What We Think
Hack, slash, block, parry! ThreeGates’ successfully Kickstarted and Steam-Greenlit RPG Legends of Aethereus has it all, plus a bit more. From landmines and sticky bombs to pistols and rifles, there are a few aspects I generally wouldn’t have expected to find in a role-playing fantasy title with up to four player co-op and PVP to boot. So venture forth alone – or with friends – to riches beyond imagination as you endeavor to become another among the Legends of Aethereus.
Quest For Fire (Sticky Bombs)
From the outset, I was a little disappointed with the lack of distinction between the skill-sets for the two available playable classes – Inventors (DPS) and Officers (Tanks). [A third class – the Astrographer – is not available in the beta – Ed.]
But that was where the disappointment ended! The explanation of the physics-based combat is first-class. I wish other games with which I have previously spent many hours could take a leaf out of this book…
Quest mechanics provide a step-by-step guide, and when questing, fog of war on the maps provide a nice sense of mystery so that you feel more as though you are really exploring the world of Aethereus and not just going from point A to B to kill said boss or collect said item.
Skills and abilities are not dependent merely on concentration (ie. Mana) – you have to pick up “gem pebbles” which are used in each skill. Some skills are customized to what pebble you pick to combine with it; the hero may be able to have both a fire-sticky-bomb and a water-sticky-bomb on the toolbar, each with different effects, depending on the pebble you chose.
Aethereus is not a land where you will conveniently find epic loot under rocks or even on foes, rather it places heavy focus on crafting: Chests scattered around the landscape will contain the pebbles I have mentioned and/or crafting materials in addition to dropping off any victim that falls by your sword. As you level up and delve deeper into the mysterious world of Aethereus, pearls become available which can be used as enhancements to armors and weapons.
The crafting UI in Aethereus would have to be one of the simplest I have had the pleasure of dealing with, offering the option to instantly buy any materials in which you are short for crafting your ideal piece of armor weapon or gun. There is also another option to display materials already owned by you. If you can’t yet craft an item, a nifty experience is that you can save the plans for the item to craft at a later time, which takes the guesswork out of how you may have intended to use the item.
An intuitive comparison system between your currently-equipped item to the item you are about to craft makes light work of having to worry if it is better than what you already own. Also, when crafting, you can take a “chance,” and if the chance pays off, the resultant item will get bonus stats and attributes. If it fails, you lose part of the materials used to craft the item, so take your chances with caution.
Eyes and Ears
Visually, the world of Aethereus is a stunning place with some very nice attention to detail. Graphics are crisp with nice shadow details, bloom and particle effects, and – though there are still a few visual glitches within the game – I have yet to come across a game where everything is perfect particularly at the outset. All told, this is a rather polished effort, especially because I was playing the beta.
The music while in Nexus lends a peaceful vibe, but after a while it just may get too repetitive. Myself, I turned the music channel down so it was a nice but unobtrusive background ambiance. In combat things get uptempo beat which does effectively build suspense, particularly around the PvP Arena. (Oh, and on a side note – kick is severely overpowered and has a nice grunting sound to match!)
BRB…going to go get some ice cream
Load screens seem to take a while, and though there is a legitimately fine piece of artwork on each screen, it detracted from killing Khagal, Venatan or just wildlife I encountered on the way. I did read on the website “Expedition system combines hand crafted levels with procedurally generated areas that allow for virtual infinite replayability,” but every quest I did on my two characters were identical in both appearance and map design. Other than that, everything else appeared to work as intended.
How long can you Hold Out?
WARNING: This game is unforgiving. Upon death you have two choices; Restart level or go back to Nexus (your home town.) You’ll get to keep any looted items and experience gained, but there is no save feature nor checkpoints while questing. This is where, with much time invested, if you were unable to get past an area, the fun of the game would diminish rapidly.
So would I recommend it? Yes, but with the above warning intact. There is a brutal side to this game which – if tweaked – would render it highly enjoyable for the many hours it asks of you.
Learn more about the Legends of Aethereus Universe from the lead game designer: