Endless Cycles Of Life And Death
HIGH Beautiful aesthetics and world design.
LOW The rest of the game, mechanically.
WTF The underwater base world.
Hi everyone! Eugene Sax here with another review from GameCritics.com.
Long ago, Chaos created the universe and populated it with two powerful rulers. These rulers eventually sought to control the universe itself, and turned against Chaos. For their sins, Chaos granted both these rulers immortality, and cursed them to fight for eternity — when one falls, they would be reborn to fight the other again. Within this framework, players take on the role of the ruler of Darkness and try to regain the throne in Aeterna Noctis.
In this action platformer, players will explore the world of Aeterna while trying to find a way to defeat the Queen of Light. The game has players going through decaying crypts, scaling towers of light and energy, descending into a fiery volcano forge, and even into a forgotten underwater base. All the while, players will be defeating enemies for experience, leveling up skills, collecting currency to buy items and abilities, and harnessing mystic weaponry in order to achieve their goals.
The hand-drawn art style really sells this game all on its own. Every inch of the world is breathtaking to look at, and all of the details put into the world are enjoyable to stumble upon. The crypts are littered with grimy slate and inert corpses of the fallen, and the walls are adorned with stained glass showing stories of fallen heroes long past. The pathway to the Oracle’s Palace is a fantasy dreamscape of flying whales and sunset skyscapes, and the palace itself is smoky and built on optical illusions. Everything is bright and colorful, inviting and terrifying, and it all helped pull me into the world.
Also enjoyable is the development of characters throughout the campaign. The player’s character comes off as “just a little bit better than everyone”, but the story soon unveils the truth behind this façade. There are also other interesting characters to meet, such as an eccentric Collector, a cursed forge master, and scores of robots.
However, while the art and the characters were great, I couldn’t get past the mechanics and level design.
A lot of the difficulty I had came from the platforming, which requires a high degree of skill. Players will often have to dance between instant-death walls and pull off tricky moves like shooting an arrow to hit switches at precise angles to progress. I can understand wanting players to master the abilities and techniques that Aeterna Noctis has on offer, but the level of precision it demands is brutal, and not easily achieved. Worse, I encountered a few areas where invisible walls stopped me mid-air and caused me to fall to my doom.
Difficulty aside, the level design is also less than desirable. Many times, the devs will put a key that unlocks a new ability about two-thirds of the way through a dungeon. Once found, players have to walk all the way back through the dungeon to use the key and then re-complete the dungeon just to get back to where they originally were. There is a teleporting item that can players can buy, but it only offers a quick trip out. Players will still have to re-fight their way back to where they were when they found the key.
It’s a shame that Aeterna Noctis stumbles in both difficulty and design because it feels like it comes so close to greatness. Unfortunately, the demanding challenge and an obnoxious amount of backtracking overshadow what it gets right.
For me, Aeterna Noctis gets a 6 out of 10.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Aeternum Game Studios S.L. It is currently available on PC, PS5 and Xbox. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 25 hours of play was spent playing the game, but the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Partial Nudity and Violence. Players will be attacking enemies with multiple weapons, and they will attack back in kind. Players will get bloody, and some characters are dressed in suggestive attire.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is text in game, but text is not resizable. Audio mostly serves aesthetic purposes and is not needed for gameplay. The game is completely accessible.
Remappable controls: This game has no remappable controls, and there is no controller diagram. Left stick controls movement; Right stick controls the camera, X is Jump, Square is attack, Triangle is shooting an arrow, Circle is heavy attack; Up on D-pad is using a potion, Down on D-pad is magic health recovery, Left on D-pad is teleporting to a save portal, L3 is to shield, and R2 is to Dash.