Developer(s) – Dancing Dragon
Developed by the same team behind the critically acclaimed indie RPGs Skyborn and Deadly Sin I & II, Echoes of Aetheria is yet another turn-based RPG released by the company making use of the increasingly popular RPG Maker gaming engine used in the development of other indie RPGs such as Chronicles of Dark Lord and Remnants of Isolation. Compared to the two aforementioned indie RPGs, it ranks somewhere in the middle in my opinion; it has charm in most aspects, but not as much charm or as much intensity or complexity as Chronicles of a Dark Lord, but much more immersing and thankfully longer than Remnants of Isolation.
Graphics – 7/10
Reminiscent of the steampunk setting of many of the later instalments of the Final Fantasy series starting with Final Fantasy VI, it features excellent use of 16-bit pixel art, as well as variety in location and enemy design. Whilst taking place primarily in various different town and cities, there are also places outside regular civilization to explore, such as caves, forests and desert tombs. Hand drawn graphics were also implemented in addition to represent characters during dialogue sequences, which also give it a further feel of uniqueness to it.
Gameplay – 8/10
The gameplay differs slightly from most other RPGs made with the RPG Maker engine. Rather than playing out like a tradition turn-based RPG like Chronicles of a Dark Lord does, the battle system requires having to move players round the battle stages like pieces on a chessboard; a play style similar to From Software’s own turn-based RPG Enchanted Arms. It necessitates arguably a greater level of strategy than in the traditional turn-based RPG, but also has the same sense of gameplay addiction to it as well.
Controls – 10/10
Turn-based RPGs generally don’t have any issues with controls as a given it would seem. This game has even less problems than most in terms of controls, since because it was made for PCs, there is also the facility to use the mouse during gameplay, giving players more choice than most other games of it’s kind. It doesn’t matter which style of controls the players happens to prefer; the title plays out just as well using either method, and there have been no necessary complications with it to hinder the overall experience.
Lifespan – 6/10
The game can be made to last about 15 to 20 hours, like most RPGs made on the same engine, I’ve noticed. To me, whilst it’s still longer than the average mainstream release, falls way short of the length that a game of it’s kind can be made to last. It’s nowhere near as criminally short as I found Remnants of Isolation to be when I reviewed it for the site last year, but games like these are always worth making last a long as possible for several different reasons besides sheer gameplay addiction.
Storyline – 7/10
The story of the game follows Lucien, whom whilst attempting to rescue the bride of a royal wedding held in commemoration of a truce between two previously warring nations, meets a cast of varied and compelling characters, as they attempt to clear their names amidst a government conspiracy against them accusing them of high treason. The game’s story is political and somewhat dark in tone, similar to Capcom’s fourth instalment of the Breath of Fire series; albeit, the story in this game is nowhere near as dark. Nevertheless, it has the feel of an epic story and well written dialogue to match that players can come to expect with a game like this.
Originality – 6.5/10
Though it may not go down as being revolutionary in terms of setting new standards for the turn-based RPG genre, the game does have it’s own distinct charm that sets it apart from a fair few others, such as the different combat style and the need to strategize that whilst synonymous in games like this, is presented in a slightly different way. Though Enchanted Arms may have had infinitely more variety in it’s take on this style of fighting than in this game, it can nevertheless provide abundant entertainment in gameplay for how unfortunately short it lasts.
Overall Echoes of Aetheria is one of the better indie RPG experiences I’ve come across in recent years. It has a pretty well written story, addicting gameplay and a visual style not synonymous of most RPGs developed today.