One of the more popular genres in the indie video game industry are Metroidvanias. I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of the genre. I have nothing against it, but there are quite a few other genres that I prefer playing more. When I saw Aeternia Noctis though I was intrigued as it looked like an interesting twist on your typical Metroidvania. After playing Aeterna Noctis I was left conflicted as there was a lot that I really liked about the game even though it has some big flaws as well.
Aeterna Noctis takes place in the world of Aeterna. Created by the god Chaos the world was meant to be peaceful and balanced. To maintain the peace Chaos appointed rulers to govern the two main factions of light and dark. The two leaders quickly sought out the power to control the whole world themselves plunging the world into never-ending war. To punish the two leaders Chaos cursed both of them with immortality and forced them to continuously fight one another for control over the world. When one is defeated they are forced to complete a journey to regain their power to fight the other once again. In Aeterna Noctis you take control of the King of Darkness as he tries to regain his power to once again fight against the Queen of Light.
The gameplay of Aeterna Noctis feels like a combination of a Metroidvania and precision platformer. From the Metroidvania genre the game features a large interconnected world where as you gain additional abilities you can explore new areas that were previously blocked off. The game also features combat as you are given a sword and various other weapons as you progress through the game. Enemies require a number of hits to be defeated and you can only take a few hits before dying yourself.
The combat in Aeterna Noctis is pretty much what you would expect from this type of game. The combat mostly revolves around hitting enemies with your weapon while avoiding their attacks with your dodge ability. The combat is more methodical as you can’t just hack and slash and expect to make if very far. Basically the combat involves dodging/avoiding an enemy attack and then getting in a few hits before avoiding their next attack. Most enemies require a few hits to defeat. There are bosses to defeat as well though which require dealing with their special attacks and dealing considerably more damage.
I generally found the combat to be solid even if it is not the most original. There really isn’t anything particularly original about the combat, but I still found it to be pretty satisfying. Some of the enemies kind of feel like damage sponges where you have to hit them more times than you would think. The combat is still fun though and offers enough challenge where it is satisfying when you succeed. This is especially true when fighting against the bosses as you feel a sense of accomplishment when you are able to win a tough fight.
The other major element of Aeterna Noctis is a platforming mechanic. To begin the game you just get a simple jump which you need to use to get across gaps and to avoid obstacles. As you progress in the game you get additional abilities such as a dodge, wall jump, etc. The world of Aeterna Noctis is large and between the fights are a lot of different platforming sections. Some of these feel like puzzles as you need to approach them in a very specific way. Others require precise platforming as you need to jump at the right time for the right amount of time while avoiding the obstacles in your way.
As a big fan of platformers I was honestly surprised by the game’s emphasis on platforming. Heading into the game I thought most of the emphasis was going to be on combat. After playing the game I would have to say that I thought the game actually probably put more emphasis on the platforming than the combat. As a fan of platformers I thought this was an interesting twist as platforming is usually not the main emphasis of a Metroidvania game. Normally I would have embraced this aspect of the game. Unfortunately the platforming sections ended up being the parts of the game that I actually liked the least. I found this to be genuinely surprising as usually these would have been my favorite parts.
The main problem with the platforming is just that the controls don’t work well enough for the type of game that Aeterna Noctis is trying to be. In many ways the game feels like it wants to be a precision platformer like a Super Meat Boy or other similar games. For this to work the controls had to be precise and reactive to your inputs. Unfortunately this is not always the case in the game. The jump and dodge abilities don’t always act how you would think. This becomes a problem as the game regularly requires really precise jumps/dodges as otherwise you will die. You will die a lot due to your own mistakes, but far too often you will also die because the controls don’t work exactly as you were expecting. As you get used to the controls you somewhat adjust to this, and some of the abilities you acquire along the way help. This feeling that the controls are still a little off though never really goes away.
This makes what would have been challenging and yet rewarding platforming sections into more of a frustrating experience. Whenever you touch any trap/obstacle (outside of enemies) you will lose a health point and be sent back to your last safe point. When you run out of health points you will be sent back to your last checkpoint and have to retrieve your “soul” in order to regain your experience and other abilities you lose when you die. The good news is that the checkpoints are pretty plentiful where you don’t ever lose too much time. After a while though it becomes frustrating when you have to keep attempting the same platforming sections over and over again until you can complete them perfectly. These sections ruin the game’s momentum where I started to dread certain sections when I encountered them. Even without the control issues the game would still be pretty difficult, but these issues turn the game into a frustrating experience at times.
This is such a shame as I think the platforming sections could have been quite fun to play. They seem to be designed quite well where they require precision and present quite the challenge where you get a sense of accomplishment when you complete them. The controls just aren’t where they need to be for this aspect of the game to be as good as it could have been. Hopefully the platforming controls are tweaked in a future update as I think the game shows a lot of potential in this area which ultimately never materializes due to the controls.
The imprecise controls really hurt the overall experience of the game. Aeterna Noctis had a lot of promise. The game’s visual style looks quite nice. Some elements look nicer than others, but there are sections of the game that look stunning. The game creates an interesting world that I am interested in exploring. The game’s story shows promise as well.
Aeterna Noctis’ world is quite large as well. I have only played a portion of the game so far, but the game feels like it has a lot of content. The game apparently has 16 different zones and at least based on the early zones, each zone is quite large. Navigation is okay as the path forward through an area is usually pretty straightforward. There will be times where you can somewhat get lost though. Part of this is due to the fact that while you can see the map at all times, that is a fog over the map that hides much of the detail outside of your current area. The only way you can get rid of this fog is to find a merchant in the area where you can purchase a way to lift the fog from your current zone of the map. Once you do this it is much easier to navigate as you can see where you have already been and where you need to go.
As for the game’s length, I won’t be able to give you a specific one. This is due to a number of factors. One I have only played through a portion of the game so far. A lot of the length will also depend on how well you deal with the game’s difficulty (intended and unintended). As I mentioned earlier each zone of the game is quite large. Unless later sections are considerably smaller, I would guess that most zones will probably take at least an hour to complete. If you search every nook and cranny for collectibles it should take even longer. If you enjoy the game I think you will easily get your money’s worth.
Ultimately I had conflicted feelings about Aeterna Noctis. It is not the most original game as a lot of its gameplay is similar to a lot of other Metroidvania games. This is not a big deal though as the gameplay is generally pretty fun. The game’s world appears to be quite large and it has an interesting look and backstory. When the game works it is quite enjoyable and I had quite a bit of fun playing it. Unfortunately this is hurt by the fact that the game’s controls just aren’t good enough for what the game is trying to be. This really impacts the platforming sections of the game. The game has some areas that require some precise platforming, but the controls aren’t good enough for these sections. Something feels off about the platforming leading to some of these sections becoming pretty frustrating. If the controls were tweaked I think most of the game’s problems could be fixed. In its current state though these distracted from my enjoyment of the game.
Because of this I am not exactly sure what to say for my recommendations. If you don’t really care for the genre, I see no reason Aeterna Noctis will change your mind. For those of you who like the Metroidvania genre with an extra emphasis on platforming though, there are things to like and other things not to like. If the imprecise platforming controls leading to frustrating sections don’t sound like something that you would enjoy, I would probably recommend waiting until they hopefully become more precise. If you don’t care that much about the sometimes imprecise controls though, I think you will enjoy Aeterna Noctis and should consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Aeternum Game Studios S.L for the review copy of Aeterna Noctis used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.