Graphically and thematically charming game that falls short of challenge and variety
One day the peaceful land of Shangri-La gets destroyed by burning meteors and ash falling from the sky. In Aerie: Spirit of the Forest by Intenium, you’ll help Aerie, a friendly fairy supported by will-‘o-wisps, to restore this country by curing the damaged nature and the three fallen shrines. Players can expect a solid resource management title with a fairly innovative and whimsical presentation.
The basic features and obstacles the player faces with Aerie: Spirit of the Forest are quite similar to the My Kingdom for the Princess series, in that you are collecting resources such as seeds, water, and life force, though rather healing structures and organisms in contrast to destroying things that block your way.
Resources can be earned in three different ways. Sometimes they simply lie on the ground and can be collected, while you are also able to earn seeds or life force by restoring structures like ponds, bushes, or birch trees. Apart from that there are also plants or structures that serve as “natural” buildings, in contrast to ordinary houses in similar titles. Rivers will provide you with water on a regular basis, deer and gophers support Aerie by creating life force, while oaks produce seeds.
Beside providing life force, animals also serve various other purposes in Aerie: Spirit of the Forest. Bears will remove obstacles, eagles will collect resources that Aerie would not be able to reach otherwise, and beavers will build dams if needed. The inclusion of animals in such a sweet and charming way, not to mention their smooth animation and cute drawing, really boosts the already stellar atmosphere of the game and is probably one of its strongest features. Apart from animals and will-‘o-wisps there are also monoliths that can help Aerie to cure the land quicker.
Those monoliths can be compared to the bonuses in My Kingdom of the Princess, although they lack the variety and are not really crucial to finish a level within the moon phase. By activating them, Aerie can get a second will-‘o-wisp, freeze the timer, or speed up her pace. Apart from those monoliths there is also a toad in some levels at which you can exchange one resource for another at a certain rate. However, this feature seems rather arbitrary, since sometimes the resource you need the most can’t be exchanged at all, and at other times you won’t be able to trade due to lack of resources until the very end of a level.
By finishing within the moon phase you will get moon crystals, which can be used to restore the three shrines located around the whole country, whose reconstruction is mandatory to cure the land. Still, Aerie: Spirit of the Forest is rather forgiving if finishing a level takes a bit longer, so you will never really get stuck. Most of the levels are on the easy side, so experienced players will be undoubtedly disappointed in both the low level of difficulty and the comparably short length of the game.
What’s absolutely stunning about Aerie: Spirit of the Forest are the graphics and effects, which really display the progress you are making. The player can definitely see the consequences of Aerie’s healing rather quickly, and it feels extremely rewarding and satisfying. Green Meadows, wonderful trees, and cosy homes for animals are simply nicer to look at than grey and brown mud.
Unfortunately, there are also some negative points worth pointing out, besides the already mentioned lack of challenge and only featuring one mode and 35 levels. For one thing there are some flaws with controlling Aerie. In the last stage of the game she should be able to fly, but it took us some trial-and-error as well as repeated clicking to do so successfully. A similar annoyance is connected to the eagle, which should actually collect resources instead of Aerie. However, when you click resources this order will be registered by both the eagle and Aerie, which redundantly complicates the game. We also missed some more variety in level design – in the end you are doing nearly the same tasks over and over again – while the advanced complexity of My Kingdom for the Princess is missing.
All in all Aerie: Spirit of the Forest is a pleasant, above average resource simulation with a highly innovative presentation, but game mechanics that lack diversity and challenge to exploit the game’s full potential. Players who appreciate wonderful graphics, a sweet story with a message, or fans of My Kingdom for the Princess who would not mind a less difficult task will surely enjoy this charming game nevertheless. And the end of the story definitely does not rule out a sequel, so let’s hope that we’ll see Aerie again in the future.