“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—–Emily Dickinson, Hope is the thing with feathers
The first screenshots for AER have arrived, unveiling a heavenly low poly world of clean and vibrant colors. A collaboration between the Scandinavian studio Forgotten Keys and German developer Daedalic Entertainment, AER will focus on narrative-driven, atmospheric experiences. Following the story of a pilgrim girl named Auk, players can explore a sky full of floating, fractured islands—similar to the universe from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Only this time, instead of flying on a pet bird, you are the majestic beast itself. Talk about an evolutionary upgrade, am I right?
To see the mechanic in action, check out this concept trailer from back in September below.
Not much is known about AER, except that it will focus on Auk’s heroic journey. Her rare shapeshifting gift allows her to reach heights that few others can in her fractured homeland. Though she will meet some characters who share her abilities, Auk’s voyage seems singular, as she soars to different lands “in search of the ‘Memories of the Past.'” Plunging into the ancient ruins of old gods, Auk must conquer dark creatures who symbolize a larger evil. In a story that “leads you to the end of the world,” this simple yet extraordinary pilgrim girl “will challenge the Gods and save reality itself.”
The new screenshots certainly capture the stark contrast between AER‘s flight simulation mode, where you glide through an incandescent blue sky, with the dungeon-crawling adventures reserved for the more brooding corners of the ancient ruins. This emphasis on an environmental juxtaposition, along with the hint of geometric and universal symbolism, hints at an abstract narrative structure comparable to Journey.
Forgotten Keys CEO and game designer Robin Hjelte says that they’re pulling from multiple mythical sources to create the narrative tone: the Shinto religion, Abenaki legends, the fantasy writing of Lord Dunsany (Gods of Pegana). Seeking to unify these symbolic sources through the game’s atmosphere, AER aspires to be less of a strict representation and “more of a potpourri of different aspects of different myths, picked together to convey the feeling we want to share with the player.”
Hjelte believes that the fantastical hero’s journey provide a perfect setting for the sensation they hope to inspire. “In AER, exploration is the core, and the ancient tribal story suits our goal of allowing the player to live out a fantasy.” The bird fantasy truly does strike a universal chord, as the predominant symbol for hope and freedom across many cultures and many centuries. Who hasn’t watched a bird idly zoom away into the sky from their office/school window, while quietly cursing their stubbornly earth-bound legs? In most ancient myths, shapeshifting—particularly that involving aerial forms—often signaled deep spiritual elevation, suggesting that Auk’s pilgrimage may be a divine ascension of some sort.
One of the team’s artists, Jesper Olofsson, describes how AER‘s visual style “has its roots in cubism. It’s an abstract kind of art where you basically simplify more complex forms into larger shapes, sometimes to the point where the observer can’t make out what the artist portrayed. In AER, we try to balance between the abstract shapes and shapes that you can recognize. We want the player to be able to get a cool graphical experience while still being able to perceive the world around him/her.”