Growing up as a child gamer into a teenage gamer, my favorite genre (which remains the case today) was a big story driven RPG adventure. The Legend of Zelda will always be at the top of my list but I have always had a soft sport for a more tactical approach in RPG’s focusing on turn based battle systems. I had a lot of fun with the older Final Fantasy games and others such as Chrono Trigger and one of my all time favorites: Skies of Arcadia! Also it’s pleasing to see games like Fire Emblem still getting new releases on modern consoles and doing well. Much to my excitement was it that I had discovered a new game to try that carried the same traits of the turn based battle system and seemed to be very pleasing on the eye. It had been a long time since I played a turn based RPG so I was itching to try out the demo of Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond, the start of a brand new adventure awaited! How I was feeling as I booted the game up for the first time was not how I was feeling as I completed the demo however, which was ultimately disappointed.
We will get into why I felt so put off by the game soon, first I would like to shine some positive vibes on Celestian Tales because it does have some good qualities. First and foremost is how the game looks, visually the aesthetic is very eye catching especially if you are a fan of the pixel animated character design and the hand drawn back drops. Needless to say, I am a fan of this art style which acted as the hook that reeled me in when I first took a gander at the screen shots. The art style draws heavy inspiration from watercolor brush strokes which gives the game its unique identity and I am of the opinion that it looks superb! Some of the concept art that can be found on the Kickstarter page is a real site to behold and the team at Ekuator Games should be pleased that they have created such a unique and appeasing style. What could be added to the game that would not only compliment the visuals but also help strengthen the games identity? Why a solid soundtrack of course! Again, I have nothing but praise when it comes to the soundtrack. It goes very well with the environments, each new town you enter has a unique tune giving you a sense of unexplored territory and giving the town it’s own identity. Great visuals, great soundtrack, what could it possibly be about Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond that left me with a sour taste?
Firstly, let’s point out the fact that I played the demo. The full release is not expected until the end of this year at the very earliest so it’s important to remember that every issue that I encountered may well be rectified in time for release. I sure hope so anyway. Let’s start with the biggest issue that I had with the demo, the controls. I prefer to play my games using a gamepad, my Xbox 1 gamepad to be precise and considering on this games Steam page it clearly states that it has FULL controller support I didn’t see why there would be an issue using it. Well there was, I could walk around the world fine and my action buttons worked fine but when it came to engaging in battle with enemies, for some ungodly reason I was not able to navigate the battle menu. The face buttons on my gamepad worked in battle just not the d-pad or analogue stick which meant I had to keep swapping between my keyboard and gamepad to play the game which I was not too happy with. Luckily it was only a demo and I had not spent any money on the game otherwise I’d be demanding it back instantly based on that issue alone! Even if this was just the demo, basic things like making sure that controller support is implemented if it is supposed to be should not be an issue because demos are supposed to be a way of showcasing how the game plays and make people want to play more.
Other technical hindrances I ran into included the fact that when venturing to the end of an area in order to get to the next, you are greeted with a message from one of your party members informing you that basically because the game is still under development you can only fast travel to the next area rather than travel there by foot. The issue here is that when it gives you the list of places to travel to you cannot cancel and carry on wandering around the area you are already in! You can simply choose the area you are in on the list (if you can remember the name of it) but it will take you to the beginning of the area which is obviously a pain if you wish to just continue in the exact location you are currently in. This might be a gamepad thing again and if I would have pressed every single button on my keyboard maybe it might have cancelled out but who knows? It’s a poor oversight by any means. Also I noticed a lot of grammar issues in the dialogue particularly in the first town you get to as well as my character disappearing when walking into a house wall. These are smaller issues that I’m sure wouldn’t take too long to iron out before full release but issues nonetheless.
Let’s talk about another issue that comes from a more personal level rather than technically. When you emerge from a battle victorious, no matter how injured your party members are or even if some died they will all be fully healed as soon as the battle is over. This is a specific direction the developers have taken and while I can see it might be a more approachable direction for newcomers and gamers who are not veterans of the genre, it personally rubs me the wrong way. At first I wasn’t sure how to feel about it because on the one hand I was grateful that I didn’t have to waste a load of potions after every single battle or waste SP on healing all the time but on the other hand it took away a lot of the strategy and hardship out of the experience. Don’t forget that I am used to playing turn based RPG’s way back in the day and I know exactly how much strategy you need to put into your battles at times. No strategy or thought process is needed in these battles, all I need to do is simply keep hitting “attack” until all the enemies are dead because my characters are strong enough to beat them before they kill me and my whole party will be fully healed once the battle is over. I was playing the demo on hard mode as well so it’s not as if the game was holding my hand throughout the whole journey. I’m sure in the full game the automatic healing of the whole party after each battle will be more justified but for now it puts me off and I’d expect it puts other veterans off this genre off as well.
I hate to cast a shadow of doom and gloom over a game especially if it’s an Indie game but I’m afraid I am not quite done. Celestian Tales: Realms Beyond has a crafting system which is nice and you get to experience the bare bones of it in the demo when you are given a recipe to craft some refined faery dust. You need to get hold of the ingredients then make your way over to the taverns fireplace where you craft the item which is all well and good except if you forget what 3 ingredients you need to find there is no way of simply looking at your recipe which sits in your inventory to find out what they are. For some reason you can only find out what they are by going to the taverns fireplace, absolutely absurd! It’s a real shame that this article will come across as more of a rant piece but it’s only because I had fairly high hopes since I hadn’t played a game like this in a long while. If all the above were to be resolved then we could have a half decent game on our hands as it does have some neat things going for it. There is certainly a story line to follow and fans of the original Celestian Tales: Old North (yes this is a sequel!) will be able to shape the games world based on the decisions you made in Old North after the game reads your save data which is pretty awesome. If like me, you never played the original then you will be able to answer questions at the beginning of the game about the past which will shape the world of Realms Beyond. I also like when you enter the market place you hear the sound of a busy market with lots of chatter and laughter. Although it was a bit odd considering there were only about 6/7 people in the market place but the sound would have you think there were 30 or 40 odd. You have 3 characters who will battle but there are 6 characters travelling in your party for the most part. Much like the Tales series, you can swap in or out any part member as you choose and you will pick up lots of equipment, armor and weapons on your journey. For some reason, I was not able to equip any new weapons or armor from the menu which was weird and every time a party member either joined or left the group, I wish it would tell me who!
I really hope these issues get resolved because fans of the original Celestian Tales: Old North and backers of its successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2017 have not heard many updates since. All we have is this demo which isn’t much to go by considering the amount of issues it has so at the very least, backers of the game deserve an update from the developers soon! The demo is available on Steam if you would like to check it out but if you do, don’t go into it with high expectations like I did. I would however, love to know what you think about this game, will it even make its scheduled release window of fall 2019? I think not. Thanks for reading.
Written by Sammy J on 19th October 2019