I’m slightly disappointed that AER – Memories of Old didn’t leave more of a lasting impression on me. I’ve been looking forward to this low-poly open world exploration adventure for a while, but now that it’s been released, I don’t really think about the game at all when I’m not playing it. However – and bear with me here, because this might sound weird – this is actually a good thing. You see, AER is all about enjoying the moment.
That moment when shapeshifting protagonista Auk takes to the air for the very first time and the music swells and off you go into the skies… that moment is pretty much perfect. This is such an uplifting, wonderful experience. You are, after all, flying, soaring above the clouds, right then and there, and it’s such an enjoyable thing to do.
Exploring AER’s open world is a delight. Instead of one connected landmass, there are several small islands floating in the clouds. You’re free to explore them all without restrictions, and discovering new things feels rewarding on its own. While the game world isn’t necessarily large, you can spend a few hours just flying around, taking in the sights, and discovering small, lovely details. Have you met the little lambs? They’re just the cutest.
Your pilgrimage also takes you into old, abandoned temples that have you solving light environmental puzzles and enduring some rather annoying platforming sequences. You cannot fly in there, and at first this feels like you’re being punished – grounded, so to speak – having to traverse these spaces in such a mundane and slow way. On second thought, this adds variety to the game and doesn’t detract to much from all that flying.
There are no fail states. AER is completely non-violent and there is no way whatsoever to die. The only challenge you’re faced with is finding out what is actually going on. You’re on a pilgrimage of sorts and able to see spirits with your magical lamp. Oh, and there’s a ghostly fox that’s guiding you, and something bad happened in the past, and…
The problem with this is that the story feels way too fragmented, too haphazard. You can actually beat the game without having a clue what the hell you’ve been doing and what the point of it all was. This is not all bad, mind: if you just want to spend a few hours exploring and enjoying that gorgeous world, you can do just that. However, despite being an awfully pretty game, it doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. This is even more disappointing considering that there is actually quite a bit of backstory to discover if you pay attention.
In the end, you’ll be left wondering how the game could have looked with a tighter narrative structure. Or you could rise into the sky, burst through the clouds, dive, and float, and just enjoy these moments. Yup, sounds like a very good plan to me.
You can purchase AER – Memories of Old from GOG and Steam for $14.99. The game is also available for the PS4 and Xbox One. For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developers Forgotten Key on Twitter and Facebook.