Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is the kind of indie release I always find challenging to pick apart. On the one hand the developers at Kiro’o Games are clearly passionate about this project and had a clear plan of what they wanted to do from day one. And to the studio’s credit, what they’ve managed to create is so impressive, even Hollywood is taking notice. On the other hand, the game admittedly lacks some polish we’re accustomed to, perhaps scope of the game eclipsed what the studio can handle.
The creativity and imagination on display coupled with an unbelievably fresh spin on fantasy stories is infectious in an industry that defaults too quickly to the flavors of Germanic High Fantasy, Germanic Low Fantasy, and good old fashioned Japanese genre-mixing. So infectious in fact that it helps me forgive the few moments when it is clear that ambition outweighed the scope of their production.
Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan Review
This adventure revolves around Enzo, the newly-appointed king of the nation of Zamas. His wedding ceremony with his Queen Erina appears to be going fine when his brother incites a coup. Despite rising up to his duty as king to protect his people, Enzo is defeated by the enemy’s superior use of Aurion, a sort of spiritual energy that is channeled by connecting with one’s ancestors – which in this game’s case materializes as superhuman abilities and the ability to shoot energy blasts. Exiled from their kingdom and people, Enzo and Erina undertake a journey across the other countries of the world to gather the allies and skills they will need, as well as some deep soul-searching to better connect with their Aurionic abilities, in order to reclaim their kingdom.
In terms of characters, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is an absolute standout. The game’s main protagonists, Enzo and Erina, come across as a truly authentic couple. There are also some notably familiar character traits: Enzo being the assertive type, Erina the passive supporter, but when it comes to how they treat one another, it feels exactly like a loving husband and wife. The world also heavily draws from African folklore and mythology, which helps make the overall gameplay experience very unique; presenting a fantasy world that is somewhere between the world of Marvel Comics’ Black Panther and Ankama’s Wakfu. Even if the challenges Enzo and Erina face can boil down to standard RPG fare, the studio has done such a good job establishing their world and the internal conflict of the characters. I found myself incredibly invested in the couple’s adventure.
The game’s main protagonists, Enzo and Erina, come across as a truly authentic couple.
If there is a problem with the story’s presentation it is that it can rely on proper nouns a little too much. Official names and terms that come and go so often I lament the fact that there’s no in-game glossary or codex to keep track of certain things such as the political structure of a certain kingdom or the specifics of how Aurion works.
It’s clear that Kiro’o Games took a lot of their inspiration from the Tales Of series of JRPGs with their game design, and it shows with the focus on character interaction and cutscene-focused narrative presentation. However, they haven’t exactly reached the polish that Namco Bandai’s franchise has attained with this series. While the English translation of the game does a good job of retaining the personality and feel of the characters, there are intermittent typos and grammatical errors that continuously break the immersion. Furthermore, the cutscene quality leave a lot to be desired with a noticeably lower framerate and muddy visuals.
Aurion: Legacy of Kori-Odan resolves encounters with real-time combat.
The gameplay fairs a bit better in terms of variety. Levels consist of two distinct parts. First and foremost is the game’s combat system. Instead of turn-based combat, Aurion: Legacy of Kori-Odan resolves encounters with real-time combat. Enzo can block, attack, perform a dash ability to help him escape, and perform charged attacks to break enemy blocks. There’s also an Action Point bar that Enzo uses for special attacks like throwing fireballs or flurry attacks. There is also a Stamina Bar that depletes whenever he blocks or dashes, which when fully depleted leaves him vulnerable. As for Erina, she has health, AP, and Stamina as well but she functions more like an assist character in a fighting game with her abilities tied to a button press. She can jump in and shield Enzo at the cost of her own health, heal him, and then lay down the pain with powerful magic attacks. Finally you can unleash the heroes’ Legacy, which is a super mode of sorts that grants more special attacks and a devastating ultimate attack, all at the cost of your precious AP.
These battles are thrown out between platforming sections where the player has to navigate dangerous terrain while key-hunting and finding the next character they need to speak with.
That is a lot to unpack and conceptually, it actually isn’t bad. Dashing around and going into combos, juggling enemies through the air like a wire fight from a wuxia movie is inherently enjoyable. The light RPG mechanics where you can level up your skills, with buffs and bonuses given from collectible gear brings a fair amount of satisfaction. The various forms of Legacy are also clearly tied to the plot, metaphorically symbolizing Enzo’s personal journey of self-discovery while also having distinct fighting styles in mind, one is meant for crowd control, one is focused on juggling, etc.. It’s a tried and true method to inject character development into the action when there is no budget for the usual bombastic set pieces allowed in larger productions.
While the game does a great job with setting and characters and has some decent platforming connecting certain sections, the combat feels rather lopsided.
So why does the combat feel off? Blocking feels almost completely useless because it drains stamina far too fast. The better option is usually to dash since it can then be followed up by a counter attack that stuns the enemy and opens them up for punishment. There isn’t a parry or redirect function to the block button to encourage quick reflexes, so that’s also something to be accounted for. In addition to underwhelming audiovisual feedback, battles just start once the loading screen finishes – leading to almost immediate enemy ambushes, the enemies feel infuriatingly-cheap with what they can do. Enzo gets interrupted when he gets hit but the enemies can tank multiple hits before yielding. There’s an Arkham Asylum style warning before they attack, but most attacks have two frames of wind-up at best so it’s impossible to react to such incompetent telegraphing. This is reasonable when it comes to fighting a few enemies early on since you can easily stun them and rip them to shreds. But as the game continues to add different enemy types, the kind with annoying projectile attacks and teleport strikes that can kill you in an instant, the battles start devolving into barely coherent chaos. Even boss battles aren’t immune to cheap tactics and unavoidable super attacks.
When everything goes well and your combos go off, it is downright entertaining.
Which lies at the core of the game’s biggest problem. An action RPG works best when it remains consistent with what the player can handle, what the enemies are capable of, and always gives the player plenty of means to handle a situation. While the game does a great job with setting and characters and has some decent platforming connecting certain sections, the combat feels rather lopsided. When everything goes well and your combos go off, it is downright entertaining, but the minute a baddie gets in that one hit that breaks everything it can snowball into an aggravating fifteen-second long combo of pain with Enzo being tossed around like a human pinball. And the only way to improve or work around these annoying sections isn’t to watch for attack patterns but to level-grind in the game’s overworld, which just leads to a lot of unnecessary tedium to fix a problem baked into the foundation.
I do need to restate that Aurion: Legacy of Kori-Odan isn’t a bad game. Despite the problems cited, there are moments in it that are legitimately moving. There is a solid amount of humor and levity and satisfying battles where the game takes advantage of its combat system. Battles where enemies have distinct weak points and the challenge comes from coaxing them into a exposing that point for punishment is a great example. Granted, they are few and far between the dissonant tedium most of the fights fall into but it shows that the fundamentals can work with a bit more polish. There are some shortcomings in terms of visual fidelity or complex sprite animation, but the art direction and aesthetic are truly something special. All of this and yet the frustrations brought on by certain flaws add up and ultimately overwhelm any ambitions Kiro’o Games had.
The art direction and aesthetic are truly something special.
If you want to experience a different type of fantasy narrative through an underrepresented cultural lens, there is some merit to be found here. But those with a low tolerance for half-baked combat might have to look elsewhere.