Sometimes, you don’t want to play a video game to go on a killing spree, take part in hectic races, or try to lead your favourite football team to glory; sometimes, you just want to be able to take in a beautiful world and enjoy a more relaxed experience where you can just be a part of SOMETHING. That’s exactly what you get to do in AER: Memories of Old, the third-person adventure from the development team at Forgotten Key that has now made its way over to the Nintendo Switch two-years on from its initial release.
AER: Memories of Old puts you in the role of Auk, a shape-shifting girl that’s able to freely transform into a bird. Auk’s adventure sees her having to take part in a special pilgrimage to uncover a strange lantern known as ‘Karlah’s Light’, which she must then use to traverse across a selection of temples in order to vanquish an evil threat that looms over her homeland.
The premise itself is pretty simple and easy to follow, but there’s so much more depth to AER: Memories of Old’s narrative that is there for players to discover. You can use the lantern to uncover secrets whilst travelling across the world, whilst there are also countless NPCs to encounter that are always willing to spill information about the history of the world and those that came before you. The only problem is that sometimes this information is so convoluted that it’s difficult to see what role it plays in the story.
Don’t get me wrong, those who really take their time to explore the world and piece all of the information they find together will get a much better understanding of AER: Memories of Old’s narrative, but those who don’t head off the beaten path too much might find themselves a little baffled at the information being given to them. A lot of the areas you explore and NPCs you encounter are optional after all, so there’s plenty of information to miss. What’s most disappointing though is that the tale ends with more of a whimper with a bang, so even those who do take the time to fully explore the world to uncover its hidden secrets may find some plot threads unresolved, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get a lot of satisfaction from the story as a whole – even if the premise itself is interesting. That’s not to say that the plot is awful, because it really isn’t; it just lacks that something to keep you totally engrossed.
From a gameplay perspective, most of your time in AER: Memories of Old will be spent exploring temples and scouring through the luscious skies of the world. This is a game where exploration is key, with no form of combat to be found throughout; instead, the challenge comes from the basic platforming and simple puzzle-solving you’ll do along the way. I use that world ‘challenge’ very loosely too, because AER: Memories of Old won’t put too many obstacles in your path – as I mentioned at the start, this is more of a relaxing experience where you’re mainly there to enjoy the journey.
Whilst it’s not necessarily challenging though, it still makes for a fun time. AER: Memories of Old is very open in design so you can tackle the temples in any order you like, whilst you’re free to explore any area of the world you can reach – as you can imagine, there aren’t many places off-limits considering that you can fly (which is very satisfying, but more on that in a bit). It may not test your skills, but you will get to experience plenty of wonders on your journey and there’s plenty to discover if you’re willing to go exploring. This can work both ways though; if you want a bit of a challenge in a game you won’t have a good time here, but if you’re happy to explore a magical world and have a more tranquil experience then AER: Memories of Old may be perfect for you. It’ll take less than four hours to see everything it has to offer too, so that peaceful approach to gameplay never outstays its welcome.
So I have to mention how bloody satisfying it feels to fly in the game. Soaring over the vivid world and taking in the sights never failed to impress me, whilst the sense of momentum felt from flapping your wings as you glide through the landscape kept me in awe. I’ve got to give credit to the developers for making flying feel so wonderful, though I will admit that I do wish it could have been integrated in some more dire scenarios – it would’ve certainly added some extra thrills to what is otherwise a very lucid experience.
Visually, AER: Memories of Old looks impressive throughout. It adopts a low-poly aesthetic that sacrifices textural detail, yet somehow the world itself manages to look full to the brim with life and is oozing with vibrancy. Not only does it look good, but the sound design is absolutely on point – not only will you hear the flickering of flames or the gushing of waterfalls as you explore these tranquil caverns in the game, but the soundtrack itself is absolutely beautiful too. On a presentation basis, AER: Memories of Old really gets top marks.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game performed well on both the handheld and TV mode of the Nintendo Switch too. I had this bad feeling beforehand that playing it on the handheld mode would see the frame rate and visual fidelity suffer greatly, but I was impressed to see that it ran smoothly throughout. Sure, there’s the occasional frame rate drop here and there, but there’s nothing that significantly hampered my experience with the game.
AER: Memories of Old is a special little game, with the adventure it offers proving to be both a tranquil and beautiful experience. It’s just a shame that the narrative gets a little too convoluted for its own good – there’s so much depth to the world that is shared by the NPCs you meet, but unless you’re totally switched on you might struggle to actually understand it. It’s guilty of leaving some plot threads unfinished too, with some aspects of the tale never fully explained.
Still, if you’re a fan of these kinds of relaxing video game experiences, you’ll have a good time with AER: Memories of Old. It may not hit the mark in all aspects of its design, but there’s no doubting that you’ll be left impressed as you soar through the skies on the peaceful journey it offers.
Developer: Forgotten Key
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC