Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:00

AIRHEART - Tales of broken Wings Review

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Developed and published by Blindflug Studios, Airheart - Tales of broken Wings is a compelling spin on the flight genre. It utilizes a roguelike progression mechanic, forcing you to consider each run in the very specific light of what can be reasonably accomplished — and what cannot. Fish in dizzying heights with your customizable aircraft and battle with combat-thirsty sky pirates to ultimately ascend to the highest level. Unfortunately, while your airplane might be up for the long and arduous journey, players are likely to run out of steam before they ever get there.

Amelia, the Fisherwoman

Enter Granaria, a city nestled deep in the clouds. Enter Amelia, the daring sky-fisherwoman. Enter sky pirates, hungry for the fruits of anyone else’s hard labor but their own. Spice this dish up with a hunt for the sky whale, a mystical creature of the sky’s outer edges, and you have the recipe for Airheart’s plot in total. Airheart doesn’t give you much more to consume, and you’ll have to enjoy its gameplay and your end-goal mission without really having the opportunity of falling in love with Amelia or her story.

At Granaria you have Amelia’s Hangar, Workbench, and Shop. The rest of Airheart occurs in the blue-tinged beyond, with the city as a safe hub, which is where you’ll return either forcibly (if your airplane has been destroyed) or willingly (if your haul is such that you wouldn’t care to lose it). The haul in this indie? Delightfully designed flying fish that will have you tracing circles in the sky for hours.

Improve Your Plane, Improve Your Chances

The ultimate goal of Airheart is to successfully ascend to the highest layer, but that’s a task infinitely easier said than done. Most of the time you’ll be collecting fish in the clouds of the earliest layers and battling sky pirates with less-than-adequate gear. Your plane has a health number, and once your health is low, you’re encouraged to return to Granaria to salvage your haul for the run and any other items you may have picked up along the way. Defeated enemy pirates drop items that can be used for crafting parts for your plane at your Workbench, and you risk losing everything if you return too late or don’t return at all.

Your fish are sold automatically for you once you return, with certain fish being worth vastly more than others. With that money, you can buy different parts from different plane schematics for your aircraft from the Shop. You can mix and match, pairing certain abilities from one schematic with abilities from another, giving you plenty of opportunity to play the way you want to play. However, be warned: if your plane is damaged during the flight home, you might lose a part that you spent a heartbreaking amount of fish money on.

Fighting and Flying

Airheart’s movement and combat controls, after no little practice, are satisfying. Flying feels good, even on a keyboard, and once you master those hairpin turns and how to harpoon either a foe or a particularly delectable fish, you’ll be hooked (pun intended). You have different weapons and weapon pairings to choose from to give yourself the best possible chance at winning fights, and working your way towards owning your ideal set is your main reward for the difficult initial grind.

Each level of Airheart is a vertical layer containing a variety of fish, floating islands, sky pirates, friendly fishing planes, and a place to ascend to the next layer. The difficulty of surviving the sky pirates rises with every layer, culminating in massive zeppelin boss battles and even a mechanical snake. It can be a serious drag to climb your way through layer upon layer, only to make a boneheaded mistake and be sent hurtling back to Granaria’s ground, and it’s likely to happen to you more than a few times. For roguelike enthusiasts, however, this is simply par for the course.

Sometimes Beautiful, Sometimes Boring

The 3D art style of Airheart is simultaneously beautiful and unexceptional. It’s undeniably neat to see the different sky layers you’ve made it through stacking up below you, but the actual layers themselves are often similar to the point of boring, and the points of interest, such as the islands, aren’t anything to write home about. At a distance, Airheart is striking, but after many hours of grinding gameplay, the newness and interest wears off and the flaking paint underneath starts to show.

Conceptually, Airheart is fascinating. A roguelike flight indie where you must fish and battle your way through stacking layers of air? It’s enough to intrigue even some of the most veteran of players. In practice, however, Airheart is a bit of a tease, with not enough memorable details or polish to make it soar above the clouds the way that its heroine Amelia so effortlessly does.


The Verdict: Good

Airheart - Tales of broken Wings, despite its dogfight combat, proffers a zen experience of flight as you twist and turn through vertical landscapes populated by brightly-hued and cavalierly-evasive fish. Catch these fish as you will, for you’ll desperately need the profits to improve your airplane and ascend to the highest levels in order to escape the soul-crushing grind and lack of story evident at the outset.

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Taryn Ziegler

Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.