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Video Game / Astalon: Tears of the Earth

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From left to right: Algus, Arias, and Kyuli.

"We traveled through hell to get here, but we finally made it. This cold tower... I can feel its evil energy in my soul, stabbing like shards of glass. We are tired, injured and hungry, but we must continue forward. The lives of the people back home depend on us... but I have no one. Just a promise to a dead man, and the ultimate debt..."

Astalon: Tears of the Earth is a Metroidvania developed by LABS Works and published by Dangen Entertainment.

The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where, in the year 21XX, the rulers of the world brought it to ruin in a struggle for power, leaving only a few survivors in an irradiated wasteland. Decades later, ruins of the old world begin arising from the earth; these are the "tears of the earth" the title refers to.

A village's water supply has become tainted. Three explorers—Arias the fighter, Algus the wizard, and Kyuli the thief— set out to find the cause of this and save their people. They eventually discover the Tower of Serpents, a dark tower that emanates evil energy and seems to be poisoning the water.

The trio will die. However, that will not be the end of it. Unbeknownst to his companions, Algus made a deal with Epimetheus, the Titan of death, in the past. Should any of them fall in their quest, Epimetheus will rewind time back to when they first entered the tower. In exchange, however, the titan will take Algus' soul once their task is complete...

The game was released on June 3, 2021 for Nintendo Switch, Play Station 4, Xbox One, and PC.

This game contains examples of:

