action RPG counterparts. This makes Astria Ascendant a notable release for genre fans, but while the old-fashioned look and gameplay elements may divide some, the game’s heavy reliance on âfantasy racismâ is undeniably a bigger flaw. Fanaticism between the Fantastic Races has been a staple of the genre for a long time, but it’s one that has exhausted its welcome, as flagships like Dungeons & Dragons took steps to move away from stereotypes and uncomfortable characterizations of fictitious races. Astria Ascendant exacerbates its problems by telling a story where harmony is the central theme while presenting heroes unable to conduct a conversation without casual racist dialogue, and a world where peaceful coexistence is only possible through magical fruits.
Lead designer for D&D Jeremy Crawford spoke about how the main fantasy tabletop RPG changed its racing rules to remove the defined bonuses and penalties, noting that they viewed these bonuses as representing “”heroic archetypesRather than the inherent strengths or flaws of these breeds. The formative influences of the modern fantasy genre, such as the Lord of the Rings, often included stereotypes associated with fantastic races and their cultures, which were subject to a number of interpretations. The grace and spirituality of the Elves could also be seen as alienation and arrogance from other races. The tenacity of the dwarves could be seen as admirable, or simply as stubbornness. These races often perceived humans as myopic and destructive, which was perhaps the most relevant commentary, but much of the fantasy genre fiction that followed leaned on the idea of ââfantasy race stereotypes.
The typical arc in stories like the Lord of the Rings involves fantastic races starting an adventure from a place of suspicion and slowly coming to recognize the nobility of those of other fictional races as they unite to fight a mutual threat. Most modern and mainstream fantasy and science fiction genre work has recognized that fantasy racism is always racism, and stories that deal with this subject require caution and nuance in the way they handle these interactions. Astria Ascendant is an intentional throwback to an older era of JRPGs in terms of gameplay, but its writing is a more unwarranted throwback to the fantasy that lacks any sort of maturity or self-awareness in its handling of racial issues. This bad writing stands out more due to the context of the story, where the characters have no reason to verbally shoot each other based on racial stereotypes, as they are presented as champions of harmony who are already fighting each other. together for years.
Astria Ascending Bungles A story about harmony with racist characters
The simple theme of harmony vs. dissonance is fine for a game that is a tribute to JRPG classics, but Astria Ascendant botches its own themes by making the Harmony Champions people who are comfortable with occasional racism. The story involves a world where heroes volunteer to become demigods, endowed with supernatural power in exchange for a shortened lifespan. The game begins with the full group already formed, the 333e group of three-year-old demigods to defend the world of Orcanon, all of whom have three months to live. This means that the characters have already been living and fighting side by side for 33 months at the start of the story, more than enough time for them to have come to know each other as individuals and to move beyond the small generalizations based on racial stereotypes. Demigods are the champions of the concept of harmony, making the ongoing race-based bigotry inexcusable and unnecessary.
Astria Ascendant potential as 2D Final fantasy Where Dragon Quest, after these series ditched the 2D art style, gave it great promise, but its relentless and goofy racism is what holds it back from greatness more than any gameplay issue. Despite having fought side by side for two years and nine months, with only three months to live, the thief Arpajo still regularly mocks the scholar Eko, who is a Peysk – a small race of humanoids resembling fish wearing costumes filled with water due to an inability to breathe air.
Eko is not playing the game; he is not portrayed as being “in the joke”, but systematically expresses his annoyance and frustration at Arpajo’s racist comments. These are not good-natured jokes of close friends, but petty and unwelcome bullying, based on Eko’s reactions. The jibes extend to other races, as there are japes that the bird-like Awisi might eat the Peyskan, although the two are sentient breeds allegedly united in harmony.
With graphics resembling Vanillaware titles like Dragon crown, 2D exploration in the vein of Valkyrie Profile and Indivisible, and a turn-based combat system reminiscent of A courageous omission and its suites, there is a lot to admire in Astria Ascendant from a game design perspective. The lack of certain quality of life features and its simplistic narrative would still alienate some fans, but the inclusion of so much unnecessary fantasy racism is the game’s biggest flaw. Beyond the heroes manifesting resentful and petty feelings towards the races of others, the story itself best treats the subject of race in a dubious way. A fictitious fruit called “harmelon” is harvested and eaten by all races in order to promote harmony between them, and those who reject the harmony are the forces of “dissonance”. The heroes fight these “unsuccessful” champions of dissonance, but their dialogue between them is often as dissonant as it gets, marring the consistency of the story’s themes.
Astria Ascending’s handwriting shows poor judgment
While increasingly realistic 3D graphics are the hallmark of most modern AAA video games, there is still a place for well-designed 2D games like Terror Metroid. Astria Ascendant Beautifully animated characters and classic 2D exploration are some of the game’s highlights, but its writing is one-dimensional, and there’s no justification for it. The idea that a magical fruit is required for coexistence, instead of just being decent for each other, is already off-putting to begin with. The fact that the demigods who sacrificed their lives to strive for harmony spend their last living months being fanatics towards each other puts him above, relying on lazy tropes and petty exchanges at instead of real jokes and camaraderie.
Authors who shape the genre like Michael moorcock note that fantasy can provide a way to approach real-world problems through the prism of fiction, and that it can carry weight beyond mere escape. By telling a story where harmony between the Fantastic Races is a central theme, Astria Ascendant assumed the responsibility of treating this subject with maturity and awareness of when and where the story would be received. A harmony-inducing melon’s goofy plot device, combined with harmony heroes who live like fanatics even in their final hours, would have been uncomfortable decades ago, but as a 2021 release , he undoubtedly shows bad judgment.
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