PAX West 2017: AER – Memories of Old

Friday, September 8th, 2017

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I’m something of a sucker for open-ended exploration-based games. Especially if the world has its own mystery or melancholy to it, such as later Fallout games or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildAER – Memories of Old is one of these open exploration games, which puts you on a series of floating islands in the realm of the gods.

The main thrust of AER‘s exploration is that it lets you freely transform into a bird and fly around the environment. In some ways the floating islands remind me of the sky in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but flight is faster, more fluid and controls better, and the islands are more numerous and interesting. Your goal is to find and awaken a series of underground shrines within the ruins scattered throughout the islands, and as you progress you learn more about the backstory of the game’s world.

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Flying around the game’s world feels outstanding. Transforming from a girl into a bird is completely seamless, which can make landing somewhat difficult, but since you retain all momentum it’s also fun to transform while flying and let momentum carry you before transforming back into a bird and flying on. Movement within structures such as shrines is more restrictive, but they in general are meant to be a different experience than the overworld exploration.

Your primary goal is to find shrines throughout the islands and complete the puzzles within them. In order to access a shrine, you must first find the appropriate key, which means you need to complete a different cave. The caves and shrines are much more linear than the open sky, forcing the player to solve various puzzles in order to proceed. In addition to the puzzles there are snippets of story to be found, revealing more about the world and its mythology and history.

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The visuals have a polygonal and minimalist style, and the game as a whole has a calming yet mysterious atmosphere. It lets the player approach as they choose, whether that be following NPCs’ instructions to travel directly from one shrine to the next or by exploring and finding things themselves. The overall style and atmosphere remind me somewhat of Journey, even if AER is somewhat more involved and direct in its presentation. There’s definitely something dark underneath the surface of AER, something that I personally look forward to exploring when the game releases on PS4, Xbox One, and all PC platforms through Steam on October 27.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. Since then, he's owned every Nintendo console to be released. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 4 Golden, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.