AER Memories of Old is a singleplayer Indie Adventure game from the developers Forgotten Key. AER is one of those games that you might not expect much from looking at it but once playing you will be happily surprised with what it has to offer. Once I started AER, I found it quite difficult to put down.
The art style and the gameplay of AER may remind you of other games such as Rime, Abzu, and Journey. You play as the silent female protagonist known as Auk. Auk and her people are a group of nomads that live atop of floating islands. Early into the game, you will learn that Auk and her people are gifted with the ability to shapeshift into birds. Once we, the player, were given this ability to shapeshift into a bird as we pleased, I was hooked. Flying around from island to island is one of the most satisfying aspects of this game and the bird form controls very well with options to speed up, slow down, or just coast through the skies.
After flying around just for the sheer fun of it, I began to delve into the story and found myself in a small dark cave where I obtained a lantern. You use the lantern to complete puzzles and unlock hidden lore bits throughout the game. If you are familiar with the titles I mentioned before, Rime, Abzu, and Journey, you will be familiar with a rich story that doesn’t fall back on dialogue. The players are forced to discover the story themselves. Much of AER’s lore is unlocked when using the lantern. There are little apparitions that appear to be flashbacks of civilization before playout events when you get close to them with your lantern.
AER’s story is very rewarding to discover. At the same time, it feels like it is not rewarding to the player. While playing the game, you discover hidden lore bits like mentioned before. The issue is the lore that you unlock does not reward the player. You do not unlock any different skins, music, art or any sort of alternate ending. The lore you discover is strictly part of the main story. Some players may end up bypassing the hidden lore and just plowing through the already short game. If you happen to be a player who does not care about in-game rewards and you like a good story over anything else, I strongly suggest exploring every nook and cranny of the game. Take the time to read every scroll to unlock the beautiful story of this game.
The music in this game is absolutely beautiful. When flying in the skies you get an uplifting yet adventurous melody. The music tends to take a more mysterious and sometimes ominous tone in certain areas as if something was lurking in the darkness watching as you progress through your adventure. I found myself experiencing mixed emotions while playing AER. The soundtrack played a pivotal part in creating an enjoyable experience.
While exploring the extremely vast world of AER I felt like something was missing. The world is very big and you can spend hours exploring each island and town. However, the islands and towns do not have anything to do on them. Granted, some of the towns will have the apparition flashbacks you can look at. In an example, after finishing the first temple you fly off to the next objective and you pass this large city that seemed to be left in ruin from the inhabitants of before. In the city you see apparition flashbacks that seem to be in a war or riot. You see them killing others and some dead under these ancient machines. Where not but a few feet over you can see a group of people yelling for the mayor to come out and stop hiding. Further along the way, you see a crowd of people gathered around what I would assume to be the town square. A man can be seen preaching about change that is coming while the crowd yells in disgust.
These little lore bits you can find in the cities are fantastic and it is something I love very much about this game. But on the same foot, the lack of, I guess, content in the game makes the game feel like it is linear and that the lack of reward for exploring almost makes going for each object straight away more ideal.
Speaking of objectives, the game offers 3 temples for the player to explore. In each temple, you are challenged with small puzzles that are not hard to complete and a linear path to the end of the temple. It is not like The Legend of Zelda or Skyrim where you have a difficult task to complete in this temple or that dungeon that can be reset with one wrong move. The puzzles in AER all lack that “Ah-ha!” moment and I never felt truly satisfied when solving them. A lot of the time your self having to make sure you exhaust all your options and then boom, puzzle solved.
Now I know I have been harping a lot on some of the more negative aspects of this game and not really highlighting the stronger aspects or more enjoyable moments. AER honestly just does not have much to bring to the table to go over. With the lack of content in the open world and the linear objectives in the temples, some players might find this game boring. If you are a player like myself, however, who enjoys exploring and finding secret lore hidden around a vast world with little to no motive, then you will love this game.
I found myself spending hours just flying around in the sky hopping out of bird form and soaring around the clouds as a human. Auk controls very smoothly with hardly any issues. Flying like a bird is fluid and satisfying. I did happen to occasionally notice a small amount of lag or stuttering when the screen or scene became particularly busy or it snows in game. The graphics are cute and the colors are warm. However, at the same time, the graphics also look and feel a bit bland and pixilated at times.
All in all, it is hard to say if I would directly suggest this game to a friend. I will say, however, that if you enjoy exploring a vast open-world game with simples puzzles, a story that can only be told by the lore you find and a soundtrack that evokes just the right amount of emotion and tugs on those heartstrings every right way, then I wholeheartedly suggest AER Memories of Old. If you are a player who is looking for more reward when exploring or do not enjoy empty worlds with linear objects, then I would not suggest playing this game.
I for one loved this game for all of its shortcoming and greatness. So if you do not mind, I am going to hop off of a floating island in the sky and soar through the clouds one last time!