Aura Of Worlds is a rogue-lite adventure from Melbourne indie developers Cognitive Forge. It’s currently in early access on Steam with a planned full release for Steam and the Nintendo Switch later in 2023.
If you’ve watched me on The Game On Aus Weekly Show you might know one thing about me: I’m a Star Wars nerd. If there’s a second thing, it’s that I can’t stop talking about Legend Of Zelda. But I suppose if there’s a third thing it’s that I don’t like rogue-like/lite games. I love a challenge but have trouble measuring progress when the environment of the game keeps changing on me. I don’t like feeling that I’m not progressing.
That’s probably not the intro you were expecting going into a review of a rogue-lite game, but I think you should know how I feel about the genre to put the rest of this review into perspective.
Being a rogue-lite a key mechanic of Aura Of Worlds is the procedurally generated levels. At the time of reviewing there are five different biomes each with their own unique design. All of them are beautifully presented with stunning pixel artistry.
The music is a big standout. Each biome has its own theme with a distinct shift in tempo for levels where you need to outrun a hazard (we’ll get to that in a bit). Every composition matches the level perfectly creating a sense of wonder as you explore.
Great level design is an artform itself. A level should flow and feel amazing when it’s played. That’s a big part of why I don’t like rogue-lites. Procedurally generated levels remove all that and let a computer randomise the process. I get that someone had to program the computer but it’s not the same.
That said, the levels in Aura Of Worlds, well they’re works of art. I’ve already mentioned how beautiful they are but in terms of level design they’re amazing. Even when I’d found the exit I would keep exploring until all the map was filled out. Most levels give you the time to explore but there are some that have some sort of hazard, such as rising lava or sinking toxic gas. If you sprint for the exit, you’ll make it in plenty of time, but maybe you want to search for treasure?
Some parts of the stage are destructible. By using grenades or exploding enemies you can create shortcuts. Watch out for traps such as spike pits and poison darts though. The good news is that you can lure enemies into these traps instead of fighting them.
In all level types the player is rewarded for exploring with additional items such as weapons, consumables, and abilities, as well as coins. Coins are used to purchase more items. The further you progress into a run before you die (which you inevitably will) the more tokens you get. These can be used to unlock more items. They can also be used to purchase what Aura Of Worlds calls backgrounds. These modify the game, most giving benefits but they come at a cost.
Occasionally in a shop or level you’ll find a rune. Where abilities rely on your mana or consumables run out, runes are permanent upgrades (at least until you die). I’ve come across a double jump rune and a rune that reflects projectile attacks when you dodge to name just a couple.
There are so many different combinations of items that it’s virtually impossible to get the same build twice. This does mean that your favourites might not come up very often, but it’s a lot of fun experimenting and finding a permutation that you like. I have become a big fan of the Temporal Field. It creates a ring where enemies move very slowly, giving the player time to just go to town.
Aura Of Worlds gives you an inventory so if you pick something up you don’t like you can swap it out. There’s also an item wheel that you can bring up to quickly use a consumable or assign an item to one of three buttons.
Aura Of Worlds can be played with both keyboard and mouse or controller. I started off playing with a controller because this seems like the game of game that would be better with that control scheme. It had some issues though. For the most part weapons were easy to use but there is an aiming component. This is done with the right stick, but when you’re trying to jump and dodge with the right-hand buttons aiming is virtually impossible, meaning I stuck to melee-based weapons rather than the ranged ones.
I swapped the controller for mouse and keyboard and had a much better time. Aiming was easier, since ranged weapons fired towards the mouse cursor, and inventory management wasn’t as much of a hassle, again because of the mouse.
Remember the beginning of this article? Where I told you, dear reader, that I didn’t like rogue-lites? Well, I really like Aura Of Worlds. There’s a couple of little polish things that need to be cleaned up, like text breaking the bounds of a text box, and music not quite looping right, but the game is in early access and can be forgiven for these small transgressions. Cognitive Forge even have a road map of coming features that you can read on the game’s Steam page.
I’ve had a blast playing Aura Of Worlds and highly recommend it. Its combat is very solid, and the different combinations of items make it blast to experiment with different builds. Plus, it’s changed my mind about rogue-lites and that’s no easy feat.