Music has been ingrained into gaming’s DNA since the start of gaming. A game’s music can often be as memorable as its gameplay, story or graphics. But despite this, there’s not a lot of games about music. Oh sure, you have your rhythm games like Just Dance or Guitar Hero; but there’s not much out there that looks to use music in a more thematic way. Triangle Studios has set out to change that with the release of AereA; an action RPG set in a world with classical music is the focus of everything. It’s a very neat idea, but how does the rest of the game pan out?
AereA is set in the world of Aezir, a place ruled by music and musical influence. You are a student of a prestigious academy who must return several artifacts to their proper place. The game’s story is very simple and it doesn’t really develop any of its characters. There’s a couple characters that seem charming at first, but you quickly realize there’s not much to them.
The game’s base story is nothing special, but Aezir and its inhabitants are very creative. Just about everything in AereA has a musical theme to it. Your weapons are all instruments, the bosses are all animal/instrument hybrids and the academy is a mix between a school and a concert hall. I loved seeing what mash-ups would appear next, it was all a delight to see.
It’s a shame that Triangle Studios didn’t do more with AereA outside of the world building. Aezir is a wonderful place, but the story and characters just aren’t captivating.
One would assume that a game centered around music would have a decent score, AereA does that job fairly well. The game’s music is a mix between classical compositions you’d expect from the setting, as well as some more Nintendo-esque sounding tracks. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a solid combination of classical and video game music.
The game’s sound effects are a mixed bag. There’s some creativity put into the parts that are music inspired; for instance, one of the playable characters wields Trumpet-Guns that sound like trumpets when they are shot. But there’s also parts that just sound bland; the generic enemies don’t sound as interesting as other parts of the game, more creativity could’ve gone into them.
As I mentioned before, AereA is full of wonderfully creative designs. There was a lot of love put into making this world feel different. I feel the game’s designs are the best part of the game, they’re what made me initially interested in the game. However, the overall graphics don’t live up to the designs.
The game features a simple art style; the art style feels similar to Valiant Hearts’ if it were brought into 3D. The art style does a decent job at presenting the designs, but I feel a more creative art style could’ve elevated the game visually.
Overall, the game looks like a last-gen game; it gave me vibes of Costume Quest 2, a game that came out three years ago. It’s clear a smaller team made AereA, but it’s still disappointing that such a neat game is a visual hodge podge.
The gameplay of AereA is its biggest downfall. The game features four playable character each with a music inspired weapon. However, the three ranged fighters all feel incredibly similar and the close quarter combatant is the only one who feels different; I also feel that he is easily the best out of the four. There’s no depth to combat either; combat just consists of mashing the attack button and trying not to get hit. Incredibly disappointing since I’m sure they could’ve had musically inspired combat.
AereA features four player co-op, but it’s local only. Not having online co-op during this gen feels like such a backwards decision and ultimately hurts the game.
The game largely has you fighting on maze like levels, that have you traveling back and forth across the map multiple times to solve puzzles. Said puzzles aren’t very inventive or challenging either; they usually consist of pushing an item onto a switch or something else menial. The game’s levels are all in video game trope settings too; a sewer, a desert, a volcano. One would think with the creative musical designs, that these settings would have a nice spin on them but they don’t. It gets tiring very quickly, the game feels more like a chore than an epic adventure.
With the game’s great setting, you’d think you’d be fighting enemies that are also decked out in music inspired gear. But no, for the most part you’re left fighting large animals. Said animals don’t offer too much of a challenge, nor do they fight in visually interesting ways. It really seems that all of the creativity in the game’s design went more towards world building and less to the actual gameplay. The boss battles are a lot more fun than the game’s normal battles, but they’re overly easy. There’s not much of a challenge to be found here.
AereA is a game full of creativity in some areas, but devoid of it in others. It’s such a shame that the wonderful world presented is left in such a bland game. AereA could’ve been a beloved game, but it falls short in the areas that matter most. The game is fun for a little bit, but the gameplay ultimately isn’t captivating enough to steal you away from the better games out there.