Simplistic, yet offers a wide array of tactics to the player.
Well-built gameplay systems.
F2P player integration.
More variety in unit/ship/arena skins would be nice.
A tad questionable longetivity.
Aerena: Masters Edition Review
Upon its original release a while back, Aerena couldn’t have struck a chord with me. There’s only a handful of free-to-play games I like and I usually abhor the notion of kicking off another one such title. This has much to do with the fact that most F2P games require the player to grind some kind of resource a significant amount of time before being able to properly pose a threat to other players or the NPC mobs. While I can’t attest whether this was the case with Aerena, the notion of it being a F2P game made me ignore it. Now that the developer has embraced a “pay once, play forever” system instead of the old “keep paying forever” one, lots of new players have been drawn into the game with me being one of them.
I’ve got to admit I was slightly confused by the game’s mechanics on my first go. It revolves around facing enemy squads of air pirates in tournaments of sorts and fighting them in a turn-based system. While the tutorial did its job in teaching me the basics, it took me a round or two to fully grasp the concepts that are at play in this game. Essentially, this is a game about harnessing and using your resources in a clever way. Every turn, both your ship and pirates will earn one Aether point. You’ve guessed it – these are used to execute abilities and special attacks. Both of which are quintessential in your path to victory. Aerena: Masters Edition focuses on area manipulation and superiority much more than on your ability to eliminate enemy units. Many characters have the ability to push, charge towards and otherwise push/pull other pirates around. These abilities will often be decisive when it comes to determining who wins and who loses, so you’d do well to stock your squad with such characters. As far as the game’s revamped “shop” goes, you’ll quickly earn enough money to start unlocking some of the more advanced characters so don’t worry about it.
From my personal experience, finding random games to play with strangers is fast and painless, and completed with nary a mouse click. The longest I’ve waited for a game to start was just under a minute, with loadings averaging out in around twenty seconds. After a challenger is found, a short introductory sequence is shown and the game determines who’ll spawn his unit first. After that, each turn you place one of your three selected units while your opponent does the same. This is already important because it dictates the way you deal with the situation further down the line. Once that’s done, you can begin playing. Each and every unit has two actions once its turn is up, and you can then move it, attack or use an aether shell fired by your ship. Aether shells are one-time-use-per-match skills. Trump cards, if you will, because they can easily turn a dire situation into a winning one for you. I decided to invest into a commando unit that heavily reminded me of Warhammer 40K – and not only because of the chainsaws. This proved to be a wise investment due to his preference for quick and highly damaging attacks, as well as pushing enemy units around the map. So I created a blitzkrieg crew that allowed me to win six games in a row! The game isn’t unfair in any way, either, with all units being very well balanced one with another. If I had to compare Aerena to another strategy game then it would certainly be chess, it’s really that good. Now, my main gripe with Aerena: Masters Edition is that I’m not entirely sure how many players might stick with it for a more concrete amount of time. While the devs do release a new ship/unit every once in a while, I fear that some might lose interest very soon due to the relatively slow nature of the game. Then again, I might be wrong because the game is obviously still alive even after being a free-to-play title for a while.
I especially like the fact that, even though the F2P version is now removed from Steam, those who played it still have full access to their accounts and can play with those who’ve bought the Masters Edition re-release now. It’s a great way of keeping your player base together and, combined with the fact that Cliffhanger Productions obviously listen to their fans and care about their game.
As far as technicals go, I’m happy with where the game stands. The textures are sharp and crisp while the effects look nice enough. Mind you, this is a low-end game that will work on virtually any PC you install it on. Hell, I think it could work on a week-old pizza if you try. The important thing is that it looks decent enough, with lots of colourful stuff happening on-screen at all times. The unit design is also pleasantly different from what we usually see in the genre, and is perhaps more akin to the one employed in MOBA games and their ilk. As for the music, it’s good enough while not being anything too special. Great things could have been done with the announcer (think Borderlands 2) due to the nature of the Aerena universe but this is good enough, too.
In conclusion, I have to say I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by Aerena: Masters Edition. With pretty damn low price, great gameplay, a friendly and loyal player base it’s difficult to go wrong with this purchase. I can see myself returning to this game quite often, too. See you in the aerenas, folks!
Aerena: Masters Edition Review
10th Feburary 2015