Aura: Fate of the Ages
First posted on 15 November 2011. Last updated on 15 November 2011.
|The airship docks in the mountains of Dragast.|
|The mirror reveals a glimpse of the new worlds in Na-Tiexu.|
|The Spirit Woman is a plethora of information.|
|The Island of Unity is the final destination of Umang's journey.|
The game is available at GamersGate.
Aura: Fate of the Ages is developed by Streko-Graphics, an independent game development company based in Vancouver, Canada. Founded in 2001, the company's mission is to develop adventure games with an immersive storyline and high quality artistry. Aura: Fate of the Ages is the first adventure game released by the company. It is also the first title of a planned trilogy for the series that includes Aura 2: The Sacred Rings and Aura 3: Catharsis.
Aura: Fate of the Ages is a game that is clearly aimed for a selected audience. The game is most enjoyed by adventure game fans who revel in deep, fascinating, and diabolical puzzles. This is because you must have a high level of patience, problem solving skills, and an impervious temperament to frustration and despair in order to succeed in the game. In other words, this is a game that sort out "the weeds from the wheat", and only "the crème de la crème" of adventure gamers will prevail to the end. If you do not meet these strict criteria, you will not like this game or perhaps even find it unplayable.
Aura: Fate of the Ages commences with an impressive cinematic cut scene. The game begins with a prologue that sets you up for what to expect and what is expected of you:
"In the hallways of the ancients, the keepers have existed forever. Old wise men who guard the secrets of the universe. They are the keepers of the secret rings. Legends say that with the rings combined, the elders are able to travel to hidden worlds and create new realities. The legend also states that he who is able to unite these rings with the sacred artifacts of the hidden worlds will attain unimaginable power. Few were given the opportunity to discover the power of the rings, and they were never seen again. One student was chosen to go to the valley of Ademika, where the first step of the journey awaited him. The eldest member of the clan's hierarchy Arakon, decided to summon his best student, Umang."
Fans of JRR Tolkien's Lord of The Rings may immediately recognize many similarities. Umang, like Frodo, must find and destroy the ring(s) that can otherwise give omnipotent power to the beholder. The quest is left to a "chosen one" to complete. Arakon and Aragorn are more than coincidently similar in their names as the leaders of the righteous. Both series come as a trilogy, and both series emanate from the times of the ancients.
Fans of Cyan's Myst will also recognize many similarities. For better or for worse, there is no doubt that Aura: Fate of The Ages is a Myst clone.
The plot of Aura: Fate of the Ages is wafer thin, teetering on nonexistence. The premise is that you, Umang, as the apprentice prize pupil of Arakon, must travel to 4 strikingly different worlds to locate an ancient artifact from each of the planets and then combine them to produce the assembled rings. You must also prevent Durad from gaining possession of the rings and usurp omnipotent power. These unique planets exist parallel to each other—Ademika Valley, Dragast, Na-Tiexu, and Island of Unity—to where you can travel via an airship.
Aura: Fate of the Ages is a first-person point-and-click adventure game. There are 16 characters in the game, including Umang whose face is only seen during cinematic cut scenes. In general, the character models are very good, except for Umang who looks as if he must have had many bad hair days in his travels. Dialog in the game is kept to a bare minimum and is only used to glean information from the other characters or in cinematic cut scenes to further the storytelling. I must admit that I am not impressed by the voiceovers of the characters in this game, which are rather amateurish. Take away these few shortcomings, however, what is left in this game is brilliant.
On starting a new game, you have the options to change the Video, Audio, and Subtitles settings. The Video settings offer a choice of 5 screen resolutions. The Audio settings adjust the Music, Sound, and Environment audios of the game. The Subtitles settings control subtitling in the game. I recommend that you play the game with the subtitles on. This way, you can be assured not to miss or mistaken any clues because of the poor voiceovers.
Navigating through the worlds of Aura: Fate of the Ages is refreshingly simple. There are only 3 cursors. An enclosed green gem denotes an inactive state. A green gem with a fancy arrow on top highlights the directions you can go. A lit green gem indicates where you can pick up or use items found in the game. The cursor also doubles as a hotspot finder in each scene, and it becomes active wherever it hovers over an item of importance. Each scene can be panned around 360° as well as up and down simply by moving the mouse.
The ambient sounds and music in Aura: Fate of the Ages are as good as I have ever seen in adventure games. Sound effects include dripping water, wind blowing through a valley, a hammer striking an anvil, mechanical machinery turning, and many others. The 15 different orchestral musical scores are a pleasure to listen, particularly those that involve woodwind and stringed instruments.
The game makes use of an inventory of 54 items. The items are mostly found and used within a short distance of each other and almost always in the same world where they are found. Each item to be used can be selected in the inventory and then carried to the place where it is needed or another item with which it is to be used.
Aura: Fate of the Ages is an extremely linear game. Unless you have completed all the required tasks at a certain point, the game will not allow you to continue. Once you have finished a world, you cannot go back and revisit that world again.
The puzzles in Aura: Fate of the Ages are diabolically (and creatively) concocted. Each of the puzzles makes use of the unique environment of the world where it is found, and all of them are designed to test logic solving skills. The final solution to a puzzle often brings an "aura" (pun intended) of satisfaction with a spectacular visual representation of the steps taken to reach that solution. In all, there are 37 puzzles to stew over, meditate on, and logically solve before kicking the cat.
The many difficult puzzles in this game will undoubtedly deter most adventure gamers. I recommend that you have a pad and pencil at hand at all times to record any symbol or numbers that you see anywhere for future references. The game has a built-in journal that can be accessed from the inventory which also keeps a running record of some (but not all) of the in-game observations. You are advised to refer to this frequently, as well as your own notes when solving the puzzles.
In sum, Aura: Fate of the Ages is not a game for novice gamers. As a puzzle freak myself, I relish this game like a pig in a quagmire. This is a game that I can recommend to adventure game fans who seek exceptionally challenging puzzle play who will not be easily frustrated. For the rest, however, I can only offer a reserved recommendation.