Friday, 28 December 2007

Aura: Fate of the Ages

I rather dislike the term 'Myst clone'. Though it is generally used as a a derogatory term for a poor imitation of a genre defining game, it bothers me to have so many pieces of trash mentioned in the same breath as Myst (yes I like Myst, shush!).

And Aura lives up to this definition pretty well. Beautiful scenery and a slew of mechanical puzzles, and little much else of note. There is little backstory or scene-setting, which makes for a very pretty but lifeless and unbelievable world which completely failed to immerse me.

The story is extremely simple: 'Find powerful magic artefacts before the bad guys do'. Been done a million times, so you think they could get it right. But no, it's just stuffed in as initial motivation, and there is little attempt to tell any sort of story as you progress. The characters have zero personality, helped little by extremely bland voice-acting, and seem to be there purely as hint machines to keep you headed in the right direction. What a waste. Not to mention the character models look horrible against the beautiful pre-rendered landscapes.

That said, the game does have a strong point in it's puzzles. Though they are not well integrated into the game's minimal plot, and are clearly there as obstacles, they are rather enjoyable puzzles. They are usually pretty clever, yet straightforward and clues are rarely far away. To be honest, I found myself playing on just to putter about with the puzzles than to follow the (lack of) plot.

In summary: if you enjoy exploring pretty landscapes and solving random mechanical puzzles, then you likely will enjoy Aura. But if you want immersion, story and vibrant characters... steer clear. Gah, those dialogues still make me cringe...