Interview: Astor: Blade of the Monolith Gives Players Freedom To Pursue Their Own Combat Style

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Astor Blade of the Monolith - via C2 Game Studio

Astor: Blade of the Monolith is a unique Action-RPG video game from C2 Game Studio that features fast-paced gameplay by utilizing a versatile set of weapons. The game allows players to dive into the in-depth storyline while progressing the character to learn new abilities, and skills to take on anything that the world throws at your character. 

Not just that, but the game boasts a highly detailed world that unfolds mysteries as you progress the campaign. The game heavily focuses on the character Astor to allow players to experience the narrative and make the right choices for combat and weapon choice. With the game just released and promising community approval, we interviewed Luis, the Game Director, over an email to discuss the design inspiration and challenges involved in the development. 

Astor Blade of the Monolith - via C2 Game Studio
Astor Blade of the Monolith – via C2 Game Studio

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your role in Astor: Blade of the Monolith

Luis: Hello, my name is Luis, and I’m the Game Director of Astor: Blade of the Monolith. Aside from the creative direction of the game, my main contribution was the design and tuning of the combat

What inspirations, both narratively and aesthetically, did the development team draw from in creating the diverse and colorful environments of Gliese?

Luis: We drew a form of inspiration from the Zelda series, Bastion, Journey, and Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart. As for narrative, a lot of the inspiration came from dark fantasy movies such as The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, and Labyrinth.

Astor Blade of the Monolith - via C2 Game Studio
Astor Blade of the Monolith – via C2 Game Studio

What elements of Astor: Blade of the Monolith evoke the hack-and-slash Zelda vibes that fans of the genre will appreciate?

Luis: As for combat, Astor is a lot more Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, or Nier: Automata than Zelda. I consider Zelda an adventure-first game, while our game is a combat-first game.

We don’t offer as much exploration as Zelda, but we offer more tools to enjoy the combat and feel empowered.

Can you shed light on the combat mechanics showcased in the game, particularly the use of combos and dynamic weapon switching?

Luis: Astor is all about combat that feels intuitive and keeps the flow. You start with a simple 4-light and a 2-strong attack combo chain, but as you unlock powers, skills, and weapons, your choices grow exponentially.

Our combat is all about empowerment and self-expression. We didn’t want to force players to use a certain move or weapon for certain combat situations, so you play however you like. There are some more efficient ways to deal with things, but if you want to use the sword the whole way through, you certainly can.

Early on, you get the chance to unlock runic finishers; these are executed by pressing either the strong or ranged attack button when you see a blue flash on your character while doing a combo.

Depending on the button pressed, you execute a different finisher, and you can even chain finishers together as long as you have enough runic power – which is the segmented blue bar below your stamina (yellow bar) – as each runic finisher will consume one segment of this bar.

As for weapons, in Astor, you can unlock 4 (Sword, Gauntlets, Lance and Hammer). Each weapon has its own rhythm and runic finishers, and you can equip a main and sub-weapon and hot-swap them with the press of a button. Done at the right part of a combo, the weapon swap will result in a special move as the swap is performed.

Another big part of the combat system is the runic constructs. These are special moves that you execute and then enter a cooldown period until they can be used again. You can summon shields, decoys, companions, and powerful AOE attacks.

Astor Blade of the Monolith - via C2 Game Studio
Astor Blade of the Monolith – via C2 Game Studio

In what ways does the game balance between combat-focused gameplay and puzzle-solving elements, akin to the Zelda series?

Luis: We like to think of such things more like mechanisms than puzzles. They’re more of a narrative tool to make it more varied than just combat, so they are way simpler than what you’d find in Zelda or Uncharted. We don’t have that many puzzles.

It isn’t a big part of the design philosophy of the game, so we only added these mechanics when we felt it served a narrative and level flow purpose. If you look at our references, such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, you’ll rarely find challenging puzzles in those games.

Can you discuss any unique features or mechanics players can expect when exploring the vibrant landscapes of Gliese?

Luis: In this day and age, can anything be considered truly unique? You can spend years trying to come up with the most unique ideas or mechanics just to find out another game is doing something very similar.

So we like to think of it more as a mix of concepts and ideas that fuse together into something that has its unique personality and style.

Astor Blade of the Monolith - via C2 Game Studio
Astor Blade of the Monolith – via C2 Game Studio

Can you elaborate on the significance of renaming the game from Monolith: Requiem of the Ancients to Astor: Blade of the Monolith and how it reflects the evolution of the game's vision?

Luis: Naming things is hard, naming a game is harder. There are so many games out there and they all strive for a simple, elegant name that summarizes the player experience and has worldwide appeal. Our game is all about Astor, but our world is all about the Monolith, so we wanted the Monolith to be the omnipresent all-powerful thing shrouded in mystery. We drew a lot of inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey when it came to the monolith.

For the longest time, the game was called Project Monolith, but we knew we needed to find a better name. Still, “Monolith” is such a perfect word to describe not only our world, but our characters and our journey making the game. However “Monolith” is such a cool term that many games already use, which made it hard for our game to stick out amongst all the other “Monolith” games, so a decision was made to use our protagonist’s name instead.

What was the overall design approach behind Astor: Blade of the Monolith? How does the game balance between fast-paced combat and exploration of the planet's landscapes and ruins?

Luis: Our base structure is quite simple. We usually start at a hub town where an NPC sends you to a location to continue your quest, we mix up combat with simple and quick interactions and cinematics – which serve as a way to guide the player along, and then we have more involved cinematics for key points in quests.

Some levels start in an open environment where the purpose is to unlock a dungeon, and then once you access said dungeon, it shifts to a more linear, directed experience.

We wanted to keep the action going but also keep the players on the right track and engaged with the story. For this reason, we decided to add a narrator to tell the tale of Astor as if it was a story being told to you by a parent, an elder, a teacher, or simply a storyteller. We wanted that feeling of an ageless tale from a time long forgotten being told to you and experienced through playing as Astor.

Astor Blade of the Monolith - via C2 Game Studio
Astor Blade of the Monolith – via C2 Game Studio

What were the major challenges involved in the development of Astor: Blade of the Monolith?

Luis: There were many challenges in making this game. It took us a long time to find a publisher that would believe in our concept and our team’s ability to pull it off. It took many iterations, many pitch decks, and navigating through a lot of feedback.

Of course, we also had to contend with a global pandemic, which opened the floodgates for studios from abroad to poach devs from local Colombian studios with higher pay and big promises. We lived the highs and the lows; our tale is of persistence and resilience. In the end, it worked out. It certainly wasn’t easy, but we count ourselves as one of the lucky few whose game is making it to market.

How many developers are actively working on the game, and how long has it been under development?

Luis: We started serious development sometime in 2017. At the time, I believe 11 people were working on it. Our peak team size was around 24 people. Now that we are more focused on bug fixing and release mode, we have 15.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Luis: I hope you enjoy our game! Making it was a labor of love and resilience. In many ways making this game was a journey in and of itself full of highs and lows, but we are very proud of what we were able to achieve.

In a way, my fellow teammates are like the Ancients in our game; we are the creators of the Diokek, and Astor is our child. As we count the days toward the release, we feel as proud and anxious as any parent feels when sending their kid off to college.

Astor: Blade of the Monolith is an Action-Adventure RPG developed by C2 Game Studio. The game was released on May 30, 2024 on PC. 

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