By: Ted Chow
A grand adventure within a nostalgic artistic canvas, Echoes of Aetheria is one of those games that hearken back the Super Nintendo RPG days. If games such as Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Star were to your liking, Echoes is the 16-bit pixel brother of the isometric turned-based RPG. And coming from the makers of Skyborn, the game will feel reminiscent of that particular classic look, but with a modern feel.
Similar to other isometric RPGs, Echoes of Aetheria doesn’t offer anything innovative, but it comes in line with the expected standard. Playing the game with either the keyboard or the mouse is entirely viable, and it’s simply easy to learn from the get go. Movement can feel a bit sensitive as you can move beyond your intended location with the keyboard, but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience.
If hyper realistic graphics are the trend in this day and age, the 16-bit, pixel era was the trend when I was growing up playing video games. Nowadays it is an artistic choice to present a game in this manner rather than technological limitations, but that doesn’t take away from the nostalgic charm.
While there isn’t anything breathtaking to say about pixel art, it is an established medium of visualization and a good detraction from PBR realism and accentuated post-processing effects. Simplicity at its best, I suppose.
The soundtrack is also reminiscent of the cartridge days and provides ample ambience to support the whimsical/light-hearted tale of subterfuge and intrigue between villains and heroes.
The story in Echoes of Aetheria is the main draw to the game, and there isn’t much deviation in the plot for side quests or other shenanigans. Moving the story along is what the game entails, and it’s not about the fluff to keep players distracted from the goal.
You will start off with a wedding kidnapping that escalates into something more sinister with conspiracies and ulterior motives. However, the dialogue and character interactions are more on the playful side of things, and that allows a wider range of age groups to enjoy the PG nature of the game’s presentation.
Additional lore in the journal also sell the world for what it is and gives a lot more context as to why the player should care, as well as to provide some interesting readings.
Like any RPG structure, the core features of the genre are available for the player to explore. Skills can be acquired and equipped, augments can be placed within items to buff and enhance stats and party formations can be set in advance to any battle. Customization is limited to basic costume/color changes and most other items offering behind-the-scene statistical ramifications to your overall party build.
Usable items such as healing potions can also help in the heat of battle, though characters do heal completely after every fight, so the benefits only pertain to specific circumstances. Other assorted items such as ore can also be put to good use in the forge to craft new weapons and armor for players to mess around with in their downtime.
Battles are conducted on a grid-based battleground where characters take turns, depending on their speed, in order to execute their desired skills/abilities. Special skills can be acquired through leveling and offer different advantages to the battle through elemental enhancements, protection, manipulation, healing and more.
Formations can also help protect your back liners from taking damage with your tank or open up new enemies to flank. Items are present for your use as well if you’re fighting bosses or are in a pinch, but otherwise, as noted, you’ll heal fully after any battle.
Echoes of Aetheria has a story to tell and lovable characters to see the game through. While the tale may be tried and true, the focus on gameplay helps to round out the overall experience. If you enjoy some old-school RPGs of yesteryears, Echoes of Aetheria is a nice diversion from the modern trend and displays big heart regardless of its tiny package.