The latest from developer Forgotten Key, AER: Memories of Old has found publication through Deadalic Entertainment. An installment dead set on encouraging exploration, the game cuts to the chase by presenting clear goals and infinite routes to completion. Narrative checkpoints do not emulate obnoxious neon, but instead you fortunately stumble upon them. Like a child moving to a new neighborhood, friends are made haphazardly and social paranoia dissipates once a basketball emerges from a garage.
Auk is an adolescent member of a clan called The People of the Sky. Her internal timer has led to this pivotal moment. Today she begins her pilgrimage. Beginning in a gloomy abyss, scaling upward to a luminous mouth, she reads ancient scrolls that breathe a rich lineage of strife and perseverance. Before receiving any instructions, Auk already knows that the journey ahead will mimic the tumultuous winds that have carved her ancestry.
Armed with only a lantern, Auk realizes that this unsuspecting tool will be the inanimate companion responsible for unveiling buried truths ahead. Emerging from the cavern birth, a world suspended in the heavens form mammoth stepping stones leading to Northern origins. Direction becomes as essential as breathing, and soaring as crucial as communicating. Auk is a mute observer that is thrust into the role of explorer. Her vocabulary consists of wing brushstrokes, and musical aerobics.
Although the objectives of the journey are never outright presented, the beats of the story are tastefully laid out so to avoid any meandering expeditions from The Settlement, where helpful guides remain at a pillowing fireplace. Navigation becomes the key to achievement, and spotting obscure Temples releases high levels of satisfaction after carrying out legible flight plans. The majority of exploration takes place in the sky, with eagle eyed reconnaissance developing a feel in and of itself. The streamlined aviation controls remove any pesky pitch or rudder management that other flight games mistake as immersive elements.
No enemies roam in this tranquil heaven-scape, and collectables are not strewn about as in other tacky adventure games. The focus is the pilgrimage and discovery of the world’s present, and past, and potentially future. This bold move to reduce the game’s objectives to a mere handful of puzzle-laden dungeon crawlers results in a concise and compact journey. Each entry to a Temple becomes more grandiose as you realize that each completion will hurdle you leaps toward the conclusion.
The level design in these ventricle, subterranean Temples has a playful acknowledgement of space. Outside of these arenas, space is practically disregarded by the power of flight, but within the Temples, you are grounded and void of your map interface. A mental layout starts to form and a test of memory persists as the greatest enemy. Thematically, this off-controller mechanic services the narrative brilliantly. Auk’s main task is to learn and remember landmarks of her people’s history. Intentional or not, this subversive level design hammers in the concept of exploration for exploration’s sake.
The brevity of the story in terms of duration and world-building does leave much to be desired. Forgotten Key has crafted a refreshing minimalistic approach to adventure gaming, but stops short from exploring all that could be potentially discovered. This flies in contrast to the motto that seems to thread the entire experience of the game. A sturdy three to five hour game-time packs substantial content, but limited nonetheless; a feeling defended by some unfortunate late chapter narrative wrap ups.
AER: Memories of Old paints a majestic horizon of discovery and looming history. Understated storytelling throws unsuspecting emotive punches that line the world with gloom and hope. A playful environment melds with a stress-free joyride of flight offering a serene escape into mythical caves.
Check Out the AER – Memories of Old Official Video:
AER – Memories of Old will be available October 25, 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC via Steam.