A bum note.
Right off the bat, AereA tried to make a good impression – a grandiose orchestral score and colourful visuals; the promise of an epic adventure. But it doesn’t take long for the facade to fade away.
AereA is set in a world of music, floating lands and airships. A world where nine primordial instruments maintain a harmony of peace. But these magical instruments have been lost and evil has invaded the lands. It’s up to four young heroes to retrieve these missing melody makers and save the day in this isometric dungeon crawling action game.
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Multiplayer: 4-player local co-op
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
The heroes, Jacques, Jules, Wolff and Claude all have slightly different play styles -two favouring long range weapon attacks, with the other two preferring to use melee weapons. They each have different stats and weaknesses, along with musical based weapons. Jacques uses his Celllo as a sword and shield, Wolff uses a Harp as a bow, Jules uses a Theorbo (I had to look that up) as a mace and Claude uses two trumpets as dual-wielding pistols. A neat idea, if it wasn’t for the atrocious sound effects that chime every time I used an attack. All four weapons have a sound based on that instrument, and it’s really grating, especially Wolff’s Harp. It only took seconds for the sound effects to get on my nerves to the point where I had to turn the game volume way down. Not great for a game whose premise is based in music.
After selecting a hero, players will be introduced to your guide to the AereA, Clef, a talking parrot. It’s his job to show players how things work, starting with the game’s hub area, Aezir’s Concert Hall. It is here where players will accept quests, upgrade their characters and buy various items that will help in the adventure. The concert hall is huge, with many different rooms to explore. As one progresses through the game, these rooms and areas will become relevant to the story. However, moving between areas and rooms in the concert hall is slow, and often requires the game to load. The character movement speed is too slow, both here and when out in the over world. Slow movement means that players can take in some of the colourful artwork on show, but it makes the main part of the game boring, especially as many of the quests players will get throughout the course of the game will require a lot of going back and forth.
These quests range from investigating mysterious goings on to simple fetch quests, most of which are all in aid of progressing the storyline, and most of them are rinse and repeat. Moving to one part of the map to unlock a gate at the other side, to them go there to unlock a gate somewhere else. Given the nature of these missions and the slow movement speed, the game gets dull quite quickly. There is also the issue of the combat, which when using Claude or Wolff becomes almost unplayable. Many of the enemy types encountered are fast moving, which means that a quick aim is required to stop them from getting too close. Unfortunately the aiming on the ranged weapons is useless.
There is no precision, and I often missed a simple shot several times, even when the enemies were at close range. The other two characters don’t suffer from this, as they are both melee based; but as someone who prefers ranged combat, I felt that this hindered my enjoyment massively. Each monster defeated will result in the earning of XP for both the character and their weapon. Level up and they will be awarded with a Tuning Point, which increases the character’s stats and the weapons effectiveness. Each character can also equip up to three skills. However, these are not awarded through leveling up. These have to be purchased from the concert hall with Clefines, the currency in the game, and they are not cheap. So don’t expect to using any of them early on. The combat and quests on offer in AereA is bland at best, and unbearable at worst.
There is also the issue of loading times. As I mentioned earlier, the main hub world has to be loaded in if you want to visit certain sections, but there is also a game design choice that baffles me. When leaving the concert hall for one of the overworld areas, the game will load onto an airship. What is on this airship? Not much, in fact the only thing on the airship is a travel point to the ground. That’s it. I had to sit through a loading screen to then move ten paces to trigger another loading screen, then finally I could embark on the quest. Seemed pointless.
Although having a few highlights in both the art design and soundtrack, AereA falls down in almost all other areas – a dungeon crawler that offers nothing new, other than a cool concept, and fails in the things that are essential to an action game, such as combat and quest design. It may offer local 4-player co-op, but even playing with friends won’t bring this game to life.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.