I can remember back when I was a kid and my mother would let me rent a NES game for the weekend. I would scan box art and try to pick something that looked exciting or different, something unlike other games I have been playing. Then rushing home and finishing my chores in record time I would put the cartridge into the system only to find that the box art had lied to me and I was stuck with a total dud for the rest of the weekend.
Aerea for the Playstation 4 reminded me a lot of this experience.
This game is an action RPG based in the world of Aezir where music, the instruments to create it, and the objects involved all play a major role. It is the basis of the plot and the weapons/upgrades you will use. There are four different classes to choose from, The Harp Archer, a Cello Knight, a Lute Mage, and a Trumpet Gunner. The character design is excellent and leads to excitement to start this adventure…and then the game starts.
What follows is an extremely by the numbers action RPG presented in the 3/4 “diablo-esque” camera style. You crawl through dungeons, you kill bad guys, you slowly level up your character and weapons. Rinse. Repeat.
There are several major negatives that Aerea is dealing with. The first is that the game is simply too easy. It doesn’t matter which character class you select or which path you choose to upgrade, you will always be too powerful, and you will never have a challenge until the final boss. Clearing the final boss is only a challenge due to having to use a learned ability in addition to your main attack which is something YOU DIDN’T NEED TO DO THE ENTIRE GAME UP UNTIL THAT POINT.
The second main issue is the poor dungeon design. They are arranged in a way where the player will back track and get lost often. This leads to the frustrating experience of wasting time covering the same ground over and over again. This matter is only exacerbated by a tiny map in the corner that simply doesn’t show enough of the surrounding area to be at all useful.
The third main issue is the exceptionally unimaginative puzzle design. It is almost as if the designers forgot to go back and insert the real puzzles, replacing the “bring key to lock that is about 10 ft away” puzzles that are currently in the game.
The real shame is that the aspects that the developers get right are really nice. The character design and art direction of Aerea are top notch. The world looks vibrant and exciting. However when the gameplay is this repetitive and unchallenging even this becomes muted as the game devolves into a trudge from one area to the next. It is enough though that I would be interested in seeing Triangle Studios next effort. Primarily to see if any lessons were learned from Aerea’s development and if they were able to build on the this sadly uninspired effort.
Aerea was reviewed on a Playstation 4 Pro with a copy provided by the publisher.