  • A.I. Breaker: During the final battle against the Black Knight, his AI will only perform one of his attacks if he is near the player and is within vertical distance. If the player uses Kyuli to Wall Jump up the wall before he gets near, all he will do is walk left and right while she can shoot at him.
  • Alien Sky: According to a tablet describing the Lunarians, the planet Astalon takes place on apparently has more than one moon.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Is Gorgon Solaria somehow not the "real" Solaria as Algus believes, or did she become a gorgon and turn on humanity of her own volition?
    • Why exactly did the gorgons imprison Bram instead of just killing and eating him like they do to most humans?
  • Ambiguously Gay: One room contains a headless, feminine-looking statue with its butt facing the player. Having Kyuli examine the statue prompts her to say "Not bad, for a gorgon!"
  • Arrange Mode:
    • There are two unlockable game modes where you traverse the tower with a different character. One puts you in control of the Black Knight, while the other stars Nevus, a gargoyle who rebels against the gorgons.
    • A later update adds New Game Plus, which alters the tower's layout and changes the location of where items are found, while allowing you to start with the secret characters and any upgrades or abilities you purchased from Epimetheus on the previous playthrough.
  • Art Shift: Recruiting Zeek unlocks a set of alternate portraits for the characters that are drawn in a more realistic style.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The game features colorful 8-bit graphics with Super-Deformed character designs from the artist behind Dragon Half. It also features some very dark backstory and lore, as well as ghoulish monster designs.
  • Attack Reflector: One of Arias' items, the Sword of Mirrors, allows him to deflect enemy projectiles with his sword.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The Hall of Phantoms, as its name suggests, is filled with skeletons, floating demon heads, and ghosts that can only be harmed with Algus' Banish spell.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Giant beetles serve as the first enemies encountered by the player.
  • Blade Spam: Arias' attack begins to verge into this as you upgrade his attack speed.
  • Blood Bath: In Black Knight Mode, the playable Black Knight heals by standing in pools of blood.
  • Body Horror: The Black Knight's flesh is seen grotesquely bulging out of his armor in his first appearance. When he loses to the party for the final time, it happens again, and the bulging gets worse to the point where he collapses under a pile of bulbous tumors.
  • Breakout Mook Character: One of the unlockable game modes is Monster Mode, where you play as a gargoyle named Nevus who rebels against the gorgons' tyrannical rule over the monsters.
  • Call a Pegasus a "Hippogriff": One enemy found in the Ruins of Ash is called a "harpy" by the bestiary. It's a disembodied, marble-white human head with angel wings.
  • Cast from Hit Points:
    • Algus' Meteor Rain spell is a screen-filling attack that costs 5 HP to use.
    • Zeek's Magic Block ability originally cost 5 HP to use. Patches later reduced the cost to 1 HP before removing it entirely.
    • The Black Knight's shadow energy balls cost 2 HP to use.
  • Cast from Money: Kyuli's Shining Ray technique costs 500 orbs to use.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The player characters all have different color-coding. Arias is blue, Algus is yellow, and Kyuli is red. Later characters Zeek and Bram are green and tan respectively.
  • Cool Key: Red keys, the rarest non-unique variety of key, are shaped like some sort of horned demon's head. The doors they open are similarly covered in a mural of demons, snakes, and teeth.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The first encounter with the Black Knight is not even a Hopeless Boss Fight, it's a cutscene where he kills all three player characters without any effort.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: The Black Knight is introduced effortlessly killing the entire party. He's next encountered not too much later in the Mechanism, where he can reasonably be fought off by a character who hasn't at all gotten stronger since they last met. The same cutscene also features him killing Arias with a descending Disintegrator Ray and telekinetically lifting Algus up in the air, neither of which are attacks he has in any of his boss encounters.
  • Cyclops: They are muscular, vaguely insectoid creatures with scythes for arms who are created when a cyclops larva attaches itself to a human.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Unlocking one of the Secret Characters means that the character-swapping order of Athena's Bell changes to accommodate them. Instead of switching from Kyuli to Arias, you'll switch from Kyuli to the unlockable. This happens all over again when you unlock the second one.
  • Dark Reprise: The Apex and Tower Roots each have a darker variant of the game's intro theme, "Poisoned World," as their theme music. The former's is slow and ominous, while the latter's is more fast-paced and intense.
  • Deal with the Devil: Algus made one with Epimetheus in the past. In exchange for the Epimetheus rewinding time for Algus after he dies, the Titan gets Algus' soul after he's finished with the Tower of Serpents.
  • Degraded Boss: Stronger versions of the cyclops minibosses appear as normal enemies in the later game.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: It's possible for Algus to escape his pact with Epimetheus by tricking the Titan into taking his homunculus, which was made with a part of his soul, rather than his entire soul.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Both of the Arrange Modes center around using the protagonist's enhanced mobility to bypass obstacles that you'd normally have to maneuver around or collect an item for. The Black Knight can jump much higher and farther than the normal protagonists, while Nevus the gargoyle can fly for an unlimited amount of time.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Volantis, the second gorgon fought by the heroes, swears to take revenge on them for killing his brother Tauros.
  • Evil Is Visceral: In their true forms, most of the gorgons appear as grotesque fleshy monstrosities. The tower itself also has giant veins/roots that drip poison into the nearby river.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Tower of Serpents is a huge black tower in the desert that's responsible for poisoning the heroes' village's water supply. The protagonists repeatedly note that the tower seems to give off evil energy.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Arias is the fighter, Algus is the mage, and Kyuli is the thief.
  • Fist Bump: If you recruited Bram, he and Arias are seen doing one in the end credits.
