Title: Aeternoblade II
Developer: Corecell Technology
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Arcade, Fantasy
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 11/10/19
Price: £24.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Aeternoblade II is a game that combines so many interesting ideas and elements of time manipulation, integrated into an action platformer; it’s enough to peak anyone’s interests. It’s like when you hear a new film has time travel in it, and you wonder, “have they done it well?” Does it boggle the mind and leave you confused? You approach the experience with a certain level of caution, Aeternoblade II is no exception and works hard to integrate these elements well into the fundamentals of progression in the game.
Aeternoblade II has had a challenging journey along the path of its development, headed up by Corecell Technology, a Thailand based developer who was also responsible for the original Aeternoblade game released in 2014 for the 3DS. Critically it was not received well, and consequently, the sequel struggled to find funding for its development, including a failed Indiegogo which only raised £1663. Alas, the developer has worked hard to bring the game to market with it finally launching this October.
The game exists as a direct sequel to the first game and does little to equip the player with much in the way of back story, I’d encourage those players new to the series to head across to the game’s website, and click the about section to fill you in.
Beladim’s Army Of Darkness
The abridged version, however, see’s our protagonist Freyja travel with a secretive weapon: the Aeternoblade. This blade has the ability to manipulate the structure of time and is set on course to destroy the evil Lord of the Mist, Beladim, who controls the Army of Darkness and has destroyed Freyja’s Village.
This second game resumes after this epic has taken place, with Freyja enjoying a peaceful life surrounded by friends in her village. However, due to her actions, the 4th Dimension (and presumably the other 3) have become unstable. It requires her, alongside her two comrades Felix and Bernard to return the power of the Aeternoblade, restore peace to the world and prevent total dimensional collapse. This, again, is a very simplified version of a story that gets so incredibly complex and unfortunately hasn’t been localised particularly well, so you can be forgiven for getting lost along the way.
A Change of Perspective
The core gameplay itself follows the tried and tested Metroidvania formula, with 2D side-scrolling, and an on-rails experience with a mostly pre-determined route of travel. However, it doesn’t stop there. Every now and then, sometimes jarringly, it switches to a 3rd person view for boss battles, which forces you to approach things in a very different way. I mostly liked this experience to mix-up the styles, but with fixed camera positions, it felt like I was playing early Resident Evil (not in a good way….arghhmmmmm STARS).
There were some really wonderful side-scrolling elements I loved, with the 3D terrain revolving as you travel up a winding staircase for example, even though the route is on-rails it was very well done, and added a depth to the scenery.
There are three playable characters and each one has their own unique connection to how they wield their weapons and utilise the time-manipulation powers in-game. For example, you can quickly skip forward in time with one character to dodge an onslaught in battle. For another character, you can freeze time for everyone else, and then give your enemies a good whack in their helpless states. For the third you can enter a realm of time where you can lock in 20 seconds of movement with your character, then go and do something else in real-time, which is great for activating switches to open doors that would otherwise require two people. I think this has been implemented well and keeps the layers of puzzles fresh and at times really challenging throughout the game. Often you can see a puzzling aspect to the level that you know has to be performed by another character, challenging you to return.
A Glitch in Time
Unfortunately amongst this praise, there are some really woeful moments in the game, with poor localisation and cringe-worthy voice acting that prevent you from ever really feeling immersed or even interested in the narrative of the story. There are also some big problems right now, with crashes (to date, I’ve had 16 crashes that have, required the game to fully restart and send a crash report to Nintendo) and also weird glitches in the game that prevent the player from progressing to the next scene. For example, when entering a battle, the entrance and exit are blocked with a forcefield until you’ve defeated all of the enemies, on occasion the game forgets to deactivate these at the end of battle, requiring the player to reload the last checkpoint and try all over again.
I have contacted the Developer whilst reviewing, who have confirmed some of these issues will be fixed with an update arriving in two weeks (although the latter issue raised above doesn’t appear in the update logs).
The soundtrack of the game is a mostly forgettable, yet simple folly, with standard JRPG like orchestral music, and quickening pace during battles, not a lot to hold onto here, unfortunately. Graphically, the textures are on occasion simple and colourful, maybe even beautiful, but at times jaunty and PS2-like, with some strange polygonal designs that harken back to the early days of 3D gaming, and makes me wonder just what engine they used to build this.
Aeternoblade II is a game that tries a little hard to do too many things, to capture too many gaming styles and references, and never entirely succeeds in doing any of them very well. The level of player customisation is deep and expansive yet rarely feels effective, and the fighting combos are rapid yet repetitive. Aeternoblade II is a game that certainly surpasses its predecessor, just unfortunately not by very much