Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards is a hack & slash adventure RPG that, like several others, has made its way over to the consoles from the PC. Born of a Goddess and a Mortal, our titular protagonist Aluna has demigod powers through a fragment of a meteor that is infused with the power of her mother that destroyed it in order to save both Aluna and others. Tasked with finding other shards with her mother’s power to prevent them from being misused for evil, Aluna sets out to locate them.
I’m a sucker for a good hack & slash adventure. There’s just something both challenging and satisfying in facing off against hordes of enemies and collecting loot in order to face off against even tougher hordes of enemies, elites and boss ranked foes. So when the chance to review Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards came up, I was in as this didn’t look like it would be the standard hack & slash adventure and looked like it could be a bit of fun.
This is a little bit where I may have been wrong, but not in the way that I had expected. From the top, Aluna’s adventure starts off with a bang with a gorgeous montage leading up to the current point in time through an animated comic book style. This style shows up a few times over the course of the adventure and I would watch / read an entire series of this. Both the style and of Aluna’s adventures as I’ve recently discovered that animated manga is a thing.
From this point though, you are brought over into the third person top down isometric view often used in a hack & slash adventure. Once in control of Aluna however, the visual presentation looked like there was something missing, almost like the image had been stretched too far out to fill in the default PlayStation’s resolution. That aside, as I could make do, it turns out that may have only been part of the issues with the current build.
Following the almost stretched out visuals is that I was getting a lot of screen tearing and would have liked for there to be an option to enable V-Sync. Funny that we now need that option on a console, but here we are. I definitely could have used it as that’s not something you can really get used to with lines appearing in the middle of your screen. Finally, some of the environment effects were very hard on the eyes. Lightning strikes for example flashed the screen making me have to either squint when a storm came in or simply close my eyes every time it struck. Let’s just say that it made surviving combat a little bit tougher as I could only hope to not be taken out.
Not to be stopped however, I plowed on regardless of the above as these are things that will hopefully be patched in at a later date. In the meantime though, the general adventure has a decent premise to push things along which is what a lot of hack & slash adventures lack. Aluna while searching for the shards will be running into evil forces trying to claim her mother’s power for themselves and have no issues corrupting others to stand in her way and take what they want. This makes up for a good portion of the gameplay as you are on a straight enough path forwards as you fight your way through.
Equipped with whatever you can get your hands on, Aluna can use either single or double-handed weapons, slings, bows or muskets to make her way through an enemy crowd. Other armor pieces will affect stats such as an off-hand item or shields, earrings, bracers, chest pieces and boots. Part of the fun is looking through what you’ve picked up to see if it will work for you and your current build, or, keep it for later as there’s a unique ability that will definitely shine even if the stats don’t follow along.
Combat itself is pretty straight forward. You move Aluna around with the left thumbstick and default attack with “X”. Square, Triangle, Circle, R1, R2 are each reserved for special abilities on top of two passive ones that can be equipped inside of your menu. Melee, ranged and magic abilities can be unlocked as you level up making fighting the hordes of enemies easier over time as you find new ways to engage them. Spinning around in a whirlwind attack, slowing them down, poisoning them or growing larger for more attack power. There are plenty of options and it was fun enough once you get into the groove.
Where things didn’t quite work as much for me is how streamlined it all is. I know that can sound a bit odd being a hack & slash, but the areas are pretty linear even if they are large. You “have” to go this way, you “have” to go that way, and in the middle of all of it? There are no side quests that come out. Whether you go back to town or are out in the field, you’re there for one reason, to move the main story along. This wouldn’t be so much of a complaint, if the grinding for experience was a bit easier…
If you leave an area and come back, not all enemies will respawn. Some of them will, but it makes for a slog to grind experience if you find that you are having a hard time especially against some bosses that can seem unfair until you’ve done said grinding for five or six character levels. It also often means that you have to go back several areas and fight whoever you can find in order to hopefully give you that said leverage as Aluna’s adventure isn’t that easy especially with a few difficulty spikes that can occur.
Topping that off, if you run out of hit points and “die”, it’s basically game over and you have to restart from the previous checkpoint. There’s no resurrection in town with a gold loss penalty but you get to keep the experience earned or get a penalty on the experience earned. Instead, it’s selecting that restart from the previous checkpoint and hope that you’re not too far back.
Finally my last issue with the gameplay is in how the skills themselves are presented. Colorful to look at, they are still colorful after being used and the distinction isn’t really clear until you’ve had a chance to actually stop, use them, and check to see the difference in luminosity. Used skills should have been much easier to tell from unused ones and this was especially the case when dealing with your potion for health recovery. Otherwise? You’re spamming on that button and hope that it comes back in time!
So while there are some good ideas behind Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards, I found that the console port may need a bit more work in order to better shine.
With a comic book storytelling approach and a decent skill system for character customization, there’s plenty here that works well, but unfortunately the current visual presentation elements hold it back.Score: 5.75 / 10