  • Flash Sideways: Arias and Kyuli have faint memories of their previous deaths undone by Epimetheus.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In the climax, Algus calls the Black Knight out, saying that while he sympathizes with his plight, his plan to wipe out all humanity is nonetheless beyond the pale.
    Algus: I understand your suffering, but you don't have to do this!
    Algus: So your goal of revenge was to kill the innocent? Stop the poison, knight! The villagers did you no wrong!
  • Gruesome Goat: Epimetheus, the Titan of Death, appears as a towering pile of flesh with a goat skull for a head.
  • Heart Container: In addition to Epimetheus' upgrades, the party can also upgrade their stats by collecting crystal shards scattered throughout the tower. These come in two forms: red shards that increase health, and white shards that increase attack power.
  • The Heavy: While the Black Knight is the most active villain, being responsible for the water poisoning and facing off the characters multiple times, the true villains are the Gorgons who helped to bring him to power.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the ending, Algus gives his life defending the rest of the party from the Black Knight's attempt to take them down with him. Whether he actually dies depends on what variation of the ending the player got.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: The Black Knight is significantly larger than the other playable characters, but his hitbox is the same size as theirs, leading to situations where enemies and hazards inexplicably pass harmlessly through his head.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism:
    • When resting, Algus heals the party by making food out of slain monsters.
    • In Monster Mode, the protagonist heals by eating meat dropped by slain enemies.
  • Hypocrite: When a child is sacrificed to the gorgons in the Tower of Serpents, they express pity for the boy and disgust towards humans for being capable of doing such a thing. They then proceed to turn him into a Tyke Bomb with the intent of letting him die should he fail his training, only electing not to eat him because he's too small.
  • I Will Find You: The reason Zeek wants to be a wizard is so that he can find the woman who raised him again.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Zeek attacks by throwing random objects at the enemy, including books, coins, broken pillars, potions, and action figures of the protagonists.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Completing the Tower Roots (an optional area that requires you to have every key upgrade in the game) and defeating Dullahan rewards you with the Blood Chalice, which regenerates your health when standing still. This is very desirable considering how limited healing otherwise is in Astalon, and combined with how powerful the game lets you become, it can essentially make you immortal if you're patient enough to wait for your health to regenerate now and again.
  • In-Series Nickname: Algus is called "Al" by Arias.
  • Justified Extra Lives: After one of the player characters is killed, Epimetheus rewinds time as part of his deal with Algus.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook:
    • Ghosts can only be damaged by Algus using a special banishing spell.
    • The Horhai is impervious to normal attacks and can only be damaged with Algus' Meteor Rain or Kyuli's Shining Ray.
  • Lava Pit: Pits of lava can be found throughout the game. Not recommended to touch.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: Algus is doomed to be claimed by Epimetheus after he's fulfilled their bargain and taken down the tower.
  • Mass Monster-Slaughter Sidequest: To reach the boss of the Cyclops Den and get the Prince's Crown, you first have to kill all 35 of the cyclopes in the area.
  • Medusa: The Gorgons of this game appear to be giant, Horned Humanoid stone heads whose true forms are demonic abominations that lie within. The Final Boss Gorgon is Medusa herself.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: The Black Knight. As a result of having an abusive father who handed him to a cult to be sacrificed to the gorgons, who in turn raised him as a Tyke Bomb intended to serve them against humanity, he wants nothing less than the total extinction of the human race.
  • Money Multiplier: Three demonic-looking stone heads can be found scattered throughout the Tower. At the cost of a few hit points, destroying them cumulatively doubles the amount of orbs you obtain until death, at which point the heads respawn and may be destroyed again to regain the boost.
  • Monster Compendium: One sidequest involves being tasked by the last surviving member of the Order of Beast Hunters to document the monsters living in the Tower.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Despite that the game is mostly 8-bit pixels, game artwork shows Kyuli has some very generous curves and ample breasts. One piece of official art has her in a Boobs-and-Butt Pose.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • Ending 1: When taking control of Arias at the beginning of the game, have him turn back and leave the tower rather than following the others. Arias dies after living a life of regret, and Algus and Kyuli are unable to complete their quest without him. The game then states that "that's not how the story went" and returns the player to where the game begins. More of a Nonstandard Game Over than a full ending.
    • Ending 2: Defeat the final boss at the Apex. This ending has two variations depending on whether you complete the Homunculus and achieve 100% Completion of the tower or not. Either way, after the battle, the Black Knight tries to take the party down with him, with Algus saying his goodbyes to Arias and Kyuli before sacrificing himself to stop him. The Tower of Serpents collapses, the village's water supply is purified, and Arias and Kyuli are hailed as heroes.
      • If you didn't fulfill the criteria, Algus accepts the end after his sacrifice. He reminisces on the time he spent with Arias and Kyuli, hopeful that they will build a better future and glad he got to know them. The Stinger shows Algus becoming one of the people trapped inside the bubbles on Epimetheus' body, with Epimetheus quipping that he "saved [him] a spot."
      • If you did, Algus defies Epimetheus when he comes for his soul. Enraged, Epimetheus impales Algus on his finger, only for Algus to trick him into attacking his homunculus instead. Since the homunculus was made using his soul, this gives Epimetheus part of Algus' soul but not all of it, technically fulfilling the deal. Epimetheus allows Algus to escape, but promises that he will "come to claim what is owed" someday. Algus survives with his companions and joins them in the festivities that follow their victory.
  • Nightmare Face: Dullahan has a goblin-like face with black pits for eyes and a toothy, gaping mouth.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted — Black Knight mode lets you play as the Black Knight himself, going through the tower and fighting the Gorgons (and a copy of himself) as part of his Training from Hell.
