After scouring the Internet for more promising video game prospects, I came across yet another simplistic-looking, yet ambitious title looking to make waves among the indie community. Astral Ascent, the second title from France-based indie outfit Hibernian Workshop following on from their first game, Dark Devotion, is a 2D rogue-lite with intricately rendered 8-BIT visuals, intense combat sequences, and RPG elements in the form of a unique magic-building system. In development since 2019, the game was recently funded on Kickstarter within 36 hours of the campaign going live, and now the target has switched to fulfill the project’s next stretch goal. Wanting to know more about what this will have to offer players upon release, I reached out to the game’s creative director and chief programmer Louis Denizet to ask a few questions about the game, and what drove them to make such a radical departure from their previous game. So here’s what Louis Denizet had to say about Astral Ascent:
What were the influences behind your game?
We play a lot of indie rogue-lites such as Wizard of Legend, Dead Cells, Hades but games like Children of Morta have been very influential on us for their artistic style.
What has the developmental process been like?
We were two, me and Alexandre the artistic director, for several months to set up the intentions then we started working with Gaël and Renan for more than a year on it. The studio works remotely and we mainly iterate a lot on elements we produce until we think things are good enough.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
The game is scheduled for 2023 with an Early Access early 2022 but there is already a demo live on Steam for PC & Mac that includes the co-op with a good level of quality.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Freedom! We are self-published so we can do what we want and so far every aspect of the game feels exciting to us.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Staying motivated in the long run can be challenging in particular at the beginning where things seem to be very very slow: making the big systems like remapping inputs, localization, etc really took us a lot of effort but this is behind us now!
How important has player feedback been throughout the development of Astral Ascent; especially from those players who had played Dark Devotion beforehand?
For now, we are just starting to have player feedback thanks to the demo, for that we even created a specific channel in our discord server where you can post a suggestion and if people upvote your suggestion it can end up in our workflow so we can check that. We think it will very important for the game as we are making a rogue-lite we want to really rely on these suggestions to improve the game. For Dark Devotion fans, so far, feedback has absolutely great and we are very happy about it!
How well has the game been received so far?
Absolutely great, it was quite a challenge to deliver a good quality game in addition to the Kickstarter campaign, we are a small team so it meant extra efforts but we are happy with the quality!
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
We will release on PC, Mac, PS4, PS5, Switch, so far we did not announce Xbox and DRM-free.
In the last few months, I’ve noticed there has been an influx of indie games to have come out of France. Have there been any other French developers out there that have been there to offer further advice or to have taken inspiration from?
Oh yes; the French game developers community is very welcoming and we often talk together to give advice, this has been very helpful so many times!
It’s mentioned in the press kit for the game that Astral Ascent is a far more ambitious project than what Dark Devotion was. In what respects is it more ambitious?
In my opinion: every aspect! The game scope is so much bigger with all the rogue-lite elements, we have 4 playable characters, co-op mode, the dialog system, the controls remapping, etc. This is a very big step up from our previous/first production.
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
Yes, a lot! We had an 8 slot inventory for spells for both players, for example, each hub NPC has been reworked at least 2 times and we completely changed our main hub, believe it or not, it used to be 3 times bigger with completely different assets.
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Dead Mage who released Children of Morta seems like a very good choice from my point of view!
From a developmental standpoint, what have been the most important lessons learned from the development of Dark Devotion going into Astral Ascent?
Good question, again I would say everything! Dark Devotion was started as a learning project, we knew nothing about game development or coding or anything so it was pretty chaotic. Apart from that, I would say pre-production is really something important to learn!
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Do game, do game jams! That is the way!
Where on the Internet can people find you?
As a studio you can follow us on Twitter we are very active as our Kickstarter campaign is live and we have so much to reveal: https://twitter.com/HibernianWS As a developer you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DenizetLouis, or itch.io: https://louis-denizet.itch.io/
Do you have anything else to add?
Thanks for the opportunity and thank you for taking the time to read!
I also want to thank Louis for taking the time out of development to provide the answers to my questions and to wish him and all the team at Hibernian Studios the best of luck with Astral Ascent. In recent months, I have encountered a lot of indie developers to have originated from France, and Hibernian Workshop is the latest in an ever-growing list of new and exciting programmers looking to make waves and break new ground. I certainly can’t wait for the release of this game, and I hope you can’t too. If you’d like to check out their Kickstarter page, you can do it via the link below:
In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article because I had a particularly exciting time learning more about this insanely ambitious game.
Scouse Gamer 88