Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan

A game by Kiro’o Games for PC, originally released in 2016.
Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is an action-RPG that is deeply rooted in African culture and folklore. You take on the role of Enzo Kori-Odan, Prince of Zama just as he is about to be married to Erine Evou and be crowned as king. However, on the day of his coronation, his new brother-in-law stages coup d'├ętat using powerful ancestral magic called Aurionics. Enzo is defeated, and he and his wife are cast into exile.

It is up to Enzo, with the support of Erine, to find a way to become more powerful and take back his rightful place as king. Along his journey, he combats many enemies and struggles to come to terms with his duties as the true leader of Zama, as well as his responsibility to avoid costly risks so that he may one day return to his people. His explorations take him far from his village, exposing him to many different people with their own cultures, politics, and belief systems, giving Enzo a greater understanding of the world around him.

Aurion is heavily focused on narrative with many lengthy conversations during cutscenes, and plenty of NPC’s to interact with. These story sequences add context for Enzo’s actions and help to flesh out the rich and colorful world around him, and they give the player a sense of a culture rarely represented in mainstream media, particularly in video games. It’s worth noting that the game’s initial English translation was filled with grammatical and spelling issues, but these issues were largely addressed in a patch that closely followed the game’s release.

The game takes its inspiration from Namco’s Tales series, with players entering battle arenas upon confronting enemies, and battles taking place in real time with players retaining full control over Enzo. Combat is a mixture of combo-based physical attacks and powerful Aurionics, which consist of the combined energies of Enzo’s ancestors. As the crux of the game is to develop Enzo’s abilities (referred to as his Legacy), players are encouraged to use Aurionics frequently in battle and to combine aurions to create new ones, and some of these abilities unlock automatically as part of the unfolding narrative.

Aurionics need to be activated manually during battle, and doing so opens up a new set of powerful moves that may be used as needed by pressing the AURIONICS button along with a movement direction. These additional abilities allow players to strike with more strength and/or a wider range, perform special moves like uppercuts, or send out powerful blasts of energy.

Use of Aurionics is driven by a magic meter that depletes as these abilities are used, and the player will return to normal if the gauge is depleted, or he may manually shift states. The player is able to manually charge this magic meter by pressing DOWN for a few moments outside of battle, and the meter recharges very quickly. Additionally, the player may opt to overcharge the meter, allowing him to unleash a powerful barrage of attacks at the cost of his health meter, which begins to drain as he moves into overcharge.

In addition, the player may call upon the abilities of Enzo’s wife, Erine, who can enter the playfield momentarily to unleash a blast of energy, or - more importantly - generate a floating orb that heals Enzo when he stands near it (borrowing proximity-based healing from the Tales games). Players must keep a watchful eye on their remaining health and magic if they wish to succeed in combat, and the screen border flashes to draw players’ attention if these meters drop too low.

Combat situations tend to be lengthy affairs, with numerous enemies to defeat, and some powerful foes with long life bars. As such, battles involve wearing down or defeating as many enemies as possible, then moving away from battle for a while to recharge magic, and then diving back in again. Even though the player has access to a vast array of moves, each battle tends to focus on managing health and magic in order to keep delivering as much damage as possible, and most enemies take quite a beating before going down.

Adding to the repetitive nature of the combat system is the fact that there isn’t a tremendous amount of variety between enemy behaviors to warrant the use of diverse techniques. This is not helped by the fact that there can be lengthy load times leading into battles, and enemies can begin attacking and firing projectiles as the screen is still fading in, causing the player to become stunned and lose health immediately upon starting the fight. Even boss battles, which do require more strategy, tend to last a very long and simply require the player to repeat a successful strategy again and again to wear down their overlong life bars.

In addition to melee attacks and Aurionics, the player has access to weaker non-Aurionic special abilities like a spinning attack and a fireball. He can also block incoming attacks by summoning a heavy spear, which depletes his stamina meter; a dash maneuver to move through enemies; and a couple of heavy guard-breaking attacks. In addition, he has a very floaty jump that allow him to dodge enemies, attack in midair, or reach higher platforms with in the arena to temporarily escape enemy attacks (and restore his health or magic).

Stamina can come into play during battles, particularly for defense-heavy players who make use of the block technique (which is broken when stamina is depleted), but the meter automatically refills as the player battles enemies, so it doesn’t require the same kind of care as the health and magic meters… except when wall jumping.

Aurion features one of the strangest and most cumbersome wall jumping mechanics in all of gaming. Rather than jumping toward a wall and then jumping away from it, as is common in most platformers, the player first jumps to a wall and sticks to it. Following this, the player may select one of two end points for his jump, with one button shooting him straight across the opening, and the other sending him upward at an angle.

Spikes frequently appear along the walls, requiring low or high jumps to reach the other side – and a potentially long fall if spikes are so much as grazed during a jump – but this entire process rapidly consumes stamina. As such, in addition to alternating between two different jump buttons, the player must occasionally press a hotkey to consume food that restores stamina. Wall jumping in any video game requires some suspension of disbelief on the part of the player, but it’s another thing entirely to accept that a character is bounding up a 40 foot vertical chasm while simultaneously munching a loaf of bread.

A multi-step illustrated tutorial explains how to perform this overly-complex maneuver… and every other maneuver in the game. In addition to frequent narrative exposition, the game regularly pauses to take you through the steps to perform each action as it is introduced. Some of these tutorials explain intricate combat techniques like overcharging Aurionics, but there are also tutorials for common gaming functions like running, jumping, and even speaking with NPC’s.

An added minor complexity comes from the fact that there are two types of movement when exploring the environment. Some areas feature multi-plane movement where the player may move in eight directions and freely walk into the background, and this is used primarily in exploration-based areas.

However, there are moments when the player’s movement is reduced to strictly left and right controls for more traditional platforming segments – and all combat segments – which require more precise movement, and the player must press DOWN and JUMP to drop through platforms rather than walking off of them into the foreground. This change in controls is noted by an icon that appears in the lower right corner showing Enzo with a set of arrows, indicating his possible movement directions.

Exploring the environment allows the player to discover caloos, which are essentially gourds, and these act as the game’s treasure chests (among other functions), offering the player any number of items, most of which are used to restore his health, magic, and stamina meters. Up to four of these items may be manually assigned to hotkeys for use in combat. Item pickups are frequent, so thorough players should expect to have dozens of restoratives in reserve.

Items may also be bought and sold from merchants, and some merchants sell equipment that increases the player’s stats, including strength, defense, stamina, and magical capacity. Defeated enemies also drop items and currency, and the player gains experience points with each victory, allowing him to level up and gain permanent increases to his stats.

Aesthetically, Arion is quite unlike any other game on the market, offering rich colors and uniquely African stylings that separate it from the traditional motifs seen in other fantasy RPG’s. This is further supported by the game’s soundtrack and a strong underlying narrative that helps the player to get a sense of the world around him and an understanding of its culture and politics.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan was developed by Kiro’o Games, based in Cameroon, Africa. Development on Aurion began at the end of 2013 with a team of about 20 people. However, the game has actually been conceptualized since 2002 and has gone through a number of iterations before its final development cycle beginning in 2013.

The game was published by Plug In Digital.