Aeterna Noctis, the review of the new Spanish metroidvania



From Spain comes Aeterna Noctis, a new metroidvania of fair weight, in the constant goal of bringing more up a genre inflated: review.

Making a two-dimensional action game in 2021 is not an easy task: there’s a tight competition, there are rules to be respected, there are expectations in those who have ground many. Just the latter will find bread for their teeth in Aeterna Noctis, a Spanish game that oozes a lot of passion for metroidvania structures with dry combat, punishing level design and lots of backtracking. Let’s stress once again a certainty: when a genre is capable of summarizing so many play features, each of its exponents should be welcomed with applause because making a metroidvania capable of standing out is complex. We live in a time when developing is easier and many old players from the 90s, now game creators, have in their blood those traits so dear to Konami in the past.

Aeterna Noctis does not dare much, but adds a lot of body to the equation, expanding in an ambitious and not always free from defects a world and a setting that tries to say his humble, trying to tinge itself of uniqueness without succeeding particularly. It’s okay though, let’s be clear, there is no need to excel in everything, only that sometimes you get lost in a glass of water and lose out is the overall user experience. But let’s get there slowly in this review of Aterna Noctis.

Light and shadow

Some clashes of Aterna Noctis are very spectacular

The king of darkness and the queen of light are the protagonists of this tale in an imaginary land, dark, with fairly typical gothic and fantasy traits, enemies well made, but not particularly numerous, towers and dungeons full of dangers. The play cauldron of Aeterna Noctis amazes for the amount of material to explore, places to return, skills to take and especially sections of pure platforming to conquer. If light and shadow are the quintessential characters who tell their own story, pad in hand Aeterna Noctis reflects well this antithesis, alternating sections simpler than others from the execution decidedly complex.

Strengthened by inspiring models that not only do not hide their hardcore essence, but indeed do boast of it, Aeterna Noctis enters the circle of metroidvania that require a lot of physical and mental commitment to be slowly completed: this is a game that reflects the great passion and ambition of its team, but can not hide on balance a certain lack of experience in packing a map that, alas, is easily readable.

With a geography that reveals itself with the advancement, the Spanish guys have opted for a joint of doors and platforms too fluid: not a system of compartments and rooms made simple rectangles, but a map that shows inch by inch the progress and leaves dark everything beyond. It is a correct gimmick for those who appreciate the visual backtracking, but it is a system that necessarily employs a map proportion much more precise, almost millimeter, bringing with it a need for huge space to show it all.

And here we come to the age-old problem: Aeterna Noctis’ map is huge because it shows practically every dungeon, which makes it quite chaotic to understand and navigate. Solutions such as those already seen in similar independent titles such as Hollow Knight and Ender Lilies make a certain minimalism of the map their workhorse, Aeterna Noctis instead not, is there to show every piece and even every platform. The result is unfortunately confusing, difficult to read, but above all difficult to amalgamate at the level of geographical coherence.

Between jumps and swords

The platforming sections of Aeterna Noctis are a lot of fun

Like many metroidvania, this mixes with relative wisdom the presence of enemies – so fighting – to situations of jumps between platforms, shots, calculations of vaulting to wander in harmony between gaps, walls to climb and checkpoints. The level design of the title is good, at times very good: some towers are really small manuals of platform design that do not add anything, but perform the task very well. Speed, skill, eye want all their part, giving points where the dance of analogs amuses quite a lot.

In the middle you also fight, not even a little: the bestiary offered by Aeterna Noctis is not the richest, it must be said, and does not even particular technicalities of its playful strength. It is therefore not a matter of difficulty, but of number: sometimes the enemies will be many, or will be flying and you will have no other weapons except the sword, at least at the beginning. It is a type of hostile population that inhabits the gameplay with dignity, but does not turn it on more than necessary: it is there, fights, bothers us, but without shining for who knows what reason. Surely, between combat and jumps between platforms, wins the second: the sections in speed or climbing Aeterna Noctis give satisfaction, especially with the acquisition of a couple of skills that fit the play patterns.

The thing that definitely carries the pace forward is character growth, the acquisition of new weapons and abilities, the expansion of the range of opportunities that every metroidvania hides within its bosom to galvanize every little discovery. The sense of exploration in Aeterna Noctis is there and satisfying, especially in areas where reaching crates and collectibles is purely the prerogative of pad skills. In those moments the game shines well, certainly more than the menus that presents, which just like the map are a bit ‘confusing and not too stylistic quality of navigation and user experience.

A world that would like to say more

Aeterna Noctis is well presented artistically, especially some parts where the team opts for warm colors

Thanks to a visual proposal of merit, the setting of Aterna Noctis is told well, has its own basic charm that is reflected in the ecosystem created by the Spanish guys. The narrative is carried forward by strokes of interlude scenes and dialogues in a language invented, the environments do not shine with details, but they work, the visual and audio offer general accompanies with discretion, knowing, however, to be able to give the best to those who already know that kind of video game genre. And who does not chew bread and metroidvania? For all of them, this is definitely not the first title to recommend.

The atmosphere of the game is melancholy, lonely, austere, constantly winking at gothic masterpieces of the less recent past reproposed in a dark fantastic, almost fairy tale, which manages in its own way to keep everything together and propose a world in some ways consistent with its ethereal essence, lost in this contrast good / evil revised with interesting personifications of characters. After several hours spent wandering left and right, intent on another title that makes us leave the experience around when you die (and it will happen often), we can say that the team has been able to insert many details and elements to the setting, but without being able to tame them with due skill. It should be rewarded, however, the commitment and the attempt, in light of some ideas instead successful, even well made, and some boss fights of the right length and very memorable.

Comment

Aeterna Noctis will give satisfaction of hardcore platforming to many fans of metroidvania more instinct, less to those seeking a certain abundance of combat system well blended with the rest. The play offer of the Spanish game is there, you have to know how to grasp but there, as well as its setting, although not brilliant, conveys passion and desire to say something. We say that there is much room for improvement in a possible sequel, in which to know how to dose much better the static presentation of menus and maps, as well as the sense of progression, progress and direction, sometimes confusing and not too readable. We hope that this vote is a good omen to reward what has been done and push the team to propose a second chapter richer than the experience that the developers will have done in producing a metroidvania that will please fans, but does nothing to bring others closer.

PRO

  • Good level design
  • Long, full-bodied, dense with exploration
  • Art and setting have their reason
  • Too confusing map
  • Little sense of direction, guidance, growth
  • The combat system doesn’t keep up as well as it should
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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