Isentropic reviews the free-to-play strategy game, Aerena: Clash of Champions.
Available on Steam, Google Play and iOS (coming soon).
Hi you've tuned into Isentropic's review of Aaa-eee-r-e-n-a, Aaaireena, Arena… Aerena: Clash of Champions.
While the spelling is not important the real test is in the clashing. Aerena is a turn based strategy game developed by Cliffhanger Productions and is free to download and play. Aerena is set in an alternate 1952 where the course of humanity has been changed dramatically through the discovery of a substance called Aether. This new fuel source, Aether, was so powerful it caused a series of wars not so creatively dubbed the "Aether Wars".
This caused different factions to build completely, badass, flying fortresses, and pit champions against each other on extremely, high battle fields where they could potentially be knocked off the edge. These champions fight it out using their own Aether fuelled abilities and for some reason need to physically punch the other fortress until it falls from the sky. It's a timeless tale of factional human fighting in a post war dystopia and to be honest I zoned out pretty early in the initial game explaining cut scene.
The story is not important here and I feel it is not a critical component of the game, but it is nice that they bothered to make one and they have portrayed it well through a sort of comic novel style and laced it with mellow drama. After this short intro the player is thrust into control of the Skybucket flying, fortress, ship thingy with three champions at your disposal, Crank, Bloody Mary and Lady Aurora.
The game tutorial does a great job of going through the basics of Aerena battles, and with the Metropol available for fighting AI opponents, new players to the game have good training options. Battles are basic in their concept and flow, players choose their ship, a maximum of five champions and three shells before the fight begins. Players then spawn three champion, one at a time, selected from their five champion shortlist in a turnabout fashion. From here players move their champions on the battle field into attacking positions or onto set power up squares and strategically try to damage the enemy ship until it is destroyed.
Battles remind me a lot of chess as each player can only move or attack with one champion per turn, who can do two actions in that turn. This one turn a piece game play offers decent strategy but at the cost of game pace, with some matches against slow deciding opponents dragging out a little. There is a turn timer to keep things going, so this is only a minor grumble. Each time a players ship or champion takes damage the player receives Aether, which can be used to activate champion special abilities or fire shells from the ship. These Aether abilities are a good addition and can change the outcomes of matches if used wisely.
While I recognise there is some strategy to this game I found myself using the same basic method each match, which gets old quickly. This push the player feels to rinse repeat with winning methods is due to the champions being a little too balanced, with none of them feeling like they have a distinct advantage over the others. This monotony that can set in, is further highlighted due to the slow pace with which money is awarded so that more units can be purchased.
As battles are won the player account levels up gaining access to more ships, champions and shells all of which can be purchased using in game money earned through battles and achievements or Aether Coins. New players are allocated a small amount of Aether coins first up but the only method to gain more coins is to spend real money.
The price to buy Aether coins is in alignment with other micro-transactions in games, but I was a little put off Aerena due to the slow rate that money is awarded, pushing the player towards real money purchases. While I find pushing towards in game purchases a really annoying aspect of free to play games I can't be too angry as studios need to fund their projects somehow.
Aerena multiplayer battles seemed to be well matched, with victories and losses being by small margins. Players compete in three month seasons where their wins and losses accrue points that rank them over six leagues. The top three players at the season end win in game prizes and all members of the top two leagues go into the draw to win a real world prize. Multiplayer matches are good fun in Aerena, and with levelling up and prizes to be won there is enough here to motivate players to compete.
The art style of Aerena is one of the highlights of the game for me, drawing its inspiration from 1950s pin-ups with a realistic cartoon feel. One look at the pin up girl shell packs gave me Fallout flashbacks which is a good thing in my book. Music in matches is very samey but that’s to be expected with these titles, and the announcer while in alignment with the art style era begins to grate on the player quickly.
Aerena - Clash of Champions is a decent free to play, turn based strategy game. With a great art style, solid battle strategy, and an array of unlocks this game is a good download for anyone looking to kill some time. I would recommend this game to those who are looking for something that is easy to get into and who don't have a tight a grip on their wallets. For me this game fell flat in a lot of areas and paled in comparison to other free to play titles. I would have liked to see more varying champions with distinct advantages and not been pressured with micro-transactions , so due to this I can only give Aerena, 5.5 out of 10.