Aura-Fate of the Ages is one of the latest in the line of puzzle/adventure games. These are games like Myst where you spend most of your time solving puzzles in a very pretty (and mostly static) background environment. While I can’t say that these games are very innovative, I have played (and enjoyed) some games in this style, my favorites being Syberia, and of course, Myst.
Some of the bigger problems which plague adventure games are lack of story, lack of interest in locations and characters, and puzzle difficulty. Unfortunately Aura suffers from all three of these issues. I didn’t care at all about what was going on, nothing was done to interest me in the characters, and the puzzles were not something that most people would be able to figure out.
In the game, you play the role of Umang, an apprentice wizard who has to prevent four rings from falling into the hands of the evil villain. You must journey between four different worlds, solving puzzles to obtain some artifacts which power the rings. This plot is nothing earth shattering, but it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
The biggest problem with Aura is, as stated above, lack of interest in the story and the characters. There isn’t a lot of character development. There are rare cut scenes in which you interact with the other characters, but these seem dry, and poorly acted. The whole atmosphere is not one of impending doom if the rings fall into the wrong hands, but more of a weak excuse to link together a bunch of puzzles.
The locations that you visit are all rendered nicely. Usually adventure games do have pretty graphics going for them, and I have to say Aura does as well. The sounds in the game get the job done. I didn’t want to drill my eardrums out from the games music, but I won’t burn it to a cd to listen to on the way to work either. In an adventure game I don’t expect cutting edge graphics and sound, so I’m not faulting Aura on either front.
The puzzles in the game, however, are another story. I’m a college graduate. I don’t claim to be the second coming of Albert Einstein, but I have a solid head on my shoulders. I had a lot of problems with the puzzles in the game. I found myself “cheating” on some of the harder puzzles. I had my wife come in and take a peek at the puzzle at hand, and if the two of us sat there staring at the monitor, and each other, for more than 45 minutes, I would Google it. Call me a cheater, call me a quitter, sorry. It’s not fun to feel like you are a three year old who has no idea how to fit the round block into the square hole.
The game’s most frustrating puzzles have no rhyme or reason. You have an inventory full of items, and you are staring at some alien device with colors and symbols, and you are just supposed to guess how to solve the thing. Clicking all over the screen, guessing at random isn’t my idea of a good puzzle. There is a journal that Umang has which contains hints as to how to solve some of the puzzles, but it wasn’t helpful for the most part. It was easy to use, but it wasn’t helpful.
I will say that not all the puzzles are illogical. There were a few that were on the easier side, as well as some that I was proud to have solved. I just didn’t get enough “just challenging enough” puzzles. I scratched my head and clicked randomly on the screen quite a bit. After “solving” some of these puzzles, I stared at the screen trying to figure out WHY that was the solution. After a few minutes, I gave up and just moved onto the next room, and the next puzzle.
The user interface was pretty well done in Aura. I have to say, I didn’t have any issues using the inventory, or the hint journal. I wasn’t fighting the mouse and keyboard to get the game to do what I wanted. This is good, especially in a game that’s all about manipulation of the inventory, journal, and on-screen puzzles.
The presentation, UI, graphics and sound were all decent enough in Aura. I just wish that the story, and environment MADE me want to solve the puzzles, and come back for more. I think that if you enjoy a good puzzle game, I mean REALLY enjoy a puzzle game; you could do worse than to check out Aura. For the casual gamer, or people who occasionally don’t mind thinking, this probably isn’t the game for you. It will frustrate you, and belittle you, and the whole time you won’t even remember what the long-term goal is, or why you are trying to accomplish it.
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