AER: Memories of Old I came across without having heard anything about it, and was pleasantly surprised with what I played. It wasn’t without some problems, but it did its job of creating a fun and relaxing experience.
We were given an Xbox One key for the game to review.
Game: AER: Memories of Old
Platforms: XB1 (played), PS4, PC
Release Date: October 25, 2017
Developer: Forgotten Key
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Laid Back & Relaxing
I wasn’t too sure what to expect when looking briefly at the game before delving into it proper, for whatever reason I had in mind that it was going to be more like a “walking simulator” style of game that is meant to be more relaxing than others.
I was wrong, at least on it being something like Dear Esther or Firewatch. AER: Memories of Old is an adventure game but one that at times has puzzles to solve and NPCs to talk to that are part of your story. One thing it is for sure is relaxing, which is made obvious with the design choices in visuals, music and gameplay.
At times the puzzles were a bit challenging to solve and not obvious, although in a game like AER that’s supposed to be the point. They are definitely not impossible. The pacing of them and the areas they take place in are slow but definitely not dull. They fit in well with the overall pace and feel of the game, and neither did they feel rushed or stayed longer than their welcome.
The main mechanic in the game is that in the overworld of floating islands you can transform from your human character into a flying bird, a necessity for getting around the islands from beginning to the end. While the game is linear with its story, you are able to fly anywhere at any time if you feel like it. Paired with the art style, which I’ll get into later, and the laid back music, there were definitely times where I just took time to fly around the islands and explore at my own pace.
Looks Pretty Fine
What makes AER: Memories of Old stand out more than anything is its jaw-droppingly beautiful art style. Forgotten Key has gone with a simple but smashing low-poly style for its environments, in a way that makes it unique and still keeps a lot of detail rather than being low-poly like an old 3d game. The colour palette is varied, bright and doesn’t stray away from being bold.
When to start the game in the cave, which acts as a prologue and a tutorial for simple controls like moving and jumping, is dark but the same style is still on show. When you hit a certain point in this area is starts to cave in (sorry) and columns of rocks start to spread. After completing the main temples something similar happens with the exteriors changing slightly.
Moving back to the floating islands, at first I wondered if they were all going to be the same style throughout the game’s world, however they do differ across each major area. While for some areas maybe the colour of the grass changes slightly and there are more trees, but others are distinct in their topography and even with their weather.
The game relies on giving you a lot of information about both your tasks and the overarching story through dialogue text. Different coloured words in the text mean different things, for example red text points you to task of sorts, blue text is for names of people or other beings while green is used for items. I don’t know how well this works for people with different types of colour blindness however, and there didn’t seem to be any settings to help people who would struggle.
The overarching story is a bit out there, although it wouldn’t be as fun and fitting otherwise, but the environment is used to add more to the story to make it deeper. You can find tablets that tell you more information and see ghost outlines of a past civilisation in certain areas, but in some areas there are big statues and structures that adds to the history and lore.
Not Without Problems
AER does what it aims to do very well, from the relaxing feel of the game to the beautiful environments that use a simplistic art style. But counterbalancing its positive are a few negatives.
For the most part moving around the world felt fluid, but at times it just felt awkward. Sometimes I would start flying but then turn back into human form because of hitting the trunk of a nearby tree. There were other times where I would end up flying too quick even after attempting to slow down, making it difficult to land.
The biggest gripe I had however was with the ending of the game. The story and history of the game world is something I’ve referred to but not explained, mainly because it’s part of the experience of the game, and I didn’t know where to start explaining, but that’s beside the point. Everything during the majority of the game feels like it was supposed to be that way, telling a gripping and believable story. Yes it felt like it could have been just a little bit longer with different puzzles and areas, and yes sometimes the loading screens were a bit annoying in length.
But the ending. It felt rushed, it felt explained, it felt abrupt, leaving me with the credits come on like a cliffhanger moment happened when nothing of the sorts did. With the build up of what you were meant to do, the problem that the world faced, it seemed to end without much thought and definitely no explanation as to how it changed the world or whether what happened was good or bad.
It’s a shame that the ending soured the experience a bit, as it also made me think a bit more about the gripes I may have had. Saying that though, going back to the game afterwards to pick up the miscellaneous achievements (you can easily get the full 1000G within 5 hours) reminded me that the negatives are outweighed by what Forgotten Key has done really well in AER.
The game is relaxing, which makes it very enjoyable to play, a great departure from the majority of games that myself and most probably others usually play. The low-poly environments and colour palettes used makes the world feel bright and cheerful, the music isn’t tense but adds to the serenity of the floating islands. Being able to fly around the world at your own pace and explore whichever islands you want, even if they didn’t have anything special on them, is what the game is really about for me.
Is it worth £13.50? I’m not sure. But it is worth being remembered and not being one of the many games nowadays that is left and forgotten about. It’s at the very least worth your time.