By Scott Ramage / April 18th, 2019
|Title||Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan
|Release Date||April 14th, 2016|
Legend has it (and by legend I mean Google) that in October of 2015, a Kickstarter campaign for a fantasy action RPG hit its funding goal. This game, developed by the Cameroon-based Kiro’o Games, would be heavily steeped in African culture and mythology. Going through several design changes long before its crowdfunding campaign, it’s time to see how the fruits of their labor, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, turned out.
The story of Aurion revolves around Prince Enzo Kori-Odan and the idealistic kingdom of Zama. Mere seconds after getting married to his childhood sweetheart Erine and becoming king and queen, her brother Ngarba and some troops storm the palace. A fierce battle between Enzo and Ngarba ensues, ending with Ngarba assuming control while Enzo and Erine are exiled. In order to take back his homeland, Enzo must go on a journey across the world to become stronger and one day overthrow Ngarba.
Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s a catch. Zama is an isolationist nation, so Enzo and Erine know little to nothing about the outside world. Everywhere they go the two of them become entangled in the political turmoil and underlying conflicts of various other nations and tribes. Part of them still holds onto Zama’s idealistic way of life in the face of situations where no matter what they do, there is no ideal outcome. Some otherwise good characters end up hating them despite their actions while some of the “bad guys” have rational reasons for their otherwise irrational behavior. It’s a cruel reality, one which strains not just their conviction, but Enzo and Erine’s marriage. Enzo’s impulsiveness and overwhelming desire to prove himself and take back Zama usually get him into trouble. He and Erine regularly argue, turn on each other, or have to hold each other back from making bad decisions or flat-out giving up. As a result their relationship, as well as their abilities, strengthen steadily as the game goes on. I was pleasantly surprised that the story managed to be well-paced despite jumping from town to town, continent to continent, introducing new characters and societal behaviors along the way.
That said, the story of Aurion isn’t an entirely serious affair. There are moments of comedy sprinkled throughout, both intentional and unintentional. At one point Enzo, standing at the top of a hill, loudly screams his intent to kill everyone in a criminal gang, which are maybe forty feet below him. Moments later, one of those gang members says that one of their dogs smells an intruder nearby. Stuff like that aside, the intended comedy usually didn’t make me laugh, but it didn’t make me groan either.
Aurion plays out from a side-scrolling perspective, with a top-down overworld section allowing for travel between each area. While linear in design and inspired by some older RPGs, it does take measures to make things simpler for the player. Objectives frequently pop up about where to go or what to do. A map for each area displays markers for both current location and any objectives. The game can be saved at any time outside of battle or cutscenes in one of several save slots. If the player forgets to save, there’s an auto-save slot which updates regularly just in case. As for combat, there are no random encounters. On the overworld map there are fast travel options for places Enzo’s already visited, and if he uses a boat he can bypass walking through towns on certain continents. Overworld fights are completely optional and can be ignored by the player. Even enemies wandering the side-scrolling sections can be avoided by jumping over or jogging away from them. Sure, it sacrifices some experience, but it allows the player to better control the pace of the game so I’m all for it.
Certain classic RPG staples aren’t in Aurion, but it does well without them. For one, there aren’t any “inns” or dedicated save points. The save anywhere function means the game often gives prompts that more or less ask “Are you sure you want to go to the next screen without saving? This might hurt a lot.” Merchants only have a finite amount of each item they’re selling, but if you’re willing to look around there are plenty of item drops, almost all of which drop more than one item at a time. Some also drop pieces of equipment, so by taking the time to find them I saved money to buy other supplies.
At various points Enzo and Erine have to deal with obstacles other than battles. Certain environments are littered with crushers and spinning blades. Other times Enzo needs to navigate a series of floating platforms, or dive underwater and manage air for himself and Erine. Sometimes he has to climb between two cliff faces, leaping from wall to wall with his sword while avoiding spikes, flame jets and projectiles. Certain barriers require some light Simon-style puzzle solving to get through. I’m not a fan of Simon puzzles, but the ones in Aurion don’t overstay their welcome. These break up the monotony of simply jogging from Point A to Point B and kept me engaged between major battles and plot points.
Enzo’s growth derives from his status as an Aurionic. These are people able to tap into emotional pillars which make up their Aurionic Legacy, a series of element-themed emotional states which awaken at several points in the game, then use them in battle to perform powerful attacks. Think Dragon Ball meets Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aurion gradually introduces the four main elements over the course of the game, then lets the player experiment with various combinations to find other emotional Aurionic states. It’s a bit awkward though as Enzo can only do this during battle. Granted, time stops while entering various element combinations, and battles usually have a few seconds at the end to recover and experiment. Still, not having the chance to do this outside of battle, considering how many uses of Aurions happen in non-battle scenes, is a bit strange.
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