I’m a hug fan of world mythology, and the prospects of a game set in the world of Indian Mythology, a mythical universe often underrepresented in the west. Asura offers a colorful, comic-like dive into the world of Indian Mythology, following a demons tale of revenge on the Daeva Empire. You will die during this assault, that’s no question, but you’ll be reincarnated to strike out once more, mechanically imagined through the use of rogue-like elements and an incredibly innovative procedurally generated skill tree that’s different every time you are reborn.
Asura is a top-down hack ‘n’ slash game inspired by Indian mythology. It features rogue-like elements and a procedural skill tree which changes every time you play the game. Take on the roll as the demon incarnate and obliterate your way through the randomly generated fortress of the Daeva empire. Equip weapons from a wide variety of arsenal and carefully craft your character using the ever changing skill tree. The game can be brutal but is always fair. Can you rise from the ashes? Can you defeat the Daeva empire?
Asura will feel immediately familiar to any fans of the Diablo Series or it’s ofshoots, and certainly takes ample inspiration from that classic series. However, Asura differs from Diablo’s formula in a number of key areas.
First and foremost, Asura is about skill-shots and precise dodging, not stat stacking. While the armor and weapons you pick up in Asura do have stats and effects letting you tailor your build as you play, you’ll never get to the min-maxing that exists in Diablo simply because Asura is a much faster paced game. You have a small amount of health, and it takes only a few hits to die, but the same applies to your enemies. Combat is fast paced, frantic and involves a lot of dodging, weapons switching and stamina management.
You can’t spam attacks in Asura precisely because of this. Ranged enemies take less damage by default from ranged attacks, Melee enemies take less damage from melee attacks, and magical enemies take less damage from magic. Additionally, every weapon has a stamina cost for each use, from lightning fast 0 stamina cost claws, to heavy hitting hammers that use up 4 stamina every swing. You’ll gain more stamina and health as you level up and collect rare pieces of armor, but that never completely removes the stamina management aspect from combat. Asura ends up feeling like a tactical game, where every action must be carefully considered to unleash the most destructive power, and spamming will see you sent back to the depths of hell quicker than you can say Maharaja Hasirama.
Leveling up is where the creativity of Asura’s innovation really shines. Asura utilizes a procedurally generated skill tree to level up, different every time you launch a new assault. While the four branches always remain thematically the same (Yodha Shastra will always relate to weapon damage, Mantra Shastra always increases your damage over time effects, Bal Shastra always increases your health, and Chalak Shastra alwasy increases your stamina), but the individual skill inside that tree vary wildly, from various types of shields, to health absorbing attacks, to instant kill super-moves. The active skills in this tree recharge not over time, but over kills, which is a fantastic means of balancing the power of some of these brutal abilities. You may have a magical nuke in your arsenal, but you need to kill 50 enemies the regular way before you can use it.
The end result is that while each run feels familiar, it also feels varied enough to keep things interesting and engaging. Combined with random loot drops and randomized enemies, you have to be flexible to use the best tools presented to you. One run, that might mean hefting a massive hammer and pumping points into stamina so you can actually use it, while the next, you might be flinging magical bolts of fire and poison about the battlefield.
Want to learn more about the evolution and development of this procedurally generated skill tree? Check out our Interview with developer Zain Fahadh:
Visually, Asura is colorful, varied and well constructed, but in some ways I cannot help but feel an opportunity is missed. Asura is steeped in India Mythology, and part of me wishes this was more heavily embraced in the artistic style of the game. The game is very well directed visually, with consistent character models, background art with incredible depth and fantastic variety, but in many ways looks just like so many other game’s in the same genre. I do think that, from a marketing standpoint, Ogre Head Studios made the right choice here, as this art style will no doubt appeal to a wider audience, but I cannot help put want to see a version of Asura paying homage to the classic art of 16th and 17th century India, with even brighter colors, blue skinned gods, and brilliant geometric patterns. Things feel a bit toned down, and that disappoints me a bit, but I’ll be quick to admit this is a niche complaint.
Asura is a fast paced hack and slash that has an enormous amount of replayability woven into its mechanics. The idea of a procedurally generated skill tree is far more than a gimmick, and it keeps you on your toes and demands your flexibility every time you play. Fans of Diablo should certainly check the game out, as it emulates Blizzard’s well forged formula, but takes it in a very different direction, which provides an incredibly fun experience.