Nov 21, 2017 I couldn't shake the feeling while playing Aer: Memories of Old that someone really wanted it to be compared to Journey. Outwardly it's not all that similar, its papercraft aesthetic evoking memories.
A 3D exploration game taking place on a bunch of disconnected floating islands.Expect to pay: $15/£14Developer: Forgotten KeyPublisher: Daedalic EntertainmentReviewed on: Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 8GB RAM, Nvidia Geforce GTX 970Multiplayer: NoneLink:AER: Memories of Old has its roots in cerebral platformers like Ico, Rime, and Journey. It’s an experience that wants you to take your time and find your own meaning within it, never forcing its own interpretation of events on the player.Playing as Auk, a shape-shifting girl on a pilgrimage to the Land of the Gods, you explore a series of floating islands, solve puzzles and uncover ruins left by an ancient civilization. You’re aided in this task by a magical lantern and the ability to transform into a bird at will. Those ruins are AER's dungeons and can be tackled in any order, as the world is entirely open to the player right from the outset.
This freedom gives AER a slow and meditative feel, letting you fly around the map and find your bearings in your own time.That’s not to say there isn’t some guidance. You can talk to the handful of NPCs in the world to get hints on where to go, locate ghosts and eavesdrop on their conversations, or read notes etched in stone scattered around the place.
Still, these only give you a rough indication of where you're supposed to be heading and don't hold your hand too much, which I appreciate as it meant there was still some mystery left.I pierced a set of clouds and watched as a swarm of jagged islands came flooding back into viewYou may be worried that all of this wandering to and fro could potentially get annoying, but I’m happy to report it doesn't. This is because of the flying, which is one of AER's greatest achievements. Flying feels intuitive both on a gamepad and on a keyboard, in part due to the camera system that backs away from the player, letting you have more time to react and take in your surroundings as you build up speed. You can also perform dives, flips, and other aerobatics, as well as free fall by transforming back and forth whenever. The range of movement is astounding. I never found myself getting caught up on the environment or becoming irritated when flying around the fractured world.AER's gorgeous low-poly aesthetic is also great at holding your attention.
Soaring over the map, I found it hard not to stop and admire the art, especially whenever I pierced a set of clouds and watched as a swarm of jagged islands came flooding back into view. I often found myself poised to take screenshots, each environment a source of inspiration.The visuals aren’t the only thing creating this tremendous atmosphere—the minimalistic sound design also plays a huge role. As you travel across the world, you'll hear the distant sounds of birds, sheep, and other animals, as well as an ambient score that slowly builds in intensity as you approach important destinations.
This establishes a more sedentary tone, and further reassures the player that it’s okay to take your time. It also sets a nice juxtaposition between the starting islands and some of the later landmarks that you encounter, such as the snowy region to the far north of the map.AER: Memories of Old is a fairly concise gameAER doesn't always take place in this stunning overworld. You’re also required to travel underground to explore temples and caves that are hidden in the map. It's these areas where most of the puzzling happens as you guide light sources, manipulate objects, and step on pressure plates to unlock new pathways. I really enjoyed these sections of the game, though they're never that challenging and can be solved pretty quickly with a bit of experimentation, which might disappoint those looking for more difficult obstacles.One area of concern I did have, however, was with navigating the underground ruins. While the art design works spectacularly for the overworld, I found myself often getting turned around in these areas because of how similar everything looked. A few more visual landmarks or a dungeon map could have easily solved this problem.
Being able to tell the corridors apart would have done away with some of the frustration I felt while trying to revisit particular areas.Then there’s the issue of its length. If you’re expecting a particularly long and toilsome adventure, you’ll no doubt be disappointed. AER: Memories of Old is a fairly concise game and left me wanting more after I finished the initial story. So much so that I felt the need to immediately jump back into it and clear the achievements list to experience more of the parts that I liked.Despite not really having much left to do in AER, I can see myself jumping back into it in the future and flying about for fun. It’s just a shame there isn't more story to play through.
AER: Memories of Old is a perfectly fine game. It does many things that can make it a good game—it’s just missing that “secret sauce” that actually makes it a good game.Small teams can do big things. For example, N , and both were award-winning indie games. Of course, this list could go on. So at this point in videogame history, it’s no big surprise when good things come out of small studios. And this was my initial response to AER: Memories of Old when I first played it at.
Unfortunately, by the time I finally played it in full, the expectation for greatness I had built up in my mind wasn’t exactly fulfilled. Not to say that AER is a bad game—it’s still worth playing for a lot of reasons I’ll get into—it just kind of fell short.
AER: Memories of Old (PS4) – gameplay images via Forgotten Key and Daedalic EntertainmentAER: Memories of Old was made by Forgotten Key: a team of five out of Sweden. It started out as a team of four students of the Blekinge Institute of Technology. Over the course of five years, this team set out to create an open world game with a heavy focus on exploration. The studio mandate is to create atmospheric games, and they achieved that.AER is set in a beautiful world with gorgeous illustrations.
The hexagonal character design makes for graceful AI interactions and kinetic movement throughout the gameplay. The stylised, airy environment creates an immersive experience with its sunset hues, dark, claustrophobic caves, and crystaline-fantasy caverns.
It creates the feeling of warmth and cold progressively as you move throughout the different regions. You feel exactly the way you should in each space, from the sunny, friendly homestead (those baby sheep that follow you around with hearts over their heads made me squeal with joy), to the frost-bitten cave of the Bear that made me physically shiver when I entered it. Although the details were sporadic and spaced out, the ones found were eye-catching and made me want a closer inspection.
