EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Retro cave raiding
I do love a good retro themed game. As an older gamer, these retro themed games bring back fond memories of games from yesteryear. Some games use a visual style that brings forward feelings of nostalgia whilst still adding some new features to their genre and graphical style. Aura of Worlds is one such game. It is includes some lovely pixel-art visuals within a platforming world, but with levels that are procedurally generated.
These are a bit of double-edged sword though. Aura of Worlds is different every time you play, giving it a fresh feel each play through. But it also means that you never really get a chance to master the levels as you would have done with say, Super Mario Bros. Most levels play out along similar lines, working your way past the assortment of strange enemy characters and hazardous traps to reach the exit. In these, you have a bit of time to explore. But some levels have you travel down into the depths at a very brisk pace, racing against a poisonous mist that chases you down into the caverns. They are a frantic kind of fun, but you never really get the chance to savour their intricacies.
A cautious approach
Aura of Worlds has a permadeath feature, so reaching the exits in one piece will often require some skill. Upon dying, the game must be started from the beginning of the level and some caution is advised, well at least when you’re not racing the fog of incapacitation. Making it through to the boss stages is reasonably easy, but defeating the massive bosses can be a real challenge until you work out their patterns. When you do, making your way through the boss battles relatively unscathed becomes a little easier, and you may walk out with some potions to boot.
A selection of weapons can be chosen prior to each game and this allows further variation from one game to the next. You have one weapon and one ability to bring into each level. Abilities can include a force-field that reflects attacks, cloaking (enabling you to elude both enemies and traps) and a shield. It is fun to play with each and figure out which suits your game style more. But with the procedurally generated levels, one combination may work well on one occasion, but not the next. It can be somewhat of a lucky dip.
As you progress through the levels, you will collect money from destroying enemies and smashing objects. Once you have enough funds and make it past a couple of stages, you get the chance to spend some of that hard-earned gold on items such as health potions, teleports or extra strength abilities.
I found the controls somewhat of an annoyance. Your avatar is moved using the standard WASD keys, and can jump using the space bar, which works fine. But you almost need three hands, as the weapon is controlled by the mouse. And our hero needs to be facing the right way in order for the swing of his sword or twang of his bow to make contact. Aura of Worlds does have controller support but the choice of controls is somewhat perplexing with those. The RT is used for your weapon, rather than the usual A or B buttons and this takes some getting used to. The controller does make the game a bit easier than the keyboard/mouse combo, but it still remains tough to conquer.
Still requires some tweaks
The pixel art had me reminiscing of games such as the original Prince of Persia, and it plays out in a similar vein, as you move throughout the stages killing enemies and avoiding traps. But that is about as far as my sense of nostalgia progressed. The permadeath and reasonably tough boss battles can make the game overly challenging even on the easier of the two difficulty settings. The control schemes hinder the gamer further. The procedurally generated levels and the weapon choices do allow for some variation, but issues with the controls and the difficulty levels make Aura of Worlds tough to play in its current iteration. The developers are continually improving the game though, hopefully they take the community advice on board.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.