It's hard not to compare this to entries in the Myst series, specifically Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelation. This is mostly due to the fact that numerous elements were borrowed from each of those games and made just different enough not to seem as though Streko Graphics had done little more than create a Myst clone.
While this is a perfectly serviceable adventure game, it's not without flaws (some major, some minor depending on how particular the player is).
(A technical aside - some bugs do exist within the game and may likely go unpatched given the age of the title, including a crash to desktop when attempting to delete a save through the in-game menu)
The age of the title means that it hasn't held up well over the years, so all the modern visual comforts and relevant settings that accompany them are absent. No true widescreen support and no option to run windowed being two prime examples. The extent of the video settings go as far as color depth options and a few standard definition resolution choices.
Going hand in hand with that, most of the 3D modeling in the game is standard fare for the time this title was originally released. Some of the characters look absolutely ridiculous at times and move in a rather wooden manner. Something that certainly allows one to appreciate the advances in that technology at present.
As to the plot, what's there is a fraction of a whole. This isn't made clear here on the store page but this is the first part of a series which means the story ends on something of a cliffhanger.
What story that is present isn't all that compelling and lacks depth, especially when it comes to the characters it introduces.
Unfortunately most of the voice acting in the game is substandard, delivered in monotone with no real inflection toward emotion (perhaps best exemplified by the blacksmith character who does nothing but shout in his brief interaction sequence yet still manages not to sound angry while doing it).
Gameplay is typical of the adventure game type - click to navigate a pre-rendered landscape and interact with points of interest. A majority of the puzzles are simple and can be solved without use of a hint system or walkthrough. Only one puzzle in the entire game is randomized, frustratingly to the point where it becomes less a traditional puzzle and more a mini-game of chance as to how many tries it takes before the correct sequence is found.
Don't be fooled entirely by the simplicity though as there are a small number of puzzles that present a challenge in how they can be solved.
The music and sound design are a mixed blessing somewhat. Most of the game's soundtrack consists of pieces of music that have utterly random ambient noises and sound effects dropped within the middle of their loops. This leads to awkward moments at certain points in the game where something like a door knock can be misinterpreted as a cue that a door nearby needs opened.
Likewise there are questionable moments of music used that betray the atmosphere of the game at certain times. Several dramatic stings are completely out of place in the likes of a small mirrored chamber or a well lit, spacious room.
The pre-rendered environments in the game are quite possibly the best done aspect of it. Seeing flecked paint on aging wood or an expanse of snow covered land watched over by a cadre of planets is nothing short of wonderful.
Taking Aura: Fate of the Ages for what it is, would I recommend it? In general, no. While it is not entirely horrible, there are better examples of the adventure game to play (be it Myst or otherwise) that accomplish exactly what this game does (if not more).
However, if you've exhausted the number of adventure games (scarce as they come these days) available to play then Aura: Fate of the Ages is (possibly) worth a few hours of your time. It likely won't climb to the top of your "best of" list but it's definitely not a total failure of the genre either.
Posted: December 14th, 2013