Astral Ascent is a roguelite, side-scrolling action game that places you in an attractive, fresh fantasy world. Held inside an astral prison, you need to defeat your jailers — the 12 Zodiacs — in order to break free. It's a clever setup; we're surprised it's taken this long for the star signs to be turned into a series of boss characters.
A fight with Taurus, Aries, Gemini, and so on awaits at the end of each of the four realms you battle your way through. The presentation really excels; the pixel art here is top notch, complemented by some slick animation work. As you progress through each attractive landscape, choosing the next room based on a proposed reward, you gradually get stronger, building up your base stats as well as a series of special spells.
There are a lot of systems in play, but it's surprisingly digestible once you've had a few runs and gotten a feel for it. Basic attacks replenish your mana, needed to cast your spells, which can be imbued with additional effects. Each of the four playable characters has a unique signature spell, too, which can change how you approach combat. There are a lot of moving parts, but it all works well in practice. If you play your cards right (and get a bit lucky), you can create some pretty overpowered builds, which is always great fun.
In between runs, you return to a hub where you can make permanent upgrades to your characters, unlock new spells, and complete additional challenges. It's satisfying to have a good run, bring back a ton of currency, and splash it all on meaningful upgrades for your next attempt.
Unfortunately, the combat is where it falls a little short. It's fast-paced, and combining normal and magic attacks works well, but there's a lack of impact and feedback, making fights feel a bit hollow. It doesn't feel like you're hitting with much force, and in the heat of things, you may not notice when you've taken hits either. It's a shame, especially with combat being the crux of the gameplay.
There are other weak spots — some of the writing and voice acting isn't quite where it needs to be, and there are elements of the UI that get a little messy — but overall it's a well-rounded, robust, and fun roguelite.