zophar53's Blog

Posted on Jul 4th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Aurion, RPGs, Kiroo Games, Diversity, Steam

It's been no secret the last several weeks' worth of news has taken a mental toll on me. For a good 2-3 weeks, even thinking about playing a video game felt trivial to me. Recently, I've started refocusing and getting back to something of a normal mindset, but current events still make me a bit sick to my stomach when I read the news. And to be perfectly frank, I think that's a good thing. It serves as a reminder that I could always be doing more to help. I've been taking steps to educate myself and broaden my horizons, and part of that includes the games I play. It didn't take much searching before I discovered a wide array of games made by black and black-owned developers, and as I dive into some of them, I'd like to highlight my favorites.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan was one of the first games I found. The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, it was released in 2016 and developed by Kiro'o Games, located in Yaounde, Cameroon. Self-described as an afro-fantasy action RPG, the influence and culture are pretty apparent early on. Right from the title screen, the hand-drawn art style is striking, with bright colors and animation that reminds me of so many Saturday morning cartoons I loved as a kid. The music is distinctive as well, with lots of woodwinds, strings, and percussion. I don't want to be as lazy and uncultured as to say it sounds African, but my musical experience with that part of the world is very limited, and leaves me unable to give the score it's proper due. What I can say is that it sounds foreign to my ears while also not sounding cliche, and it works well with the setting and characters the game presents.

If you don't know where Cameroon is, you're not alone. I had to look it up.

You play as Enzo, and as the game opens, it's both the day you are to take the throne of your home village of Zama, and the day you are to marry your girlfriend, Erine, becoming king and queen of the land. No sooner do you kiss your bride then the village is attacked by your new brother-in-law. Enzo and Erine fight him off just well enough to teach the player the basics of combat before getting beaten and exiled from Zama. When you wake up, your old combat teacher Ju'u Nama has whisked you away to a little seaside town and tells Enzo he must go on a pilgrimage to gain the strength to take back your home, and the throne.

"We used to be friends Ngarba; why do you have to come back and be such a jerk?

At first glance the story isn't really anything new. The newly christened prince that is brave and honorable but also sheltered, naive, and ignorant of his own limits. The mentor telling him he has much to learn. The journey to awaken his true power because he has that certain special something that makes him a great warrior and king once he matures. What makes Aurion original is not its story, but the lore. The history of Zama and the magical power Enzo and several others throughout the land have (which the game is named after) incorporate a lot of African mythology, and make things much more interesting. I'm only a few hours in, but from what I've read, there are parts of the story that get rather dark, exploring things like human trafficking and ureasonable taxing of the poor. I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for a story that delves into such things, but the addition of a new cultural lens may be the trick to get me through.

The combat system is another area of Aurion that isn't what you'd expect from a more traditional RPG. Battles take place on a 2D playfield and play out in real time like a side-scrolling character-action platformer. You have a regular attack, a block, a dash, and a jump, and execute special moves using different combinations of buttons and movements on the analog stick. For example, pressing toward an enemy and hitting Y uses some of your AP to throw a fireball. Dashing toward an enemy and hitting X will make Enzo do a more powerful attack that can break some enemies' guard.

I don't really watch much anime, but I love the over-the-top theatrics of it.

In addition to your regular attacks, you can enter an Aurionic state, where more powerful special moves become available and Enzo can charge up his AP at the expense of his health. The spiritual nature of exceeding one's own limits combines with flashy presentation of your special moves to create something of an anime vibe to the proceedings. The combat took me a little time to get the hang of, but by using Enzo's Aurionic state to fire off special moves and air-juggle enemies while calling on Erine's Aurionic powers to heal when necessary, I was pretty impressed with the presentation and how fun it was. If you like you some Naruto, this will probably strike a similar pleasure center of your brain.

For the most part, Aurion is a very polished experience, but there are a few trouble areas. Enzo's movement as he walks around the various towns is twitchy, and it takes a little finesse to get him into position to open the organic item plants he finds around the land or to talk to a specific character. His jumps are also pretty floaty, which works well in combat, but like his walking, makes getting around towns troublesome. Fortunately, I haven't found a need for jumping outside of the battles, but I figured it was worth mentioning. Lastly, the French to English translation is mostly excellent, but there are occasional mistakes with spelling, grammar, and word spacing. It's nowhere near the bad Japanese translations of the 90s, and never gets to the point where it's unclear what's happening, but it's noticeable when it pops up.

Overall, I'm having a lot of fun with this game, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for something different either from a gameplay perspective or a cultural one. Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is available on Steam, itch.io, the Humble Store, or the developer's own website. It seems to be the only title from Kiro'o Games from what I could find, but I hope they have another in the works.

I plan to look at more games from black creators in the future. The way I see it, exploring works like these are one small way we can use our favorite hobby to show our support, even while on lockdown. Even beyond that though, exploring more diverse games means more potential to find something really cool you never would have otherwise, and that's always a good thing. What about you? Have you played Aurion and want to share your thoughts? Have you played other games from people of color you'd like to recommend? Please share in the comments.

**Note: All products I review are bought and paid for myself, unless otherwise noted**

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Thanks for writing this up! I have to realize that I often don't think a lot about the people behind the games I play. I don't have a PC, so I can't check this one out, but I'll keep an eye on future recommendations you make!

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