The debut of Aeternum Game Studios; Aeterna Noctis promises to be an epic metroidvania which began as a Kickstarter back in 2020 and got a release on PC and the other consoles in December 2021. My editor and I were actually expecting a Nintendo Switch release at the time but shortly beforehand, we found out it was being released on everything BUT the Nintendo Switch, gah! However, I’ve been patient ever since and here we are, a year on; has Aeterna Noctis been worth the wait?
YES! It most certainly has been. Straight out of the blocks; Aeterna Noctis looks absolutely awesome. The stained-glass aesthetic is not only original but it looks fantastic and perfectly fits the grim world of Aeterna. You play as the King of Darkness who has lost his powers as punishment for overseeing one of the two warring factions in Aeterna, this punishment meted out by Aeterna’s creator; the god, Chaos. The King of Darkness is pitched in battle against the other faction leader (the Queen of Light) as they both try to return back to what they used to be.
I played Aeterna Noctis on Normal difficulty and I have to say, the difficulty was perfectly pitched; the combat was challenging but not punishingly so, the boss fights are epic and the world of Aeterna is huge and ripe for exploration. The word that kept popping into my head was ‘pragmatic’; everything in Aeterna Noctis is there to challenge but not punish the player, and that’s a fine line to tread. Many pet hates I’ve experienced in previous metroidvanias are addressed here; you can scroll the camera up-and-down and side-to-side to see what is just off-screen so that you’re not blindly leaping to your death. You can attack up, (hooray!) which is something so basic and shouldn’t be a defining feature but it is implemented here so as not to frustrate the player. The map is great too; everything feels well thought-out and well executed.
The general exploration and traversal in Aeterna Noctis is also a delight. There are many collectibles to track down and of course, you get rewarded handsomely for doing so. It is in your interest to complete side quests so as to enhance your combat skills, and Aeterna Noctis does this without implementing too much backtracking. There are also many puzzles involving the arrows you carry; with the arrows, you fire them and then can warp to the arrow’s location. There is a limit to how many arrows you can fire (which you can increase over time) and also a time limit for how long they can remain in place, and this all adds up for some genuinely challenging puzzle moments. Think the Shinespark puzzles in Metroid Dread but, in my opinion, actually a lot more functional and exhilarating.
- Stained glass art style is original and beautiful
- Pragmatic difficulty and game design
- Challenging but fun traversal puzzles
There’s not a whole lot to say here, but the control system behind the aforementioned arrows in Aeterna Noctis is actually quite janky on the Nintendo Switch. You use the directional controls to aim the arrows, meaning that when the arrow is fired, you are already pressing ahead in a certain direction and the King of Darkness will lurch forward in that direction. In a game that requires such precision, this can be highly frustrating.
There is also a souls retrieval system in Aeterna Noctis, whereby if you die, you need to return to the spot where you met your demise to pick up your ‘soul’ and regain the progress you’ve made in skilling up to the next level. However, there is very little challenge at all in retrieving this; you get as many attempts as you need to retrieve it and the checkpoints are generous. This does make me wonder if the whole souls retrieval system in Aeterna Noctis is actually necessary or entirely redundant.
Finally, I did encounter a number of crashes in my playthrough of Aeterna Noctis. In more than 50 hours of gameplay, I can count on two hands the amount of times this happened, so there were nowhere near as many crashes as some other recent Nintendo Switch ports that I’ve reviewed (such as Souldiers and Hell Pie), but crashes are crashes and each one is pretty frustrating.
- Awkward arrow firing system
- Redundant souls retrieval system
- Some game crashes
Final Score: 9/10
Aeterna Noctis came pretty close to the big one-oh score from me, but the sporadic crashes and the awkward arrow-firing mechanic are ultimately what denied it the top prize.
Hollow Knight leads the genre of course, but in my opinion, Aeterna Noctis is the best of the rest. Tight gameplay, a huge game world to explore and beautiful aesthetics all add up to an enthralling experience. Aeterna Noctis is one of those games whereby I got a bit sad as I approached the end, but to quote Dr Seuss, ‘Don't cry because it's ending, smile because it happened’, and man, am I smiling!
Thank you for checking out our Aeterna Noctis Switch review, thank you to Aeternum Game Studios for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: