“There are no Chosen Ones, there are only those who accept the weight of their Legacy.” This is an oft-repeated line throughout Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, and one that stayed with me as I played this action RPG initially released in 2016 by Cameroonian developer Kiro’o Games. Aurion’s main characters overcome much throughout their journey, but the previously mentioned quote illustrates their strength is in how they choose to accept and respond to the truths they’re shown rather than by any ordained concept like fate.
At the start of Aurion, Enzo Kori-Odan is not only about to be married to his childhood friend Erine Evou, he’s being crowned the king of Zama, a peaceful place called the “city without walls” that has remained isolated from the rest of the world. He’s understandably nervous about both events and wonders whether he’ll be a good king to his people or a deserving husband to Erine. However, Enzo doesn’t have much time to process this, as the kingdom of Zama is attacked in a coup led by Erine’s own brother, Ngarba, shortly after the marriage ceremony. Despite the pain it understandably causes her, Erine chooses to support Enzo’s efforts to repel Ngarba and his forces, resulting in the young king and queen’s exile from their own homeland. The royal pair set out on a quest to gain allies and find the strength to reclaim Zama. In doing so, they must come face to face with the harsh realities of the world that their people had so often tried to ignore. Supporting one another and growing as a team, Enzo and Erine both discover inner truths about themselves while figuring out the role Zama will play on a global scale.
Aurion‘s plot is impressive, taking place in a fantasy setting heavily inspired by African mythology. I was almost immediately taken in by Enzo and Erine’s struggles on a personal and larger scale. The world-building is incredibly robust, with each continent feeling alive and unique thanks to the game’s incredible attention to narrative detail. The characters encountered in Aurion are memorable and multi-faceted, and I greatly enjoyed the thought put into the often weighty subject material the plot delves into. Aurion’s story is about humans trying to survive in the face of great adversity and chaos: of slavery and abject exploitation, outright cruelty, class and tribal schisms, warfare, and political machinations. Yet, throughout it all, there is heart. The narrative wants to remind us that there is hope, that it is in how we face these challenges that we ultimately grow and can hopefully reach for a better future. Enzo and Erine’s journey resonates and it stays with players just as readily as it stays with our main characters.
Enzo and Erine are the heart and soul of the cast, and through their experiences, we see Aurion unfold. I honestly wish more gaming romantic couples were as well-written as this pair. The dynamic between them is very believable, and I loved how genuinely heartfelt their developing bond with one another is as it strengthens throughout the game. They’re true partners and pillars for one another in every sense of the word. Other characters are also memorable in their own ways, such as the peaceful griot Eniki or the jovial but determined prince of the Bojaa, Dramane. I was especially impressed by how much of the narrative is shaped by strong and driven women, with Erine being just the tip of the iceberg. Case in point, I found one of the most memorable moments in the game to be the tumultuous and emotionally-charged battle between the Bojaa queen Dhekina and Enzo’s teacher Nama.
The one overall complaint I have with the narrative is that the English script simply isn’t as strong as it could have been. There are typos, spelling, occasional grammar mistakes, and lines that seem to have been translated far too literally. While I found it easy to correct this in my head, I could certainly see where it might take away from Aurion’s narrative, which is a shame given how strong the plot actually is. If possible, I’d recommend playing the French language version to circumvent this. Still, it is a testament to how well-conceived the story is that hiccups with the script translation didn’t bother me as much as they might have otherwise. I’ve truthfully played games with far worse localizations.
Gameplay-wise, Aurion is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG with platforming elements. You traverse areas as Enzo, getting into battles as you go. Fights are frantic affairs that reminded me slightly of 2D Street Fighter games. Enzo rushes from side to side of the field, performing combos to damage foes. Healing and other items get loaded onto button shortcuts for quick access during fights, as can any unlocked Aurions. Aurions are special abilities Enzo can channel and utilize in combat, giving him access to elementally charged attacks. If a certain Aurion is used frequently in fights, an ultimate move of sorts becomes available that can have devastating effects on the field. Later on in the game, you gain the ability to fuse Aurions together to create even more powerful ones, which you can choose to equip and use instead of earlier Aurions. The only real downside to Aurionic usage is that it can drain your ability points quite readily, so stocking up on items that restore those (along with health-restoring ones) is vital, especially given that bosses have frustratingly large health pools. It takes a lot to whittle down their health and claim victory. Staying on the move and trying not to get pinned down by enemies is a key strategy for fighting groups of enemies in particular.
Though powerful on his own, Enzo is not going into battle by himself. Erine is a constant support figure during fights, bringing vital healing spells into the mix along with her potent offensive magic. She can be called into battle using specific button combo shortcuts and has her own health pool and ability points for players to keep track of. Fortunately, restorative and healing items work just as well on her as they do on Enzo, should it be needed. Both Enzo and Erine level up their stats by gaining experience after battle, and there is a teamwork gauge between them that strengthens their moves and stats with higher levels. Aurions used during fights also level and become stronger. Aside from restorative items, food is available to replenish stamina, which is a separate meter that depletes with certain game actions. Also, the king and queen of Zama both have equipment to help bolster their defenses and other stats.
Aurion’s platforming elements are nicely implemented. Jumps are easy enough to handle with practice, even the rushing special ones you have to do for harder-to-reach areas. Expect obstacles such as crushing columns or spinning blades, which require careful timing to avoid successfully. There are even some areas where you have to swim underwater. Thankfully, the helpful caloo that holds your inventory supplies air bubbles for these instances that you can apply to both Enzo and Erine to keep their oxygen meters high.
My biggest complaint as far as the exploration and platforming go would have to be wall scaling. Every so often in the game, Enzo will have to jump between two sheer rock walls. These jumps are broken up by spikes or other traps you have to try and avoid to mitigate damage, and all the while your stamina meter is depleting. Run out of stamina, and you fall. I learned to save before attempting any wall scale because I often got game overs doing them! The wall scaling just felt unnecessarily complicated compared to the other platforming elements.
Speaking of game overs, you can thankfully choose to retry the battle if Enzo’s health goes to zero during a fight. There is also the option to change difficulties in the settings menu should you need things to be either less taxing or more challenging. Aurion has a wealth of content, and I was sometimes even a little overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at me when playing. Yet, once I learned how to do something, I found it easy enough to do so repeatedly. Aurionic Fusions are perhaps the best example of this, as when they’re first introduced, I wasn’t quite sure how to properly use the mechanic and stuck to only a few newly fused Aurions. Once I figured out how to actually create Aurionic Fusions later, I managed to create some truly powerful ones. Player choice also happens to play a vital role in certain situations. Do you help soldiers defend a city even if it means depleted resources for a tough fight later on? Who do you side with in an inheritance issue? There are no clear-cut right or wrong answers for these decisions, and I liked that these moments had clear outcomes in the game.
Visually, Aurion is a stunning game. I feel that the still screenshots used for this review don’t do it justice given how stunning it is in motion. There is an artistic quality to every area, and the game world is lush and vibrant. Even the status menus and tutorials have an artistic touch to them! I love how certain cutscenes were also animated, and the still “visual novel” art used for other scenes was also quite impressive. The music was composed by Yean Yves Bassangna and James Thorley. It’s quite lovely and captures the feel of the game’s setting wonderfully. From the chaos of battles to tense political standoffs and softer moments, the soundtrack emphasizes the narrative beautifully.
Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is an incredible game in several respects. It is ambitious in scope and succeeds for the most part with just a few hiccups here and there. The gameplay is polished, both the graphics and musical score are stunning, and the story is thought-provoking. You can easily tell the developers are video game fans and that they put a lot of care and heart into the title. That is a legacy I sincerely hope carries on.