AER is a third person adventure and light puzzle game developed by Swedish studio Forgotten Key and published by Daedalic Entertainment. The player character, Auk, can transform into a bird, allowing you to fly around the broken world you find yourself in called the Land of Gods.
Exploring the world is a big part of the game, with numerous secrets and points of interest to find amidst the floating islands which make up the main open world. Many of the most interesting things to find are snapshot memories of former inhabitants, mostly from before the land was broken. These memories are indicated by small floating symbols, showing the positions of the people involved and in some cases speech when you illuminate the area with a magical lamp you acquire at the start of the game.
Breaking up the exploration are temples, which are fairly large indoor areas containing some simple puzzles to figure out before you can progress. Each temple has a different theme and feel, with more details and memories to find if you’re thorough. One slightly jarring change which happens when you enter a temple is that you lose the ability to turn into a bird and so fly. Removing this ability slows your progress within the temples which is important for building atmosphere, as well as allowing for a few light platforming sections which would be irrelevant if you could simply fly past them. None of the puzzles in the game are particularly challenging, but they do provide a beneficial bit of variety.
While it is necessary for the flight to be removed in the temples I still missed it because it is one of the biggest strengths of the game; I spent a lot of extra time just swooping around trees and cloud tops at high speed simply for the joy of it. Use of a controller is generally something I would recommend for the whole game, but it particularly helps with making flight feel natural and smooth. That said, the keyboard controls are entirely serviceable so if that’s your preferred control method it’s certainly worth trying.
There is no set path for you to take, leaving you free to explore as you please while you find and explore the temples which are the progression route for the main storyline. The only element of a heads-up display which is included is a simple compass which appears at the top of the screen in the open world, which allows you to navigate through the clouds between the floating islands.
You also have access to a map to use as a reference and to keep track of the locations you have visited, though this does only track the general areas you have visited so it is still possible to miss details if you aren’t careful. If you’re sure of your navigational skills though you can disable the compass in the options, an option I found to only help the game, though I have a good sense of direction so your mileage may vary on that front.
The game features a striking minimalist art style with simple polygonal objects and few textures, with a mostly bright colour palette which ensures the darker areas are all the more impactful. The visuals make the world a joy to explore and are a refreshing change of place from the more realistic, busier styles used by many games. The music and other sounds complement the aesthetics extremely well, with different regions of the map having distinct audio-visual themes. Atmosphere and tension is also periodically built with sound, particularly in the temples, resulting in a really different feel to those areas compared to the freedom of the open world.
Game performance was excellent throughout my play time, with no framerate issues or stutter on region transitions, though the loading times on entering indoor areas were perhaps a little long but not to an obnoxious degree. The video options are relatively few, but allow you to remove expensive effects like SSAO and antialiasing, as well as adjust shadow distances if you are having trouble running the game. The minimal user interface for the game automatically scales so high resolution (1440p and 4k) users need have no worries in that regard.
AER is not a long game, with the total running time for me coming in just north of three hours even taking the time to thoroughly explore the map and every indoor area. Despite this I feel the story and world were developed well while still leaving enough ambiguity for speculation, and if the game were to run much longer the light platforming and puzzle gameplay may have started to drag. With most of the interest coming from exploring and finding out about the world there is also very little replay value, though I do expect to periodically fire up the game again just to fly around in bird form.
If you like the theme and don’t mind the focus on atmospherics over mechanics then you are likely to enjoy your time with the game, as I did. AER Memories of Old releases on October 25th for Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
[Editor’s Note: Aporia: Beyond the Valley was reviewed on a Windows PC, and was provided to us by the developer for review purposes]AER Memories of Old Review,