What happens if you mix peaceful exploration like in ABZÛ with a large pixel, minimalist style? You get AER Memories of Old. The Steam debut for developer, Forgotten Key and an enjoyable experience for gamers of all ages. Daedalic Entertainment is the game’s publisher and they confirm that aerial-based adventures are their hallmark, so to speak. Part of the Deponia series or not, AER represents an adventure, first and foremost.
While it’s never fleshed out as much as I would have preferred, AER Memories of Old has a unique story of its own and since it’s a narrative-driven experience, the game trades replay value for a compelling albeit somewhat restricted tale. Why do I consider it so? Well for one, the female protagonist is not properly introduced nor does she have a lot of NPCs to interact with. Auk is a shapeshifter, the last of her kind and she must undertake a pilgrimage that will culminate in the banishing of an evil entity that has lingered for far too long within the fractured fantasy realm known as the Land of Gods. The Void, as its name may suggest, seeks to destroy everything in its path. It was defeated once, but apparently it is in resurgence thus sparking the selfless quest on which Auk has embarked.
Auk may change her form at will and turn into a bird which may or may not be an eagle. Regardless of that insignificant detail, she’s not a bird of prey. There is no violence depicted in AER and I honestly didn’t miss this feature one bit. It’s not like you won’t find a violent video game on Steam within several seconds of browsing your library or the Store. The lack of a challenge through conventional foes however, is felt and may prove to be the one element that will feel amiss in an otherwise consistent gameplay. No sense of urgency and by no means can players fail in their mission or get hindered by in-game “deaths”. Falling or flying from the invisible barriers within Land of Gods simply transports Auk back to the last “nesting” place unlocked during the current region she’s visiting. Basically, autosave points which are well distributed across the map.
There are few characters or creatures and even fewer enemies, yet the gliding/flying mechanics which take island hopping to a whole new level, will surely compensate for the lack of a proper threat and an antagonist worthy of Auk’s efforts to restore her home world to its former glory. Essentially still a linear story (imposed by its objectives), AER Memories of Old at least offers players, the freedom of choosing which task to tackle with at first and the fairly large map is opened to exploration within 10 minutes of starting a new game. You can’t really restrict a game about flight in this day and age and there are obviously, no time constraints either or an impending doom that might force you to rush at any point. Feel free to dash through the clouds and visit every single floating island. No matter how small, there’s usually something to see, everywhere you look and the game encourages thinking outside the box.
In more ways than one, AER Memories of Old reminded me of a game I had reviewed one year ago. Windscape has no flying around or the smooth gameplay found in AER, but the visuals on both titles are proof that “less is more” can be applied in gaming as well. And they’re both powered by the Unity Engine, if it has any importance to you. In my case, it does. It almost guarantees flawless stability even on 4K resolution and AER has not disappointed in this regard. Or at all, to be perfectly honest. No glitches whatsoever, nor frame rate drops or any crashes to desktop. I took over 100 screenshots and most of them have been posted on Steam as well. It goes without saying that I’d never link so many to my Steam profile, unless I thoroughly enjoyed what I was seeing.
With Vsync enabled, it never strayed from 60fps even by a single digit. Sure, you’ll probably point out that the textures themselves can’t put a strain even on older PCs out there. I wouldn’t call that a disadvantage or claim that anything other than the most detailed and crisp textures might affect my keen eyes. No, indie titles make good use of minimal visuals and I wouldn’t have them any other way. If you want eye popping and hardware punishing visuals, Skyrim mods are just around the corner. Including a low-poly version that’s guaranteed to run the game even on a smartphone (if only). AER still looks better than that one.
With no voice acting at all, AER had to focus on its soundtrack and while the songs were just as relaxing as the gameplay, they didn’t stand out in a particular manner. Still, I have to admit that not all stories need a voice or more. It didn’t bother me that I had to just read dialogue boxes. Overall, it was a pleasant set of sounds that never hindered nor improved the storyline.
Yes, with no threat at all and a big baddie that barely shows itself, Auk has all the time in her world to explore and fly in every direction and corner of the map. Apart from unlocking new Steam Achievements as you discover hidden symbols and creatures across the smaller floating islands, you’ll also have a chance to get acquainted with the mythology behind the story, as you read from scrolls and also interact with a select few, talking animals. As already mentioned, ABZÛ and AER share at least some common elements. They both unravel tales relating to Atlantis counterparts. While the former takes this quite literally, the latter features an archipelago suspend forever among the clouds.
Divided into several regions, each with its distinct topography and climate, AER Memories of Old will certainly keep most players entertained and on the lookout for new clues while in search of salvation for the nearly abandoned world. What I didn’t really appreciate is how abruptly it all ends, without the proper closure or even giving players the option to keep flying and witnessing for themselves, how defeating The Void has now freed Land of Gods from any signs of taint and destruction. So no particular replay value and an ending that seemed rather rushed. Just take my advice and search every nook & cranny before committing to the main quest which will have you exploring the entire map anyways.
I wouldn’t consider AER Memories of Old a cliffhanger type, but it may leave room to interpretation and perhaps, even a sequel one day. it’s not like I would mind playing an AER 2, of that much I’m certain. Such relaxing titles that don’t require players to kill or harm anyone or anything, are a niche genre which is surely needed in gaming. The ultimate goal of defeating evil, mustn’t always entail or enforce the use of similar, underhanded measures as the antagonists had no moral qualms about. An excellent debut, Forgotten Key!
All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.