I was asked if I would be interested in trying out an early release of AERENA Clash of Champions, a turn-based tactics game from Cliffhanger Productions, available now on Steam Early Access. Being a huge fan of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, and Fire Emblem, I definitely thought this would be a game for me to try out and put through its early ropes. EDITOR’S NOTE: Aerena: Clash of Champions is still in early Alpha stages and this preview is based on its current state and our opinions could change by the time the game reaches official launch.
Right away, AERENA Clash of Champions surprised me with its amazing graphics for such an early release, with the prevalent steampunk theme jumping out at me immediately. The air ships are great and have been something that I have always loved to play with and thought it would pretty neat to be able to build my own one day, perhaps as an expansion to the game later on. (Hint! Hint!) There are your typical looking air ships that model themselves after seafaring types like a schooner or a battleship, and then there is one called the Tesla that looks like a Killer Whale which I thought was pretty cool. The characters themselves continue the steam punk theme with their clothing and equipment taking on a Victorian feel with a mixture of technology and doing it quite well. The other part of the presentation side of things, of course, is the sound and music which does a fair job of mixing it up with all the right tempos and little sound effects. That said, however, it isn’t something I would put on a soundtrack and listen to outside of the game.
AERENA Clash of Champions is a turn-based tactics game and spending too much on how the game looks and sounds won’t really paint the true picture unless we talk about how well it plays. Much like other tactics based games, we are playing on a grid over some terrain which is called an Aether Extractor. This ties into the story itself which we will touch on later. Your airship will fly up to one side of the Extractor to battle another group for control of the element. This is where the tactics comes into play, which, in the case of AERENA: Clash of Champions, is nothing spectacular at this point. There are different classes with each having their own set of abilities and there are, of course, options for your ship based on the Aether Shells you have loaded in. For example one shell can heal, another will attack and another will allow you to swap out characters. Overall, I found the combat a little bit slow paced, boring, and not original at all. With many other tactics games out there I had hoped they would do something to set themselves apart and having the ability to play against other players isn’t that edge I would be hedging my bets on. With these type of games you either find opponents that are too easy or way too difficult. I very rarely find that challenging opponent where the game could go either way and I don’t relish the fact of going through those other matches before finding a good one. Perhaps, it is because I prefer a nice long single player campaign for tactics games but, in the case of this game, I feel the combat needs a bit of work.
Gameplay aside I really do like the story they built up in AERENA Clash of Champions, along with the steampunk atmosphere. Basically, the world has discovered Aether, a very powerful element sought by all the nations in the world. Countries built Aether Extractors and Airships to extract this precious resource and, for a time everything was well, but with anything valuable in the world there is often squabbles and, in this case, wars for who would have control of the Aether. There is so much they can expand with a good plot line like this that it may just be worth it to check in what kind of stories they can fit into this game. Ultimately one of the reasons I enjoy this genre so much is for the great stories.
I do like where AERENA Clash of Champions is going so far based on what I have seen in this early build. I hope that they are going in the right direction to convert this game from a ‘maybe’ into a solid buy. I can see how this title definitely has an appeal to its audience but I hope that the little things that I prefer make it into the final game.