Thank you so much to Daedalic Entertainment for providing a review code
A common thing that many games strive for is to create a rich story with a deep and expansive lore. What many of these games forget about is that the core gameplay has to be fun and intriguing as well. The reverse also tends to occur with a boring, simplistic story coupled with amazing gameplay.
Sometimes, however a game can find that balance that provides a healthy dose of both. AER Memories of Old almost finds this rare balance, but misses it by just a hair, making it by no means a bad game (better than most in fact), but still making it sad that it came so close to that perfect balance.
AER stars you; a pilgrim on a pilgrimage to find 3 pieces of a tablet left behind by gods to seal the darkness away. During your journey to half a dozen temples and caves you encounter the gods in animal form that deposit the lore of the world inside of you. This is nice and all and for extremely devoted players they could be able to follow the narrative, but personally I found it to be confusing and not overly compelling.
Unless you’re really willing to invest time into understanding the lore and what it’s all about, then you may start to get confused by it. Piles upon piles of lore are revealed to you constantly, but there’s no real incentive to follow along or care about it. Like I said, devoted players, will definitely enjoy this portion of the game as it is evident that time went into crafting the lore of this world, but for someone just here to enjoy the casual experience, the story gleams no real significance.
AER’s gameplay is split up into three sections; land, air, and dungeons. In the overworld, you have the option of either travelling by land or air. Travelling on the ground is very basic as you simply run around and jump along with using a lantern to activate buttons.
The real meat of the game comes from the flying mechanic. With a press of a button, you can transform into a bird and take to the skies. The flying in this game is perfect, you feel the weight to your movements and you have an incredible sense of speed. Halfway through the game, I decided to try flying through the clouds littered throughout the sky, and as stated earlier, it did not disappoint.
The overworld you travel through is broken up into different locations over one big seamless map, once you discover a location, you discover it on your map. The places you travel to are all visually different. You have a snowy mountain area, a waterfall area, a town and the list goes on. These locations are all presented as floating islands, making your bird form the primary mode of transportation. A neat little thing the game does which I found to be very unique, especially in today’s gaming climate is the lack of a waypoint. The only directions you’re given are things like north, south, or northwest for example. This builds on that sense of travel and adventure the game seems to pride itself on.
Besides exploration there are also dungeons to explore which are required to complete to find the 3 tablets. These can be accessed in any order and are the place you will spend the most time with. Inside these dungeons, your flight option is taken away and you are left with just the land based movements. The puzzles that are scattered in the dungeon are pretty simplistic and don’t offer too much of a challenge.
There’s a variety of them, but they all consist of either pressing torch buttons or activating a machine that is again just a simple puzzle that needs to be solved. A problem I did find with the dungeons is that they are difficult to navigate. There are so many branching rooms and hallways that they all look incredibly similar. On top of that, there’s no real indication of what to do. This lack of direction causes you to walk around aimlessly at times just to figure out what you’re suppose to do. I understand that this aids in the game’s sense of adventure and discovery, but even a simple map of the dungeon could prove very useful at times.
I admit that while I personally believe the whole cell shaded polygon art style so many indie games seem to use is a very tired concept, it can be used to great effect. I’m glad to say that AER’s world and gameplay match perfectly with the art style.
Doing simple things like flying through a cloud are made magical by a couple of simplistic effects of bursting into and out of the cloud. Apart from the visuals, the soundtrack is perfect. It takes the Breath of the Wild approach and uses the lack of emphasis on music to its advantage. The music blends into the atmosphere, making it unnoticeable. The music becomes part of the atmosphere seamlessly and even changes dynamically depending on what you’re doing.
All these different styles combine really well. While you rarely use land travel when in the overworld, the controls still feel nice The flying as I’ve said before is amazing and is easily the best part of the game, and the dungeons, while simplistic and at times confusing to navigate are enjoyable.
During my playthrough I encountered no significant technical issues.
AER: Memories of Old, is a fun little three hour experience. It provides solid gameplay with an in depth lore for those who are devoted enough to attempt to comprehend it. While on the outside it looks like just another exploration simulator it sets itself apart with a unique world and a unique way to travel through it. It has something for any kind of player, which is what makes it so appealing and worth your time.
Love playing games and experiencing all that the different developers have to offer, happy to have the chance to broaden my horizons and explore more of the vast universe of indie games with Switch Atlantic!