Title: AER: Memories of Old
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), XB1, PC
Developer: Forgotten Key
Release date: October 25, 2017
Price: PS4: £16/$15 XB1: £12/$15 PC: £14/$15
TL;DR: Relaxing, exploration-based, and fun!
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It’s almost impossible to write a review on AER: Memories of Old without comparing it (favourably) to ThatGameCompany’s Journey. From the minimalistic art style – which somehow bypasses any need for intricate detail in your character and the environment – to the exploration style gameplay, comparisons will inevitably be made. While this is not a bad thing, I feel that it should be pointed out that this isn’t some sort of mindless clone.
Your name is Auk and you have been sent out on a pilgrimage for reasons that aren’t made clear. The cave that you find yourself in at the beginning of the game helps demonstrate the smoothness of the character animation and controls, making the game feel organic and natural as you navigate your way with ease across various platforms and ledges. Then with some haste as, upon acquiring an ancient artefact, the shrine starts to collapse around you.
From the moment that you leave Karah’s crumbling shrine, you can see broken islands scattered across the sky hidden amongst formidable looking cloud formations. Some catastrophe fell upon the land many years ago, and you must go forth and visit the land’s temples in order to uncover the past and save what’s left of the world.
Did I also mention you can turn into a bird and fly?
An NPC that meets you outside will give you guidance as to where you need to go next. You should probably make a mental note of this as you will need to go to specific places in order to progress the story. Otherwise, you are free to go wherever you choose. There is a lot of fun to be had from soaring through the rather impenetrable looking clouds, and that gives you a brief feeling of warp speed until you emerge out the other side.
I spent the first hour or so flying from island to island (well, actually flying in really random directions while I got the hang of the controls) and as a consequence did get lost, before remembering that I could go back and speak to the NPC in the only town (called The Settlement) for directions. That’s not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with the flight controls, rather my personal skill at manoeuvring anything when moderate speed is involved. So I spent a lot of time, early on, soaring at great speed past islands that I’d fully intended landing on, and diving headlong into cliff faces or trees in an attempt to land, before I finally realised that tapping the jump button would pull me out of flight form.
Aside from a handful of things you’ll need to do to unlock them, the temples are where the majority of the gameplay will take place. The puzzles that await you feel vaguely Tomb Raider-ish in nature and will have you searching for switches to activate bridges or line up symbols to unlock doors. While these puzzles aren’t particularly taxing, you really don’t want them to be. The beauty of this game is how well it flows.
The soundtrack that accompanies you on your travels waxes and wanes, depending on what you are doing; flying gives you a more exuberant sound, while exploring on foot will subdue the music significantly, allowing birdsong or flowing water to take over. Investigating temples or caves will lower the sound again, almost in reverence of your surroundings.
The story is left deliberately vague and mysterious, and though you come to learn the reason for your pilgrimage, you are left to fill in the details. Once you complete the game, which brings a surprisingly moving conclusion, you are left with some unanswered questions.
There are tablets and writings scattered around the world for you to discover and read along with statues and the remnants of old ruined cities. Most places that you visit will have strange, glowing motes floating just off the ground; using your lantern near these will reveal segments of history, showing the plight of the people that inhabited the land, long ago. While all of this isn’t required for the progression of the game, it does shed some light on the story and background while giving your pilgrimage a feeling of purpose.
AER: Memories of Old was a joy to play. The simplicity of the graphics compliment the smooth and natural feel of the controls. While I found the camera movement overly sensitive at first, this wasn’t a huge issue as I soon got used to it, though the sensitivity can be turned down in the options if needed. While the replay value isn’t high – you can easily get everything done in one playthrough – this is the type of game that I can see myself coming back to, just because it feels so comfortable.
Trophy hunters will love this game as they are relatively easy to come by, bar one that is missable if you progress past a certain point in the story. Check out our trophy guide for more details.
- Smooth, intuitive controls
- Relaxing gameplay
- Camera can be a bit sensitive while flying
- Load times can be a touch long when entering caves or temples
- Only takes two – three hours to complete
Rated: PEGI 7/ESRB E; some coordination needed to navigate but suitable for all.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.