Like a lot of people, I suffer from heavy bouts of stress and anxiety. Whilst some of it I have to take as it comes, there's also a fair bit I can take responsibility for and do something about: Drink less coffee, sleep more and play less stress-induced-haemorrhage causing things like Halo 2 on Legendary.
The first two are invalid options because they are apart of being a parent. So after finishing the Halo 2 Campaign, I was very grateful to stumble across this gem that I somehow missed.
AER is a game by Forgotten Key, A studio in Sweden that specialises in atmospheric experiences. Kotaku described AER as Wind Waker but flying instead of sailing, and they're not wrong.
You play as Auk, a young girl set out on a pilgrimage to restore the broken world after it's great divide. Gods are slowly being forgotten and therefore losing their power. Auk must journey to the Land of the Gods and stop the darkness that threatens this beautiful, fragmented world.
As one of the last shapeshifters, performing a simple double jump sends Auk soring into the air as a bird, where you can visit the temples to retrieve the lost shards, or simply cruise around the open world at your leisure. The controls are super-intuitive as theirs a simplicity to what you can do: Fly, interact, move and jump. The only slight difficulty is I got a bit too carried away with 'flapping' to pick up speed during flight. You don't realise how fast you're going until you're a few meters away from an island and can end up shooting straight past it without having time to think about landing.
The game has soft glowing colours in low-poly/cell-shaded style graphics, accompanied by the beautiful ambient music and sounds of Cajsa Larsson. It's the cheapest form of therapy I've come across so far.
Describing this game as a type of Legend of Zelda but without the fighting would be an awful sell, but here for me lies the beauty of AER for what I need to relax. The puzzles in the temples are not so easy that you finish them feeling unrewarded, but not so difficult to the point of frustration and rage-quit. In fact, the only frustration I honestly encountered in this game was when I went to capture a screenshot on my Xbox One and it crashed. I had to do the temple again but to my surprise, I didn't mind. I wanted this game to last.
The main game and its story are short, but it makes up for it in how much there is to be explored- take a look at what achievements you're yet to complete just to get a rough idea. I loved flying to different fragments of islands without the fear of being attacked, losing HP or having to start from a previous state long forgotten.
Possibly my favourite part of this game was discovering things only visible when you pulled out your lantern. Although haunting, the light reveals scenes and events frozen in time, ghosts of people simply living, or fighting to survive the Kings invasion. A beautiful feature that added to the games perfect balance of peace and curiosity.
This is a perfect chill out game when you need to de-stress or need a break from the competetive stuff.
AER: Memories of Old is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam/PC.