Auro – Android – NB Mobile Game of the Month!
NB’s Mobile Game of the Month!
Developer: Dinofarm Games
Publisher: Dinofarm Games
Release Date: September 17, 2014
Nerd Rating: 9/10
Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife
These days in the gaming world, it’s refreshing to see that there are developers out there whose primary focus lies in creating a game that steps out of that “safe zone.” Dinofarm Games aims to deliver an experience that is fun while having enough depth and replayability to avoid needing a new version every year.
They achieve this mightily with their second (but first independently published and developed) release, Auro, a tactical bumping adventure featuring randomly generated levels, monsters, and skills to make for a different playing experience each time.
New players will want to begin with Story Mode. Here, we learn that Auro is a spoiled prince who, for his 12th birthday, is supposed to be tasked with slaying a dragon as a rite to manhood. His lack of discipline and training, however, leads to the king and his assistant, Quillsh deciding that this would prove too dangerous a task for the young prince. Instead, Auro is instructed to venture down to the lower levels of the palace to unclog a drainage pipe that has been suspiciously stuffed with dead squids.
Story Mode acts as a tutorial for the game, so players will spend time in this mode learning about the basics. All action in Auro is turn-based on a randomly generated hexagonal tile grid. Interestingly, there is no actual attacking, but rather bumping monsters into the water supplemented by tactical spells. When you move, your score multiplier decreases, and when you send a monster to a watery grave, it increases, maxing out at 4. Taking the time to set up your next set of moves is crucial to success. Bumping a monster or moving to an adjacent tile will use up a turn, but before that, any of the 9 available skills can be used to set up moves. To be most effective at this game, you’ll want to think a few turns ahead.
As I mentioned earlier, when starting a level, tile placement, monsters, and skills are randomly generated with stronger skills and tougher monsters coming along as you progress deeper into the castle. All monsters, which include rats, jellies, and troggles each have one tactical skill which they use against Auro’s.
Tactics are the core component of Auro, and all game mechanisms support this. One of the skill tiers includes setting fire traps that you can bump monsters into, but setting fire onto a tile occupied by a monster does not kill it. Instead, for one turn, the monster has “smoky flavor” and upon its next move, sets a flame in its wake, allowing you to bump them right in. Another really neat tactics-encouraging rule is the inclusion of squids that pop up in the water if you knock two enemies into the same spot. If you bump a monster onto a squid, it is bounced back onto the playing field as an anti-funneling measure. This can also be used to your tactical advantage as the monster bounces back onto and over Auro’s head. There are heavy monsters who cannot be bumped but you can freeze the floor and slide them across. Flying monsters can’t be drowned but can be killed in air vortexes.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s onto Play Mode, which is where the real monster bumping carnage takes place. Your first time playing, you’ll be asked to take a placement test in which you use the skills you learned in Story Mode to survive as long as possible. Once you die, you’ll be assigned a level in which a set number of points must be scored in order to win. Winning increases your points toward a new rank (and harder difficulty), and losing will bring your rank down, possibly dropping you to a lower level. The neat thing here is that there is always a reasonable chance to win or lose, no matter how good you get at mercilessly drowning monsters. This is in contrast to any other single-player game with a scoring system I’ve ever played where you technically lose if you don’t achieve the highest score you (or anyone) have gotten.
Although Auro may appear to be a dungeon crawler on the surface, again, it really all boils down to tactical decision-based play. There is no worrying about getting XP, leveling up, inventory management, or grinding. You jump in and play, trying to get better, trying to win games that test your skills further as you do, and to me, that’s super important in making a game that can stand the test of time.
Winning a game of Auro is extremely rewarding for me, especially when I get to a challenging level and I’ve failed miserably a half dozen times and used my failures to help build my level back up. There is a sense of accomplishment when doing well in the game that really feels good, and I don’t see that getting old.
In addition to the game being very well designed and balanced, it’s also worth noting that there is a lighthearted and fun sense about it, which is evident in the dialogue and random notes you’ll find scattered around. The character sprites and other animations look top notch and the soundtrack does an amazing job of really fitting into the whole experience. It’s evident that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into all aspects of production, and that’s way more than you can say about many games on the market today. It’s even being featured on our site as the Mobile Game of the Month! If you enjoy tactical/strategy games and have a simple $2.99 to spare, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’s the best $3 you’ll spend all year.
iPhone users, don’t fret! You’ll be able to get your hands on Auro soon!
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