I’ve never played a game like Aeon of Sands. I’m am aware of the existence of the genre but never personally tried one. It’s best described as a choose your own adventure storybook, except you get to do some dungeon crawling as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Aeon of Sand, and I struggled at first, not with the game, but with my inexperience at playing this type of game. Once I found my sea…uh….sand legs. I could appreciate the appeal, however.
It’s very old school, visually and with its interface. That doesn’t make it ugly though. In fact, most of the artwork used for the game assets are quite stunning. Though the visual style of the dungeons themselves can get repetitive.
You play as Setrani, a clerk, tasked with an important mission that takes him out into the sands of the world. It is your choice how deep into the story you dig. You can get as much or as little dialogue as you wish, and your choices affect the game. This includes, but is not limited to what companions are willing to accompany you. There are multiple endings giving the game some replay value.
The writing is quite good and surprisingly humorous given the dark nature of the setting and art style. Modern gaming has evolved to the point that we don’t expect to do a lot of reading anymore. Aeon of Sands writing does a good job of being interesting and attention grabbing from the outset.
You explore an overworld map that leads to various encounters with dialogue choices and of course dungeons to crawl around in. You move around the maze-like labyrinths by clicking arrows or using your keyboard, moving forward, backward, left to right and turning in place. It’s very old school but doesn’t feel like out of place.
Once combat started I fumbled for a while, but that was on me. Given the games style, I expected turn based combat. The first time a rat attacked my face, I literally jumped out of my chair. It’s completely real-time and it actually makes it kind of unique compared to my normal palate. Dungeon Crawling is a trope in many titles, but games that inspired Aeon grand fathered them.
You can strafe and back out of range of enemy attacks, leading them down corridors and other similar strategies. However the best defensive tactic in the game is to not get hit in the first place. The characters in your party are displayed on the right. The top character is considered to be in the front of the group and takes the most damage from frontal attacks.
Likewise, the bottom character is considered to be in the back of the group and takes the most damage from behind. You attack by clicking items you have equipped in your character’s hands or by opening up the characters sheet individually. It’s real-time though, you gotta be quick and it’s actually quite tactical. Attacks consume stamina and magic has a neat mechanic to help keep it balanced as well.
The real-time combat alongside the often eerie soundtrack honestly made me uneasy when skittering around the mazes. It’s easy to get lost and I am total wimp when it comes to anything even slightly scary. I jumped out of my skin several times. Who knew old school dungeon crawling could be scary?
Aeon of Sands has multiple difficulty settings and on the highest one the game is no joke. Your party can go down very quickly. You can utilize melee, ranged weapons and even magic. The magical system is kind of unique, you attune characters to a certain element and cast spells using a sort of focus for each element that you can find.
Casting spells accumulate mana burn and using too much can start to eat away at your characters health. Though you might be able to recruit someone that works with magic in an even more unique way, but I won’t spoil that here.
The combat is fun, but admittedly a little simplistic. The game’s core as a whole is a little on the lighter side, you don’t make a lot of choices about the growth of your characters. Certain stats increase as you utilize different attacks. You can swap around their gear with the sweet loot you find, but that is about it. The majority of your choices are on the dialogue side of the coin and what areas you visit.
The dungeons can be pretty huge with a lot of loot and secrets to find, much of it isn’t immediately obvious and will require some thinking on your behalf. When you open the map screen, you are have a lot of tools you can use to mark the map. These can help you keep track of where you have been and where you need to go.
It’s a game that’s definitely a labor of love. It’s well made and the art is fantastic. Its systems are a little light for my tastes but I very much found myself enjoying the choose your own adventure style of writing.
This is my first experience into retro style dungeon crawling so I have nothing to compare it to. I can take an educated guess, however, that if you like the idea of that style of game then you will enjoy Aeon of Sands The Trail, especially if you are a big fan of exploration.
A review copy of the game was provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Two-Bits Kid. You can find info on my review process here.
Interested in more games invoking the style of ages past? Check out my review of Mushroom Crusher Extreme!
- Great Artwork
- Multiple difficulty settings
- Clever and humorous writing that emulates a choose your own adventure book.
- Dungeons are huge with a lot to explore and discover.
- Replayable with variable choices and multiple endings.
- The dungeon textures can get quite repetitive.
- The combat and progression is a little lightweight.
- Retro controls aren’t going to appeal to everyone.