Giving you a world to explore is one of the most interesting things that a game can do. While gameplay obligations are nice, it’s always better when coupled with an interesting place with things to discover. Dark Souls, for instance, would be nowhere near as interesting if the world and story weren’t so mysterious and intriguing. AER: Memories of Old does such a thing as well. It provides the player with their own special world to explore, as well as the tools to do just that.
AER: Memories of Old tells the story of a world shattered by a great calamity. The once whole terrain was split into pieces that now float aimlessly in the sky. For the primitive people who inhabit that land, this effectively means they are cut off from one another; all except the shifters. Shifters are a special breed of humans who have the ability to shift into the form of their spirit animal, anything from foxes to bears and, most importantly, birds.
You control a bird shifter, starting out as she is about to make a pilgrimage. In the spirit of the people’s prophet and priestess of old, all bird shifters must journey first to her statue and then to the 3 shrines in a ritual of reverence. The main character is the first bird shifter in known history to awaken the light of the original priestess, and so she embarks on a fabled journey to try and save the world from further calamity and distress.
AER: Memories of Old is a very special game in many ways. Firstly, it features absolutely no combat. Throughout the entire game, you spend your time exploring the skies in bird form and solving puzzles as a human in the several shrines you come across. Secondly, the bird form allows you to explore the entire map at will, swooping and gliding your way through the beautiful scenery.
The world is revealed to you in bits and pieces, mainly because the light you gain at the start of the game can reveal the shadows of the past. As you explore the different shrines and the overworld, your lantern will occasionally reveal a ghostly figure. These figures are people from ancient history, and they usually reveal something about the world’s mysterious past. This past details the destruction of the world, the true origins of the priestess and the real reason that the world is still in danger.
It’s difficult to talk about most of AER: Memories of Old’s story because it would ruin the experience. Discovering the truth and piecing together the puzzles are the main draw, although the flying is also pretty damn enticing. None of the puzzles are particularly difficult, the hardest part is usually just finding your way around in the dungeons. Easy or not though, the puzzles are all interesting.
I’ve sort of already gone over the flying in AER: Memories of Old, but I feel it warrants harping on slightly longer. The flying is an absolute joy. You can switch to your bird form at will as long as you’re outside, and there are plenty of locations with hidden secrets to find, many of which aren’t even used in the main story at all. You can swoop up and down, losing and gaining momentum. You can flap your wings to speed up and even ride on air currents. Zipping around the map at top speed and then spinning through a tight space on an air current just feels great.
Visually, the art style of AER: Memories of Old is very simple. The game has a very distinct style, which is anything but realistic. You can literally see the polygons in each character as you talk to them or control them, even in bird form. The thing is that it doesn’t really matter. Although the graphics lack fidelity, they do have a consistent art style. The simplistic graphics, the peaceful tone, and the soft, understated color palette all fit with the game’s light and breezy tone.
If there was one niggle with AER: Memories of Old, it would have to be the ending. Not only is the game criminally short, taking barely a couple of hours to finish, but the ending leaves a lot to be desired. It’s hard to really speak about it without ruining the rest of the game, but suffice it to say the ending basically just sort of happens. Perhaps it was the lack of combat that made it necessary, but the final moments of the game feel really anticlimactic and like nothing was actually resolved. With no pay-off or snapshot of the world after our goal is achieved, it’s hard to feel like the investment in the world and character was really worth it.
Developer: Forgotten Key
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platform: PC, PS4, Switch
Release Date: 27th October 2017 (PC, PS4), 28th August 2019 (Switch)
Do you agree with our review of AER: Memories of Old? What are your thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments below.