As a general rule I dislike games that refuse to hold the gamer’s hand and instead just leave them to it, letting them head off on an adventure of their own, unaware of what is round the next corner or over the next hill. I much prefer structure, I much prefer rules and I much prefer a game to tell me what to do, before leaving me to my own devices and letting my gaming skills do the talking.
AER – Memories of Old however is a game that is very much in the vein of those games I dislike. There is no hand holding, there is no telling the gamer what to do and there is no real structure – at least not on the face of it. Instead you are left to explore the world however you see fit, talking to those you meet whilst ignoring others at will, reading up on the lore should your inquisitive mind need to take in further information and just wandering around aimlessly if you prefer.
So why is it that I absolutely adore a game that I should really dislike? Well, the stunning audio and visual effects are two reasons. But the chance of uncovering the story and mysteries that AER holds is by far its biggest draw.
I would like to start this review by mentioning the story that unfolds, but should I do that, then it may just ruin everything that is great about the game. So I won’t and instead I’ll just leave you with this little nugget of information… what AER delivers in terms of lore is quite possibly the most moving, most emotional, most intriguing and most mysterious tale I’ve come across in the gaming world. It is drip fed your way at a delightful pace, and leaves you plenty of scope to take in as much, or as little, as you wish. Just be aware that it will have you thinking about things you never thought you’d have to ever think about.
That is however the first and last time I’m going to mention the tale, because I refuse to spoil anything more. Instead I’ll just have to rattle on about the stunning visuals, the superbly well placed sound effects, and the dream like world that AER delivers.
Playing as Auk, a young pilgrim girl in a super stylish low poly visualised world, you’ll find yourself running, jumping and flying from island to island, and puzzle to puzzle, as you let AER unfold before you. For the most part, the entire experience is pretty damn smooth, and this is highlighted no better than when Auk transforms seamlessly into a bird and soars through the air, climbing, diving and picking up the fastest wind currents in order to help her move between the islands of the sky.
Without a word of a lie, I could spend hours on end messing around in bird form, hunting down new islands from the sky, before dropping down and exploring each by foot. With multiple secrets to discover, stone tablets to be read and both spirit animals and other humans to chat to, discovering the world’s secrets is a joy.
The more you explore and uncover secrets, the more you’ll understand how everything in AER just falls into place. You’ll also begin to understand how the numerous puzzles work.
Hidden away in secret temples, the puzzling system is a great one and reminds me very much of a cross between the good old days of Tomb Raider, and the more recent enjoyment found in Rime. Nothing is ever too difficult and you’ll not really be taxed by what they bring, so if you’re looking for a real brain teaser then you’re going to be disappointed, but the joy is instead found in navigating your way through these temples and caves whilst uncovering even more mysteries. Complete one and you’ll see the story progresses even further, before once more leaving you to your own devices and told to get on with it.
It is however these puzzling moments on land where AER begins to stutter a little and not everything is completely rosy in the wonderfully created sky based world. You see, there are the odd visual stutters, and tearing is a thing that occasionally pops up from time to time, whilst Auk can sometimes find herself hidden inside rocks and walls when she should be clambering over them. But you shouldn’t ever let these slight oddities decrease the enjoyment of the rest of the game because from the very start, to the very end, I’ve been left to play through things open mouthed, in awe of what the developers at Forgotten Key have created.
They’ve also done an absolutely sterling job in tying the soundtrack of Memories of Old in beautifully with what is being represented on screen. Whilst it would have perhaps been nice to actually hear the nomads and spirit animals you happen across deliver their part of the tale with full narration, it would then maybe have gone completely against the serene nature of everything else that has been lovingly put in place.
It would also have been nice to see a slightly longer experience take hold, because sat here now with the credits rolling after just a couple of hours, I have been left wanting more of the wonders of AER. But then, there’s nothing to stop me heading back in to try and discover even more secrets and moments of magic, as the world is always open for explorative opportunities
If you’re done with the whole killing thing, and are just looking for the most stunning of adventures that will leave you considering life as a whole, then AER – Memories of Old is the game for you.