AER: Memories of Old (PS4) – gameplay images via Forgotten Key and Daedalic EntertainmentThe soundtrack that perfectly punctuated AER: Memories of Old was calm and peaceful. It never became repetitive, and when I was getting really annoyed with the quests in the temples, it was probably the only reason I didn’t shut the game off and give up mid-playthrough. It had a light, tranquil quality that matched the mood, mechanics, theme, and art style—but wasn’t memorable. I’m sitting in a coffee shop as I write this, listening to REO Speedwagon, which is kind of overpowering my musical memory to be fair. But at no point after I turned off the game could I recall one song from the game. Honestly, that doesn’t matter, because at the time, it built the ambience so successfully that I didn’t need to recall the music because it made it so easy to recall the feeling of each place I visited.The vastness and weightlessness of the environment felt even more expansive through the character’s movement. On the ground, the main character glides and jumps as if she is unrestrained by gravity.
This is in part due to her ability to shapeshift into a bird in the open world. She uses this ability to fly through the shattered sky islands. And it’s a really fun way to get around, although slowing down is difficult which makes it really hard to stick the landing. And landing accurately is kind of an important thing to get right, considering the whole goal of AER is to explore the islands for fragments left behind to try to piece together a story about the world, its former inhabitants, and the key to saving the world. AER: Memories of Old (PS4) – gameplay images via Forgotten Key and Daedalic EntertainmentSo let’s get to the exploring portion of AER: Memories of Old. In a word, it was “lacking”—there were few things to actually find.
I get it if some of the islands were barren—I mean, that’s what you’d expect from a world broken into pieces, but it was obvious when something worth exploring was on the island. It kind of made looking for things in the not-so-obvious islands pointless. Once you came across something that looked like it could be explored, you could use your lantern—gained in the opening of the game—to unearth sacred texts and shadows of people of the land who had long passed. The text was engrossing as it was never completely expository, but there were just too few instances to find.
You were given bits and pieces of a story, with just enough information to get a general idea of what happened to the world of AER. I think the shadows I liked best were the dialogues from people who clearly had their own story in the world: a couple who met for secret rendezvous or several instances of refugees trying to get away from various political strife. To me, those were the best part of the world. I wanted to see more of that. AER: Memories of Old (PS4) – gameplay images via Forgotten Key and Daedalic EntertainmentEven after finding all the pieces of text, there was very little payoff. You never find out why things happened.
I became engaged enough to care about the backstory, but was left disappointed with how little I could learn. The devs say that this was intentional, and I imagine that this was to create the illusion of a real-life treasure hunt/archeological dig to piece together a history.
But this is a game. I need some kind of payoff.Getting into the story of AER: Memories of Old, our female protagonist, Auk, is on a pilgrimage to uncover the words of the old, forgotten gods, following in the footsteps of her grandfatherly mentor. This motif is getting a little stale. Why are female protagonists in games always on a spiritual quest? We find out later her job is to save the world through this spiritual quest.
She has to do this by flying throughout the land making allies of the former gods. She peacefully seals the big bad away. This is great, but kind of an old narrative. If you’re going to go the spiritual route (.cringe.) why not keep it spiritual and introspective?
I look at the narrative in where the only end goal to the game was to piece together the story. That sort of idea would have worked so well for AER.
Throwing in the whole “you are the chosen one who must save the world” narrative felt really tacked on, and actually took away from our protagonist’s empowerment by making her a glorified delivery person. The team at Forgotten Key had really great building blocks for a very exploration-driven game, but this end-game quest turned it into something linear and frankly, kind of over done in many ways. AER: Memories of Old (PS4) – gameplay images via Forgotten Key and Daedalic EntertainmentAnd now the quest itself: you find various temples dedicated to guardians/gods who have lost their power as the people of the land forgot them. When you enter the caves, you must explore and solve various puzzles to find their last remnants. It’s here where the map mechanic’s lack of usefulness is glaringly obvious.
The puzzles are simple enough, but I kept getting lost, overlooking entrances I missed in the dark environment. It would have been extremely helpful to have a map—even a simple one—that I created as I traveled through the cave so that I could keep track of places I might not have fully explored. At one point, I got so frustrated with going down the same path for the, I’m going to say, 9,736,848,727,684 th time, that I left the cavern.
I went back in and it reset my entire progress. It was a lot easier to follow the progression the second time, since I had a lay of the area, and was finally able to complete it.
My happiness over this accomplishment was marred by the fact that I had wasted over an hour completely missing an obvious path. It made the time feel drawn out for no reason and took my attention away from exploring other parts of the world.
AER: Memories of Old (PS4) – gameplay images via Forgotten Key and Daedalic EntertainmentWhile I like that there are teams out there who are trying to explore the walking-sim genre and evolve the depth beyond the story itself, I feel like AER: Memories of Old tried to add too much to a game that should have stuck to the goal of exploration. I am glad I played it, though. For the time investment, it was refreshing to play a game as serene as this one.
With the slew of face-paced, action-packed titles released at this time, AER is the perfect palette cleanser. If Forgotten Key can make improvements on some of the details that take away from the complete success of this game, they have the potential to become a studio that produces games to look forward to.Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Lisa Mior’s Mouldenhauer, Producer and Art Director on Cuphead, and herNever miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on and!Want to see more videos? And check out the, and!Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine.! Never miss when a new issue goes live! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool.
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