I was incredibly excited when I heard about Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan. It’s a gorgeous RPG developed by what sounds like the only game developers in Cameroon, Kiro’o Games, designed to share African stories and myths in a unique game. I’m all for an expanded view in games – so often we play titles made by the same American, European or Japanese companies that keep showing us similar perspectives on the world, our future and what types of gameplay are fun. It’s nice to see an African studio jumping into the mix. Unfortunately, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan simply doesn’t deliver on its potential.
Aurion tells the story of Enzo and his wife Erine. On the day of their marriage and his coronation, their village is attacked, sending them into exile. What ensues is a journey of self discovery as Enzo must come to understand himself better in the hopes of becoming a better ruler, better fighter and reclaim his role as Zama’s king. Along their journey, the two make new friends and enemies, come to understand the difficulties facing various rulers in different parts of the world, and come to grips with some difficult truths.
At its core, Aurion feels very much like a JRPG set in an African environment. You go from town to town, meeting characters and doing missions for them and learning lessons about yourself and the world. There are even overworked sections where you move your sprite around a world map with the options to engage with the random encounters, although thankfully these can be skipped if you aren’t in the mood to fight. The elements of self realization and discovery, as well as a dark overarching storyline, all feel pulled from classic JRPGs.
I really enjoyed the African-ness of it all. It was great to see characters that looked different from what we’re used to seeing, and showing traits that are typically seen as defining people of the “Dark Continent”. From the costumes to the customs, it added a unique flair to the experience. It’s something that I hope we will see more of as there is a lot that developers could do with African elements in games – it’s a vastly underutilized set of lore and aesthetics that has a lot of potential.
Unfortunately, the story itself isn’t always that engaging, probably due to pacing issues. As Enzo and Erine travel, they typically meet someone who can explain what’s happening by means of an exposition dump complete with roughly drawn diagrams and tons of new terminology. It’s hard to keep track of what is relevant, and outside of a few core characters, every NPC feels the same and pretty much seem to be a means to give another bout of information overload. There is certainly a lot of backstory to the game that drives some of the characters, but without the necessary opportunities to build connections with the characters, or interesting means of presenting the lore of the game, it ends up coming across as poorly paced explanations in between the combat.
And there is a ton of combat. The fights in the game play much like a brawler, but with a ton of strategy. As Enzo progresses through the game, he unlocks new Aurions or abilities. After the initial one of honor, these follow four main pillars of fire, water, air and earth. Players can combine the Aurions to make new, more powerful ones, eventually leveling them up and unlocking ultimate abilities for each. This is really fun and adds experimentation and strategy to the combat in a great way. I enjoyed finding new combinations of abilities and using the right ones against enemies, pulling off incredible combos.
However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Sure, the combat can be fun, but battles are often poorly paced, stretching on for far too long. Boss battles in particular become tedious as players are forced to use their special attacks and combos to whittle away at overpowered characters’ health bars . Some boss battles could easily take 20-30 minutes to complete, by which point even the most interesting combos and special attacks have become repetitive and irritating.
At least most of the game is really beautiful. The artwork is stunning and the music helps to create an excellent ambiance without being overbearing; in fact, the music is one of the best parts of the game, adding to the African vibe without being too “in your face” about it. Unfortunately, after creating gorgeous environments, it is blocked off with way too many invisible walls. Added to that, there are some sprite scaling issues that lead to some weird animations and difficulties with contextual commands. Even the art style feels inconsistent, with certain sections showing detailed, beautiful areas while other parts of the game look like rough sketches by comparison.
The art style actually gets in the way in certain parts of the game where it becomes a platformer. Too often I would fall through platforms, or even through solid sections, being forced to jump my way through again. This is even more frustrating when combined with some of the worst wall climbing mechanics I’ve ever experienced in a game.
The developers claim that the best experience is to be had when playing Aurion with a controller, and that is for sure. I attempted to play it with mouse and keyboard, eventually finding the controls so poorly mapped as to make the game almost unplayable. On controller, it is a much better experience, although I sometimes found that calling Erine to assist in combos could be a bit awkward.
Much more awkward was the writing. It was clear that Aurion was written by a staff whose first language wasn’t English. While certain phrasing or grammatical errors could be forgiven, the lack of any copy editing is apparent and breaks immersion. It shows a lack of polish for the game, and makes the experience even more clunky than it should have been.
Last Updated: May 30, 2016