Triangle Studios would like to invite you to explore the floating world of Aezir in their new action adventure RPG, AereA. In the world of Aezir, harmony and balance is maintained by a combination of eight primordial instruments. The music created by these instruments is vital to keeping the islands of Aezir from dropping out of the sky and being destroyed. When the ever so important primordial instruments are stolen, four students of Aezir’s master composer, Great Maestro Guido, are tasked with recovering them in order to save the world. Players can choose from these four students – Claude the Trumpet-Gunner, Jules the Lute-Mage, Jacques the Cello-Knight, or Wolff the Harp-Archer – each of whom represents a different character class and comes equipped with their weapon/instrument of choice as well as a handful of class specific skills that unlock through leveling up. It is important to note that the game can be played alone, with a single player taking on the task of saving the world solo, or cooperatively in a local setting. There is no online co-op, however, which is really a shame.
Despite subtle differences to the character classes, three of the four characters focus heavily on long ranged attacks with an available melee option for close encounters, while the fourth – the Cello-Knight, to be specific – offers up a tank style mechanic, using his cello as a shield and his bow as a sword. Despite offering players the choice of different classes and characters, there are no female characters to choose from for the role of protagonist.
Once players select their character, they are dropped into Aezir’s Concert Hall. The concert hall serves as the central hub of Aezir, and it is from here that players can purchase upgrades, consumable items, and select travel destinations. AereA encourages players to explore the concert hall, which is but a part of a greater school of music. There’s a lot of indication’s that the school is heavily inhabited, what with all of the furnished lodgings and school books scattered about.
NPCs even encourage the player to seek out other students in the school in order to offer them help for side-quests. It doesn’t take long, however, to realize that the school is not nearly as inhabited as the game makes it seem. There’s only one lonely student by the name of Hubert wondering about the halls, but he does have a plethora of unusual requests. These generally range from killing a certain number of a certain enemy type, or collecting unusual items like homework pages or fangs. The intent for these side quests is obviously to encourage players to revisit areas of Aezir that they’ve previously completed again, but with a little luck and timing you can have side quests active that align with the location you’ll already be in for your main quest, thus knocking out two (or even three) birds with one stone.
AereA’s game play formula is pretty simple. The world of Aezir is broken into four islands, three of which are available to travel to. Each island is broken down into regions featuring your typical RPG terrains like sewers, deserts, ruins, and snowy mountain tops. Each region is broken down into two available levels. These levels are generated randomly each time they’re loaded up, and are sectioned off almost like mazes with locked gates and doors scattered about. Players can open these locked doors one of three ways – by finding and activating a metronome lever, moving an energy block to its designated switch, or by killing the enemies associated with the gate.
The easiest and most sensible of these methods is killing the enemies, as they will typically spawn in front of the gate that they are connected to. Doors that require metronome levers or energy switches, however, are more complicated as there’s no rhyme or reason between the location of a lever or switch and its corresponding door. In the smaller early levels of AereA, this is not as problematic, but in later levels when the worlds become more expansive this disconnect results in a lot of slow moving back and forth across the world in search of finding the gate that you just activated. To compound on matters, there is supposed to be a cut scene where the camera pans to display the affected gate, but in later levels (the Snowy Mountain levels being the worst offenders) this cut scene glitched, and did not occur, leaving it up to me to wander aimlessly in hopes of finding my way.
After exploring the two separate levels for each region, enough clues will have been uncovered to progress to a boss battle and hopefully recoup one of the missing primordial instruments. Rather than traveling directly to the area where the boss is located, however, players are forced to revisit the second level of the region and solve it again in order to locate a portal that leads to the boss. Should the player fail to defeat the boss, they’ll be shuttled back to the air ship, and subsequently will have to start the level over from the beginning yet again in order to proceed to the boss portal. Thankfully, most encounters with enemies in AereA are pretty mundane, even including the bosses. Once any kind of upgrades are made to your character they’re almost guaranteed to be overpowered. In most circumstances I easily destroyed bosses in only one or two hits with a skill, and common enemies were rarely able to get in an attack. Those that did were sure to only do 1hp of damage, if they didn’t just miss completely.
AereA’s world design is absolutely stunning, with an incredible attention to detail, but it is also incredibly scarce on enemies and NPCs alike. As previously mentioned, there’s only one lone student roaming the halls of the huge school. There are no additional NPCs to be found outside of the concert hall, with the exception of a random stranger who appears to serve as an informant in the later stages of the story. Even enemies spawn in small groups, limited to 3-5 at a time. Despite the small number of enemies, I frequently experienced microfreezes when using skills to take them out.
AereA’s lower rating from PEGI and the ESRB is fitting, as the relatively easy combat and uncomplicated system for leveling and upgrading makes it a suitable RPG for younger gamers venturing into the genre for the first time. Unfortunately, the aforementioned struggle of actually navigating the maps does dampen that, especially for the younger crowd that may become frustrated and give up too easily when they can not find their way.