  • Noob Cave: The adventure begins with a brief cave with no threats aside from a few easily-avoided spikes and three simple platforming sections serving to acquaint the player with each of the three protagonists and their abilities.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Unlike the other four characters, Zeek has no interest in cleansing the water supply or protecting the world from gorgons and is only tagging along because he wants to "become a wizard" and find his adoptive mother again. He doesn't even seem to be aware of what's happening to the water, since his only reaction when inspecting the source of the poison in the Catacombs is to ingenuously note that the poison is "making the water purple!"
  • Number of the Beast: Epimetheus' "Gift" deal costs 666 orbs.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tauros and Volantis react with terror when their true forms are defeated and their stone faces start falling apart.
  • Older Than They Look: Zeek the merchant looks like a child, but he's actually 24 years old.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Giant blue centaurs called "Rhaecus" are fought as a type of miniboss. Dullahan, a stronger red version of the enemy capable of detaching its head, can be fought late in the game.
  • Precision F-Strike: After Algus reveals the details of his deal with Epimetheus, Arias tells him "what the hell?!" for keeping it hidden from him and Kyuli.
  • Press Start to Game Over: You can get a quick Nonstandard Game Over by going left and taking Algus out of the Noob Cave before reuniting him with his friends.
  • Press X to Die: The Gorgon's Tomb contains a balcony where you can jump out of the tower. This goes about the way you'd expect it to.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Lunarians, apparently. A text block in the Catacombs describes them as looking "like [humans], but not exactly," but the text explaining how so is illegible.
  • Say My Name: Epimetheus screams Algus' name with fury after being tricked by him in the good ending.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The gorgons are demonic creatures who are trapped inside the Tears of the Earth. They can escape from their prison if they become powerful enough, allowing them to wreak as much havoc as they want, and this is the goal of the gorgons in the Tower of Serpents.
  • Secret Character: In addition to the main trio, two more characters can be added to the team: Bram the hunter and Zeek the merchant.
  • Sequel Hook: Completing all of the secrets unlocks one last secret titled "Final Scene." It shows Epimetheus being confronted by a mysterious cloaked figure seeking his services. Epimetheus reacts with amusement followed by rage to their demands, until the figure pulls out some kind of glowing white spear. Whatever the significance of this item is, Epimetheus is astonished by the sight, and the figure says "Let us begin." before the scene fades to black.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title screen looks a lot like the tower entrance screen in Terranigma.
    • Arias greatly resembles the hero from Dragon Quest. One of his alternate designs in the Dimensional Mirror also resembles the one from Dragon Quest III.
    • The deal that reduces the amount of knockback you suffer from taking damage is called Poise.
    • Secret Character Bram plays just like the protagonist of a classic Castlevania game. His name, by extension, is a reference to Bram Stoker.
      • His introduction is a homage to that of Madmartigan's from Willow, complete with him asking the party for water, bragging about his swordsmanship, and calling Arias a "peck."
    • Zeek's design is based on the dancing merchants from Secret of Mana, and the items he throws for his attack include a coin from Super Mario Bros., what looks like a Game Boy, and the elixir from Matt Kap's previous game Castle in the Darkness. One of his power-up items allows him to create a magic cube and throw it.
    • The achievement/trophy for getting Ending 1 is titled "Fly, you fool!"
    • The Dimensional Mirror is a set of concept art pieces, some of which are references:
      • "'Your poison comes from another tower.'": A re-enactment of the boss fights from Super Mario Bros. with Arias and a cyclops in place of Mario and Bowser.
      • "Burning Emblem": A pastiche of Fire Emblem.
      • "Astalius: The Second Lightning": Algus as the protagonist of a shoot-em-up game battling Epimetheus in a spaceship.
    • The gargoyles in the Ruins of Ash resemble Red Arremers. Additionally, one of the alternate game modes lets you play as one.
    • The unused Stranger enemy in the Lost Souls gallery is unmistakably similar to the Licker from Resident Evil.
  • So Near, Yet So Far: The elevator that leads to the final battle can be accessed as soon as you obtain the Ascendent Key, but you can't actually use it until you've collected the three Gorgon Eyes.
  • Sole Survivor:Bram's village was wiped out by a gorgon in the past, leading him to devote his life to killing them.
  • Spikes of Doom: Deadly spikes are found throughout the game.
  • Stab the Sky: Arias strikes this pose during his "become the hero that I was meant to be" moment in the intro. He does it again when the party is about to enter the final battle, as well as whenever he activates his Last Chance Hit Point skill Lionheart.
  • Start of Darkness: After your first fight with the Black Knight, "insight" becomes available to buy from Epimetheus. It can be bought three times, each of which shows a cutscene explaining how the Knight became what he is.
  • Suspiciously Cracked Wall: One of the game's main ways of signifying a secret passageway.
  • To Serve Man: The gorgons see the humans as nothing more than food, which they repeatedly remind the protagonists of.
  • Training from Hell: The Black Knight Mode, where the Black Knight's training involves the Gorgons putting him through the entire tower, having to fight them all as well as a clone of himself, where failure meant death.
  • The Unfought: The three gorgons who raised the Black Knight. They seem to appear in the background of a room in the Ruins of Ash, but they can't be interacted with in any way, let alone fought.
  • Variable Mix: A more relaxed variation of the area's music plays in save rooms.
  • Villain Respect: In the good ending, Epimetheus comes to respect Algus scamming him and decides to let him live until he's ready to die, knowing that some day he'll get Algus's soul anyway.
  • Water Source Tampering: A village's water supply has become poisoned, and the heroes travel to the Tower of Serpents to put a stop to it.
  • Womb Level: The Serpent's Path, a cavern of red flesh and blue veins where the heroes must fight beating hearts that fire poison at them. Secret rooms with the same appearance as this area are also scattered throughout the tower.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When Kyuli mentions that even the village's children were poisoned by his plan, the Black Knight laughs it off as "a small price to restore purity."
  • Year X: The apocalyptic event that precedes the game takes place in Year 21XX.