Review: Erin: The Last Aos Si25 Apr 2017 0
Review: Erin: The Last Aos Si
Released 25 Mar 2017
Erin: The Last Aos Si opens with a stylised, heavily pixelated, ‘cheesy live action’ (author’s own words) introductory video, that shows a young woman running through a forest. The sequence has the feel of an old music video, a link to the past that is confirmed as soon as you start playing. The blocky graphical style is reminiscent of an early Commodore 64 game; it has a charm that makes an immediate impact. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first discover a little more about the game’s background story.
Following a little research, I discovered that the aos si are a supernatural race in Irish and Scottish mythology, pretty much like fairies and elves. Sadly, as the game’s title suggests, Erin is the last of her kind. She must journey across a mythical Scotland, in her quest to defeat The God of Blight, Balor, and save the world from destruction. A gracefully animated Erin huffs and puffs her way across the side-scrolling landscape, encountering an entire bestiary of mythological monsters. These beasties must be defeated in a series of tactical, turn-based battles.
Anyone familiar with the Final Fantasy series of games will immediately feel at home, since combat in Erin: The Last Aos Si is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy’s Active Time Battle system. All of the involved units, depicted by tiny icons, make their way across a timeline. Both Erin and her adversaries traverse this timeline at varying speeds, naturally some enemies will move faster than others. When Erin reaches the middle-section she is allowed to select a spell and to begin charging it up. As she progresses into the final third of the timeline Erin becomes especially vulnerable. At this point, if she is attacked there is a good chance that her spell will be interrupted. Such an interruption causes spells to fail, and Erin will have to return to the beginning of the timeline to begin the process all over again.
Add into the mix the fact that most enemies are vulnerable to a particular type of elemental magic and you have a clever, well-crafted battle system. You really have to think carefully before selecting a spell. For instance, you know that the most dangerous beastie facing you is vulnerable to fire, but the fire spell is really slow. You just know that if you attempt to cast the fire spell that the fast-moving haggis is going to dash in and nip your ankles, ruining your concentration, and causing the spell to go off with all the power of a damp firework. So, maybe your first move should be to get rid of that pesky Scottish culinary delight and serve it up with neeps and tatties.
Spells, of which there are many, are activated by pressing a sequence of runes that are displayed at the bottom of the screen. The effectiveness of a spell is determined by tapping and swiping icons with your finger, timing being crucial. The spells are a mix of those that cause damage, those that protect, and those that heal. If you manage to reduce an enemy’s heath by 75% you can cast a capture spell. Capture spells are great; the unfortunate creature will be trapped in a bottle, and they can then be called upon to fight alongside Erin.
Erin: The Last Aos Si has a wonderfully evocative soundtrack that perfectly complements the underused Celtic theme. However, I’m not 100% sure of the game’s mythological authenticity, I’m sure that you are much more likely to find haggises roaming the aisles of Sainsbury’s, rather than the Isles of a mythological Scotland. The retro-style graphics are also excellent; it is just a shame that they are confined to the top half of the screen. Another aspect of the game that harks back to a bygone age is the game’s economic model. Adhering to the old shareware ethos, the entire game can be purchased by making a one-off payment, the amount dependent on how much you enjoyed playing. The author also offers a generous dollop of the game upfront for free, even before you have to decide to part with any cash. Whatever you agree to pay you are certainly getting plenty of game for your money, with a long campaign that should take around 20 hours to complete and three difficulty levels to choose from.
My only real concern with Erin: The Last Aos Si is that the game can become quite repetitive. Many of the battles are fought against the same kinds of creatures and consequently require the same tactics. The result is that battling your way from one landscape type to another can often become a bit of a dull slog. It doesn’t help matters that the design of the combat interface serves to slow down proceedings. The problem is that to activate a spell you have to select a specific sequence of runes. There are dozens of spells, and although you are likely to learn the rune sequences for a few regularly used spells, you are still going to find yourself needing to frequently refer back to the spell book. The design of the runes themselves does not help matters, since they are all pretty forgettable.
I can see that the runes add theme, but in terms of contributing to the gameplay experience they are pretty redundant. I would have preferred an option to replace the runes with a scrolling list of spells. Such an option would certainly cut down on the constant switching between screens, significantly speeding up the battles. Having to keep referring back to the bestiary is also irritating; a simple tap on a creature to bring up its statistics and any identified weaknesses would have been nice. This feature would also help to confirm the creature that you are planning to attack, which isn’t always clear when there are several enemies on the screen a once.
It seems a little churlish to criticise a game for being too long, but I think that a shorter more focused game would have helped combat the repetitive elements. Having said that, Erin: The Last Aos Si is still an enjoyable game, and since you can try the first few levels for free it is definitely worth a download.