Demons of Asteborg Hands-On (Xbox X/S)

Demons of Asteborg is a homage to the SEGA Megadrive/Genesis era of gaming and is strongly influenced by famous classics such as Ghouls’n’ Ghosts, Mickey Mania and Castlevania. So...
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Demons of Asteborg Trailer - PS5/PS4/XBOX | PixelHeart

Demons of Asteborg is a homage to the SEGA Megadrive/Genesis era of gaming and is strongly influenced by famous classics such as Ghouls’n’ Ghosts, Mickey Mania and Castlevania. So much so, that Demons of Asteborg is physically available on Megadrive/Genesis… In 2024!

In Demons of Asteborg, an evil force is trying to take over Asteborg, and Gareth rises to the occasion. With a mighty sword in one hand and an arsenal of magic spells in the other, Gareth goes on an adventure to find out where this evil force is coming from and, ultimately, destroy it. With awesome 16-bit pixel art and tantalising anime cutscenes, I couldn’t wait to give this game a try.

My experience with Demons of Asteborg has been nothing but disappointing though. In total, I must have only played for about an hour – an hour tarnished with enough irritation that I don’t plan on giving Demons of Asteborg a second chance.

Here is my story…

One morning, I boot up Demons of Asteborg and spend roughly 30 minutes exploring the first level, getting to grips with the controls, and doing as much treasure hunting as I can. My first impressions aren’t bad; sure, the platforming could do with more finesse but so far, so good.

I reach the first boss, a hefty executioner who has just finished beheading one of Gareth’s colleagues, and I have a good go at him as I learn his attack pattern. I die, put my controller down and decide to come back to him later, so I put my Xbox on stand-by.

Eagerly anticipating where I left off, the next morning I boot up Demons of Asteborg, expecting to be met by the executioner. Instead, I’m right at the beginning and have to play the entire first level again from the start. So what have I learned? That Demons of Asteborg doesn’t have quick resume. “Not a problem,” I sigh. “I’ll quickly save it next time.” How naive of me – Demons of Asteborg doesn’t have an option to save the game.

Annoyed and contemplating how much time I wasted the previous morning, I start the game from scratch. “Oh well. I can do it again, probably even quicker this time”, I said to myself through gritted teeth. This time, I reach the first boss within 20 minutes and I’m feeling good about it. I know enough about the executioner to kick his butt this time!

But you only have 3 lives, so when you lose them, it’s Game Over; you have to start the game again. Needless to say, I died 3 times and was booted back to the start. For the second time in less than an hour of gameplay. Now I have to replay the same section AGAIN. You can’t cheese it and do a boss-run – this isn’t Dark Souls. The realisation that I would have to replay this same section multiple times if I suffered from another trio of defeats sealed the deal for me. This isn’t fun!

Upon reflection, the problem I was having was how inaccurate the controls felt, which only added to my frustration. Trying to wall-jump, for example, is mostly trial-and-error. Not a problem if you’re not trying to avoid enemies but you shouldn’t have to rely on blind faith when pulling off a manoeuvre: it should work every single time. Gareth never felt sticky and pulling off a successful wall-jump never felt intentional or guaranteed. The same goes for rolling through enemies. Time and time again, I would hold down + jump to roll, only for Gareth to leap into the air and take a hit. I don’t understand why it wouldn’t register every time, and the uncertainty pissed me off. Demons of Asteborg might be a good game but I for one am not going to waste any more of my time on it to ever find out.

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