Every once in a while we catch a glimpse of something that looks special, something unique that pique’s our interest and has us curiously wanting to know more. That’s exactly how I felt when I first saw AER Memories of Old, a game that looked thoroughly inviting yet tranquil and calming. Crafted by Forgotten Key – a five member studio located in Sweden, AER Memories of Old has you taking to land and sky across a decent sized open world as you set off out on a pilgrimage to the Land of Gods. This journey is undertaken by Auk, a young woman who must venture out to a collection of ancient temples in search of answers and clarity. It’s a concept that’s as straight forward as it needs to be, it doesn’t need to be anything more or anything less.
You swiftly learn that Auk is no ordinary young woman when you discover her ability to shapeshift into a bird, allowing you to freely travel the several floating islands throughout the world within. The level of freedom is superb and you’re practically given the option to soar to the far reaches of the world from the moment you take control, and boy does it feel amazing. The controls in this regard are fantastic and smooth ensuring that you can effortlessly glide and fly with ease, ultimately offering up heaps and heaps of satisfaction. There’s not a cooldown in sight or any other prerequisites that will gate or hinder your exploration. That’s not to say that you can make it through this adventure via the sky alone, no, you see despite being a very open game you do still have a set amount of tasks that you need to accomplish to see this journey concluded.
Speaking with the villagers you’ll be given subtle hints as to which direction you should be heading in when you wish to seek out the gods via three temples. This is where the gameplay takes a more linear and structured route in favour of the freedom you’ve been soaking up for the last 30 minutes. Each of these temples are puzzle based segments of play, but the execution in design is remarkably balanced. The puzzles that you’re subject to never become overly complex nor do they prove to be too basic. There’s clearly a fine line that AER Memories of Old wants to walk on, making sure that the player is never miffed due to frustrating or hand-holding gameplay, and it works incredibly well in its favour. Never once did I feel bored or out of that relaxing bubble that the game wonderfully relays. Don’t get me wrong, AER Memories of Old isn’t perfect and does come with a small band of faults, but for the most part this is a game that shines on the basis of its own unique merits.
One such issue lays with the storytelling, which is a bit on the weak side as far as games like this go. The journey within AER Memories of Old is all about the here and now, or at least that’s how I felt when I was playing the game. I was far less interested in the backstory or the lore, but even when I tried to swallow the story that’s served to you through dialogue by one of the few NPCs, it just wasn’t wholesome or complete. Information regarding the gods and other notable characters / ghosts are literally just thrown at you, often lacking deep explanation or meaning which leads to infrequent moments of confusion. The dots to connect are definitely in place, but connecting them fluidly or trying to keep on top of the overarching plot is too straining. It just feels out of place and out of touch for an experience that’s remarkable elsewhere in the fields of play.
My only other gripe is that there’s not an awful lot to do as far as exploration is concerned. AER Memories of Old is chock-full of floating islands, most of which can be landed on and traversed, but many house nothing to do outside of sightseeing. I understand that AER Memories of Old is a very reasonably priced game, but this could have been so much more than what it is had the developers fleshed out the story and the notion of exploration better than they have done. With that to the side there’s so much that AER Memories of Old gets right, and these small niggles do little to pull the experience short of greatness. The design of the game is incredible and the same can be said about its visuals and soundtrack. AER Memories of Old sports a low-polygon yet vibrant and beautiful atmosphere throughout the entirety of play, it’s a sight to behold from the moment you pick up the pad to the moment you put it down. This is all tied together by a solid soundtrack that captures the theme of the world and the gameplay excellently.
AER Memories of Old is a gorgeous yet short adventure that will captivate you from the moment you pick up the pad and keep firm hold of your attention until the moment you put it down. Issues with the storytelling and the lack of things to do despite the several islands you can land on will upset a band of players that appreciate stumbling off the beaten path, but it’s almost forgivable when you take the generous price tag into account. When all is said and done, AER Memories of Old will offer you a well rounded journey that houses a great deal of intrigue and charm. The game may well lack any real depth but what you see is what you get, and what you get is a vibrant lush world and a wonderful soundtrack to keep the spirit of the game inline. Your time with Auk may be short-lived but the gameplay – be it fluidly soaring high in the air or puzzle solving and interacting on foot, will stay with you long after the endgame.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.