I have a soft spot for Gauntlet inspired games so I quite excited when I started playing AereA. Developed by Triangle Studios, AereA is a four player co-op RPG game where you, and friends, explore a floating series of islands using music instruments as weapons. Your objective is to explore these locations, find the missing primordial instruments that are needed to keep the island from falling from the sky, and solve the mystery of why they disappeared in the first place. The classical music theme of the entire game makes it stand out from your typical RPG like games where music seems to be the “mana” of the world. Everything is connected to music from the names, to the weapons, to the environment and enemies themselves. While it does have similar RPG elements that you would find in most games, it does allow itself to stand out by going to the beat of its own image.
The game’s story takes place on the floating island of Aezir, where music keeps the island afloat and musicians are trained to be both guardians and entertainers for the people. In truth Gauntlet fashion, you are given a series of characters you can choose each time you play with have different abilities, states, and fighting styles. These four characters are Jacques the Cello-Knight, Wolff the Harp-Archer, Jules the Lute-Mage, and Claude Trumpet-Gunner. While they have no personalities, due to not having dialogue, each does have a different play style that allows you to try different methods of defeating the enemy, such as Jacques bashing enemies with close quarters combat while Claude attacks from a distance with his trumpet guns. The weapons are all items you would see in an orchestra and that concept alone is awesome. Music seems to be “magic” in this world and it powers everything from the airships to keeping the islands safe and in the sky. Your teacher, Great Maestro Guido, and his bird assistance Clef give you missions to find the missing primordial instruments that keep the island afloat and other dangerous situations for Aezir’s citizens. A simple story, in a unique world, the quests and lore are enough to keep you invested in the story.
Gameplay wise the game plays like a typical RPG, but with a Gauntlet styled fighting and leveling up system. One good factor the game has is that all four characters can be played with by four friends, which I highly recommend. The game is more challenging if it’s just one Individual, and you might find some frustration completing the puzzles so I recommend playing with at least one other friend. Combat is simple as you have two different attack options while also having spells and skills that can be used to cause massive damage to enemies. It might take some time getting used to attacking and moving at the same time due to the fixed Camera angle the game always keeps as well as the fact that you attack in the direction your character is facing. Monsters will be swarming you in each new section, and they respawn fast too. Sometimes they will respawn right in front of you without warning, which I found annoying as I got damaged before I was even ready. The worst to watch out for are the traps as these do major damage and you’ll have to waste your items just to prevent yourself from dying. In fact, the items are a weak point in the game. They barely help you at all, especially health items, and you don’t get a description or hint of what each item does. Sometimes you’ll find a new item, use it, but nothing happens either because you don’t have the right condition to use it or the game never tells you what changed. Still, it’s a fun experience, especially boss battles, which only increases in fun when you have more players with you.
Naturally, the music in this game is phenomenal. It uses actual classical instruments in a symphony like manner to bring the feeling of a musical based world. The theme to Great Maestro Guido Grand Music Hall is my favorite, giving that heroic and valor like feeling that you are a classy kind of hero. One both roguish and brave. The music on the levels is also good, both dark and damp in some areas while exciting and exotic for others. The music is top-notch and I applaud them for putting in not only the effort on making the music feel right with the theme they were going for, but making music an important part in the world’s lore and mechanics.
Equally just as good is the art work, which stands out both cartoonish but with a taste of Renaissance. Your main HQ, the Music Hall, is very well detailed and very well designed both in structure and coloring. In fact, the coloring of this game is very bright and positive, a very big welcome from many dark and depressing colors from RPG’s these days. The characters themselves are very modeled without showing their eyes, which is usually covered by their impressive hair models, but they all stand out with their very well detailed clothing. You feel as if you are in a European Nation, just in the sky and music is a weapon. The environments are well crafted as well, with great monster designs, environment features like running water and windy sands, and there are very few bugs between the player and the level design. The only criticism I can give is that, like with Gauntlet’s levels, it’s very narrow pathed, but this isn’t too big of a problem.
AereA is an RPG game worth playing, but I feel that it would be best to play with at least one friend on this one. The best part of this game, however, is that it’s playable for all audiences. Kids will love to play it and adults will too. There are some minor problems with a few bugs, control issues, and insane monster spawning, but nothing that brings it too down. I give AereA a 7 out of 10.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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