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Echoes of Aetheria Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Dancing Dragon Games' newest game doesn't just look the part; it offers a fast-paced adventure that drips with authenticity. This throwback role-playing game includes a diverse team filled with memorable characters and snappy writing. The action is quick and the old school mechanics have been refined. It stumbles in a few places, but Echoes of Aetheria is yet another great RPG from the team that brought you Skyborn. Rating: 71%
Echoes of Aetheria
Echoes of Aetheria Echoes of Aetheria Echoes of Aetheria Echoes of Aetheria
  • Review Score:

  • B
While just about anybody can use RPG Maker to create a retro-inspired role-playing game, very few have been able to make them stand out. These titles often come from inexperienced programmers who may be full of enthusiasm, but lack the chops to create a truly compelling adventure. But perhaps that's about to change, because Echoes of Aetheria is a surprisingly strong quest that's filled with sharp writing, a great sense of pace and memorable characters.

One of those characters is Lucian, a loyal soldier who leaps into action when Princess Soha is kidnapped on her wedding day. Along the way he meets up with Ingrid, a snarky blonde who accidentally gets mixed up in a conspiracy that could go all the way to the top. Before long, our heroes are accused of being traitors and forced to set out on an epic adventure to clear their names and defeat the real traitors.

Okay, so it's not the most original set-up I've seen in a role-playing game, but Echoes of Aetheria knows how to keep the story moving with a lot of fun twists and turns. It's also not afraid to jump between different perspectives without warning. The writing is confident right from the get-go, expertly shifting from one character to the next and hoping the player will keep up. This foreshadows some of the narrative tricks the game employs later, and shows that the writers are in firm control over this story.

The same can be said about the gameplay, which manages to pay homage to the classics while still feeling like a brand new beast. The look and play will immediately remind you of the 16-bit role-playing games we saw on the Super NES two decades ago. Our pixel characters roam through varied locations that play into all your favorite JRPG tropes, while simultaneously fixing some of the archaic elements that plagued a lot of those old school games. Players burned by never-ending random battles can breathe easy, because Echoes of Aetheria gives you control over fighting the wide variety of monsters that inhabit the land.

The battles play out using the familiar turn-based approach, though visually the action is presented from a slightly altered perspective. The five-person party will choose between the usual attacks, magic spells and items to use, whatever works best in the situation. As they fight, a shared meter will power-up and allow each hero to unleash a powerful strike or cast a defensive spell. This simple change helps speed up the action and gives us one less thing to worry about.

Echoes of Aetheria (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

When you step back from the changes made to the combat, you'll see that the entire game has been streamlined in a lot of necessary ways. For one thing, the adventure is split up into a series of bite-sized missions. These quests see players clearing out one section of the map before moving on to the next, giving us a sense of accomplishment with each completed chapter. This is a great way to show off just how diverse the world is. Instead of spending time aimlessly wandering the hillsides, each area is quick to get to and always self-contained.

I also like how accessible the game is to casual RPG fans. You won't need to scramble to use healing potions between fights, because each battle sees our heroes start at 100%. What's more, you can also retry the fight if you end up dying in battle. And if that's not enough, players can make major changes to their party before attempting the fight a second time. Gone are the days of losing significant progress because you accidentally died fighting a tree monster.

But even with these user-friendly changes, it's not the combat that is going to stick with me. When I look back at my time playing Echoes of Aetheria, I'll remember how fully-developed each and every one of the character is. Time has been put into not only making each of the fighters unique, but turning them into relatable characters. They have dreams, ambitions and flaws, all of which is perfectly expressed through the ambitious script.

Echoes of Aetheria (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

As much as I want to gush over the compelling characters and snappy writing, I can't overlook some of the game's flaws. While Echoes of Aetheria nails the combat and story, it completely fumbles everything associated with buying and selling items. Sure, you can pick up new weapons at the shop between missions, but it's nearly impossible to tell if that equipment is better or worse than what you're already using. I found myself spending hundreds on useless gear, only to find the resell value was little more than 1 or 2 coins. It got to the point where I stopped using the shop altogether.

It's also worth mentioning that the game suffers from a few annoying difficulty spikes. You'll spend most of your time beating up the easiest enemies, only to suddenly be thrown in the deep end with fire breathing baddies ready to gang up on you. It's even worse when the enemies start with the advantage. You'll eventually need to spend time grinding through bad guys in order to stand a chance against some of the tougher bosses.

As a longtime fan of JRPGs, I'm used to grinding levels and dealing with inadequate shop details. However, what I'm not used to is using an analog stick to move around the 16-bit landscape. Echoes of Aetheria supports a wide range of game controllers, but all of them seem to map the movement to the analog stick instead of the D-pad. While this may not sound like a big deal, I found myself constantly running into problems with the default settings.

But even with a few missteps, I was surprised by how engrossed I was in Echoes of Aetheria. Right from the opening minutes, I found myself sucked into the action and excited to see where it led me. I loved spending time with these characters and watching what they said. Dancing Dragon Games' newest game doesn't just look the part; it offers a fast-paced adventure that drips with authenticity.
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