AereA Review: An RPG Built Around Instruments and Music
AereA is an action-adventure RPG created by Netherlands-based game developers, Triangle Studios. This stylistic game world revolves around music, it being both (literally) your weapon and your enemy. As you play the game, you complete quests, solve puzzles, and defeat enemies all to obtain the nine primordial instruments, relics of power that can restore balance and peace to the world of Aezir.
And after diving into the game and dedicating several hours to it there are several things, both good and bad, that got my attention.
Spin Me a Tale
The story is by no means an epic tale that will leave you wanting more. Without going into spoilers, it’s your basic going on quests to save the world type of tale. Truthfully, I didn’t hate it, but it was just... ‘meh.' I started button mashing my way through the dialog at one point because I wasn’t invested in the story anymore.
I picked up quests and read what I needed to do and where I needed to go, but after a while, that was about all I read. Of the parts I did stop and pay attention to at the beginning, I caught a few spelling and grammatical errors.
There’s not much to say about them, and they don’t have much personality beyond the instruments that they use as weapons. Visually, they look fantastic and fit the classes that the developers designed them for. A good example of this is the lute-mage, Jules, who has the look and feel of a mage: tall hat, robes, wooden staff, the whole nine. Beyond that, however, I don’t know much about him or Jacques the Cello-Knight, whom I played as for the majority of the game.
I do wish there was more melee variety in the classes as there are three ranged heroes and only one melee hero. Flute-daggers maybe? Victoria the Flute-Assassin? Give me something.
That Look, Though
I’ll admit it: I love the way AereA looks and it’s a part of the reason the game appealed to me in the first place. It’s polished and has an almost claymation/cartoony feel to it. The visual effects are also just as good because the developers have almost flawlessly incorporated the world with the game's musical theme.
The animations are also decent... except for the trumpet-gunner. A lot of his movements seem stiff, especially while he’s running. Also, he’s dual-wielding trumpet-guns but only fires one, so that's kind of strange.
Fetch Me Shrubbery!
The quests in AereA are your typical ‘kill so many enemies’ or ‘bring back so many items’ quests that one finds in any RPG. At any one time, you’ll be on two quests, the story quest, and a side quest.
Of course, the story quest will lead you from quest to quest so that you won't miss any of them. However, the side quests are the ones that you can fall behind on or miss altogether. The other students of the concert hall are the ones who provide the side quests, all one of them. Hubert.
Side quests complete the minute you kill or gather all the items you're tasked with, so you only have to talk to Hubert to pick up the next side quest. However, he doesn't always have a quest available for you, and he gives no indicator of when he does. So my suggestion would be to talk to him each time you return to the concert hall. Oh, and he roams around a bit, so you’re going have to find him first.
One Foot in Front of the Other
On the PC you can play with either a mouse and keyboard or a controller… However, I’m going to start this out by saying that this game is not keyboard and mouse friendly. I was wrong with my initial assumption that the player movement would be similar to Diablo 3. The game uses the WASD keys for movement, and they are not very intuitive with how the camera angles and map layouts are. I got frustrated enough with them that I went and bought a $20 controller so that I could get through the game enough to review it.
Play That Funky Music
The audio for AereA is fantastic. The soundtrack uses classical themed music that fits each area from whimsical to adventurous. The sound effects fit the game's style and theme, all being musical of course. I greatly enjoyed slashing the air with my cello-bow sword!
Finding the Path
While the levels themselves do not procedurally generate, the player does start at a different spawn point each time they load into the same level. Also, the puzzles for the level do seem to differ from the last time it was completed. I’ll discuss the puzzles more in the next section.
The navigation in the game is limited to the mini-map in the corner of the screen. On smaller map layouts this is fine because you can navigate around easily enough and remember where the teleporter out of the area is. On a larger map, however, this is not the case. More than a few times I’ve gotten lost trying to remember which floaty isle I saw the teleporter on earlier in the level.
Locked doors are a recurring theme in AereA, and all of these doors are unlocked by the player in one of four ways: Walking up to them, killing the monsters in the area, activating a metronome lever, or moving the glowy box to the glowy square. These puzzles are by no means Rubix cubes, but they can become more than a little frustrating and tedious after having to solve them over and over again each time you re-enter a zone after returning the concert hall.
You, of course, have to solve these puzzles while dealing with enemies and avoiding traps. The music energy altar, aka glowy box, resets back to its original position if you leave it on the ground for too long.
Defeating the Enemy
I preferred using the cello-knight because I found melee was a bit easier for me to handle. Ranged was okay, but I found it difficult to position the character just right to land a shot at times. When I did play as a ranged character, I opted to spin in a circle randomly firing and hoping I hit something (oh wait...that’s how I play everything…).
Some of the monsters the player will fight have unique looks, like the bagpipes cicada or lyre scorpions, but for the most part look like normal creatures. They do have the tendency to get stuck in the environment or pushed behind objects where you can’t get to them. They also respawn rather quickly, almost too quickly for my liking.
The More the Merrier!
AereA has a co-op mode. Unfortunately, there was only one beta key, so I didn’t get to experience what playing with friends (or in my case victims) was like in the game. I can see where it would be helpful, especially when trying to solve some of those puzzles and getting attacked while doing so.
Get it? Half-Notes as in music notes… I’ll go sit in a corner now.
These are some additional thoughts and opinions about minor things in AereA.
Most of the tips at the start of the game when you’re playing with the tutorial on don’t match what is happening when it pops up. I got a hint about traps when there were no traps around and a hint about boxes (which I was already smashing open earlier in the game) when looking at a bunch of spike traps.
The airship that you ‘board’ when you go from the concert hall to another area seems like an extra load screen that is not needed. I’m not sure if it has significance in co-op, but it seems pointless in single player.
What Does This Do? And Where Can I Store It?
There is no way to tell what an item does when you pick it up out in the field. The only way to find out what it does is by either finding its recipe book or using it. If you do use the item, it could mean wasting a really good potion if you’re able to figure out what it does after using it. I’ve had that happen with a couple of items so far, and I still don’t know what some of them do.
The player can only carry four items at a time, and they do not stack. If the item limit is going to stay the same, please lessen the number of boxes with potions in them except for boss fights.
I'm Safe, Right?
Health doesn't regen when back at the home base, the concert hall. Out and about I get, that’s what HP potions are for, and it makes it so the player doesn't throw themselves in the thick of battle like Leeroy Jenkins. However, at home where there is no danger health should be regenerated or there should be an NPC that can heal the character by speaking with him.
Wrapping It Up
I’m giving AereA a solid 6 out of 10. Overall it isn’t a horrible game; I see a lot of potential with it. It has a great look, fantastic music, and an amazing theme. It could be a bit more user-friendly to its keyboard and mouse players, so they don’t have to go out and spend at least twenty more bucks just to play it. With a bit more work and polish here and there this game could shine!
Oh, and I found out why almost every character in the game has hair over their eyes...
It's because THEY HAVE NO EYES! o.O
AereA is available for purchase on Steam, Xbox One and PS4.
The publisher provided a copy of this game for review purposes.