December 13, 2013
– The colors, Duke, the colors! All 90s Popsicle commercial references aside, Aura Kingdom is a beautiful game that demands a highest-settings experience. While it's not incredibly taxing on hardware, the vibrant world immediately pulled me in and personalized the setting. Upon entering, the emerald hills and verdant forests signify a majestic world full of life, rather than the brown, dreary landscape other MMORPGs inhabit. Aeria Games knows how to take advantage of this strength as well, since the Gliding ability allows one to leap from elevations to not only get from place to place efficiently (and possibly discover some hard-to-reach places), but also take in the sights from the sky. While not questing after loot, I enjoyed finding the tallest perch possible to Glide from, soaring around. I immediately envisioned forum topics and tutorial videos released online demonstrating what this feature is capable of. On the technical side, textures rendered smoothly, as areas seemed to load in their entirety when the game loaded. While the models aren't as sophisticated as one would expect from a AAA title, pointed polygons are clearly a thing of the past. Overall, the lush environment Aeria Games offers is sure to lure in and grip potential fans.
Your character begins the game plagued by nightmares. Searching for a remedy, a local sage offers an elixir to cease the dreams, but instead, a mysterious spirit exits the Cube of Gaia. Apparently, chosen humans unleash an Eidolon after drinking the sleeping agent. These humans are known as Envoys of Gaia. After witnessing someone change for the worse with an Eidolon, your character searches the land for a means of getting rid of the pocket-sized monster. For the time being, though, he's stuck with the sacred spirit.
Much of the game seems to revolve around Eidolons. While players can select one of eight classes at the onset, the Eidolon companion can either round-out missing traits or complement strengths. For instance, a Bard might wish to have a more combat-oriented Eidolon or perhaps a support-oriented Eidolon in case cooperative play is a priority (this is an MMORPG, after all). After earning one's first Eidolon, players can choose from one of four. However, this doesn't lock a player into one pet throughout the game. Three total slots are available to players, but the way in which they'll be used is yet unclear. While dabbling in the game, I earned a second Eidolon whose combo ability differed from the previous Eidolon's. Different abilities can be set to auto-cast, but when multiple are highlighted, the priority isn't obvious.
In terms of stats, players can increase HP, damage, and so on. However, stats and abilities can also be unlocked via a system similar to Final Fantasy XII's License Board. These appear to cater to specific classes, as multiple entries involved a Harp for me. Later, characters can unlock a second weapon type and dabble in alternative skill sets. Again, whether to amplify one's strengths or provide balance is up to the player.
Questing is pretty simple. Initially, the minimap's various icons and images are daunting, but with a little practice and research, the system becomes intuitive. When a quest is discovered, reaching the destination is as simple as clicking the highlighted text on the right side of the screen; immediately, the player rushes toward the desired location. However, formal quests aren't the only function of the game. Rare monsters pepper the landscape, demanding exploration of the already tempting setting. These rare monsters can be turned over to the town guards for rewards after being stuffed into a large pot-cart-thing. Achievements are also available. One of the many menus highlights available achievements, and these typically involve non-combat-oriented activities such as listening to townspeople speak. The rewards are small but welcome, as they couple with dialogue that characterizes the world. The few quests I experienced involved fetching items or defeating a particular foe. With so many visually-pleasing abilities at my disposal, chasing after loot didn't feel like a chore.
When not scouring the world in an attempt to render species extinct, players can chat with their Eidolon. The Eidolon offers advice and commentary about recent quests, but can also engage in conversation that includes dialogue choices. Participating in this exercise earns MP, which is used to Link. Linking allows players to send their Eidolon off to obtain an item from Gaia. Typically, these items are Eidolon-oriented. Most of what I received were experience gems to level up the pet. For those less inclined to talk to spiritual beings from another dimension, Azuria offers several towns for players to hook up with others either to trade, engage in combat, or quest together. Aeria Games puts a premium on community and player interaction, as is demonstrated in party-exclusive quests.
With a current level cap of 40, Aura Kingdom has much to offer those who embrace anime culture and making connections with others online. Charming and colorful, the engaging world of Azuria demands exploration for exploration's sake — not just the discovery of rare treasures and hidden goodies. Although Aeria Games graciously hosted this press event for us, they didn't tip their entire hand, so make sure you check back for more details on what they have planned for their newest MMORPG to be localized in North America!