A Fresh-Faced New Kid on the Block
I know this is such a trope and that this must’ve been said an infinite amount of time by an infinite amount of game journalist monkeys banging on an infinite number of typewriters, but once again, I’m going to dust off the old gem of “you can’t judge a book by its cover” and relate it to the latest MMORPG I’ve gotten my hands on, Aura Kingdom from Aeria games. If you were to look at its promo art or some of its trailers, you could quickly dismiss it as yet another anime-inspired import. But then you find out that you get to do things like fight a giant robot dinosaur and kill a bunch of terribly cute, adorable looking, little creatures and all of a sudden, you’re looking at things in a whole new light.
Aura Kingdom’s story may remind some folks of a Final Fantasy game, the spirit force called “Gaia” has bestowed the ability to control familiars known as Eidolon upon a select group of people within the game’s realm. These Envoy of Gaia as they are called can be both good or evil. Throughout the game you’ll have a selection of Eidolon that you can collect and you’ll be able to keep up to three to switch between in and out of combat, sort of like AI controlled Espers or Summons, if I can continue with the FF metaphor. You’ll be able to team up with your Eidolon to pull off special combos, like a devastating AoE spin attack from you and your giant robot, or hopping on the back of a cyber-panther for a limited amount of time to deliver some brutal ice elemental attacks, and the little girl who floats around on a crescent moon and turns you into a giant bunny to deliver a tremendous flying slam into the ground below. Switching between them in battle on the fly is simple and you can select which commands you want them to carry out. There appears to be enough variety that finding the companion should be easy enough.
Character classes are broken up into varying degrees of CQC, AOE and Long range attack and support: Bards handle healing, Wizards do the ranged and elemental magic thing, Mage got support spells covered, Grenadiers have a huge-ass cannon for long range bombardments, Gunslingers get a little more precise with their attacks, Duelists are kind of an inbetween class with melee acrobatic and a little magic, Ravagers handle AoE melee with a giant axe and the Guardian does the tank duties with a sword and shield. The classes seem to work on a scale that ranges from total up close combat all the way to long distance magic spells that seems to lend itself quite well to events like group raids.
The thing that will probably really hit home with folks is the sheer variety of mission styles. Outside of fetch quests, you’ll get to do things like sneak around pirate encampments and attempt to plant explosives without being spotted and get behind the controls of a mech to throw down in a robot battle arena sort of mini-game where you time your blocks, attacks, counters and heal spells in order to take home victory for your robo’s dwarf mechanic. The robo arena is also where you get to face off against the giant robot dinosaur, which is a pretty damn hard thing to hate. On top of the more unique missions, the standard raids and boss battles look to have a good amount of variety where you’ll do things like fight a giant warthog king in his underground lair, battle goblins and mecha-guardians who protect a demon hidden deep within an ancient temple, and traverse tropical jungles full of deadly plant creatures to take on an evil fairy princess.
Yes, an evil fairy princess with pink hair and turquoise wings, killing her could be a total catharsis for anyone who ever got sick and tired of Navi while playing Zelda. In fact, there’s so much cute stuff you get to kill in this game, it’s incredible. Cute little pikmin looking sprout-people, tiny little raccoons that look like pikachu and spew word bubbles with hearts in them, adorable fairies; THEY ALL HAVE TO DIE! It’s horribly amusing to kill these fluffy things. I don’t know if that says something about my mental state or not, but I’m just gonna roll with it, and at the very least players will find it novel to level up from destroying adorable things.
The game’s airbrushed anime art style is actually looking very clean already and reminded me a bit of the “Tales of” RPG series with its fantasy regalia outfits and giant, unnaturally colored eyeballs and hair. Anyone who knows about Legend-X’s last game, the very popular Fantasy Frontier, should be familiar with their art style.
While Aura Kingdom has many of the traditional gameplay elements that most MMORPG players are used to, it looks like it’s doing a good job of putting a fresh face on it while coming up with some more amusing and unique concepts. The quirkiness of all robots and marshmallow-y sweet looking enemies appears very natural looking within the game’s context and will probably attract Legend-X even more attention. Aura Kingdom heads into its founder’s beta on December 16th with a closed beta to follow soon after that.