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sands of aura

Sands of Aura - Early Access Impressions

Even after four years of development, this Souls-like perhaps needed more time in the oven.

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Set within a world buried under a sea of sand, Sands of Aura is a brand-new action-adventure title that draws influence from Dark Souls and Diablo. The project has just entered Early Access on Steam after more than four years of development, and it's expected to make a full release in the first quarter of 2023. Obviously, with a new intriguing Souls-like stepping onto the scene, I couldn't stop myself from jumping in and checking it out, but admittedly, I came away with some mixed first impressions.

Before I delve deep into its mechanics - allow me to give you some background. Sands of Aura is set in a world known as Talamhel which has been transformed into a sea of sand after an angry deity shattered the sands of time. Playing as a member of an elite group known as the righteous few, it's up to you to restore order back to the land and put a stop to a newfound force of evil that has spread across its many islands.

When it comes to the combat, many of the same hallmarks of a Souls-like are present here. The action is melee-focused and brutally challenging, and you only have limited opportunities to heal yourself by ringing a bell. You also obtain Glint, which is the equivariant to Souls (or Blood Echoes), for slaying down enemies, and this can be used to craft new items and upgrade your existing gear. One interesting wrinkle that Sands of Aura adds to this well-worn formula though is its burst mechanic. As you hack away at foes you build upon a purple meter, and this can be activated to perform a powerful ranged attack. Using this can mean the difference between life and death in some scenarios, and it's an exercise in patience in preserving it and only using it at the most vital moments.

The Diablo influence really creeps in when it comes to the game's loot and isometric perspective. You'll pick up runes by slaying foes and opening treasures chests and these can be equipped to different parts of your armour to give buffs to your health, stamina, and critical attack. There are also different sets of armour that you can obtain and you'll recieve certain perks for wearing items belonging to a particular set. By wearing the Nomad armour set, for example, using healing bells is made 25% more effective when wearing half the set and 50% more effective when wearing all corresponding items.

sands of aura

Sadly though, I never felt truly in control of my character, as there is a tremendous amount of input lag when dodging and performing attacks. This just added an extra layer of frustration to an already challenging game, as often my failed attempts felt due to the unresponsiveness of the controls and not my flawed actions. Additionally, there's no lock on system, so you need to keep rapidly spinning the camera around to ensure you're facing in the right direction. I can't tell you how many times that the camera ended up getting stuck on walls when scrambling around during fights leaving me completely blind.

Beyond its close-quarters battles, you'll be spending much of your time journeying from island to island on a sand-faring vessel known as the Grainwake. The game's 10 plus islands are free to explore at your own pace once you've completed the prologue, and there's a great sense of freedom in plotting your own adventure. There's a nice sense of variety to each area too. On one stop I was battling flaming skeletons in a burnt down church, and then I was in a luscious jungle dodging past exploding poisonous plants.

It was during these moments of exploration though that the game's most glaring technical issues came to light. When roaming across the sands, the framerate took a real knock and objects and textures would pop in uncontrollably on surrounding islands. In addition to these issues, I also encountered a strange bug when speaking to a certain NPC. Here I was unable to select specific dialogue options until I reset the game and returned back to the conversation. Obviously, Sands of Aura is still in Early Access, so I'm holding out hope that these issues get patched before launch.

Things might be off to a shaky start for Sands of Aura, but it's still only at the very start of its Early Access journey and there's still time for improvement. To the developer's credit, they have already released five bug fixing patches at the time of writing, so let's hope this support continues in future. For the time being though, I'd urge that you steer clear of this one, as it lacks the sense of fluidity expected from a Souls-like. There's a tremendous amount of input lag, no lock on system is present, and technical issues are plentiful.

sands of aurasands of aura
sands of aura

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