ARia's Legacy Escape Room Game

ARia’s Legacy Game Review

Today I’ve played probably one of my most exciting AR games to date—it’s called Aria’s Legacy. I want to share my experience playing this game with you, so let’s jump straight into it.

Disclaimer: this is a review in progress. This means that what’s written here or/and the overall rating is subject to change, for better or for worse. The review is based on the first release of the game after evaluating only the prologue chapter. I do have access to the beta, so I can evaluate further episodes that aren’t available in the prologue release.

What is ARia’s Legacy?

ARias Legacy is a real-world scale augmented reality escape room game for iOS. The idea was to give users a similar escape room experience as those on-location based ones.

The game also follows a narrative. It tells the story of a girl called Aria. Players will be able to unfold the story as they progress through each room in the game. In this game, you are a part of a team of archaeologists looking for artifacts at a new archeological site. Suddenly you stumble across a chest when you try to open it, you are thrown into a locked room. Your goal is to find clues to help you move on to the next room, unfold the story and eventually try to make it back home.

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably read my review about the game The Birdcage. The Birdcage is one of my favorite AR games, but unlike ARia’s Legacy, it was designed to be compact and played in very small spaces. ARia’s Legacy takes the escape room genre and tries to make the experience similar to real-world location-based escape room games. How good it was able to accomplish this task? Read this review and find out.

Like similar games in this genre, ARia’s Legacy also makes users explore the environment, collect items and try to use those to solve different type of logical puzzles.  The game was released on September 17, 2018, with the first chapter (prologue) containing 4 episodes (4 room puzzles) and with the full game planned in a future date (as of the time of writing).

The game is planned for release on 2019 for both iOS and Android. I’ve been playing it on my iPad  9.7-inch (5th generation) tablet.

It’s important to note that the iOS version of  ARia’s Legacy was developed using ARKit, thus requires an ARKit compatible device running iOS 11.3 or later. This included iPhone 6S or later, iPad Pro or iPad (2017; the one that I’m using) or later.

Gameplay

Before you start playing, the game asks you to scan the floor. It allows you to save the scan so you can use it later when you launch the game. After that, you can start playing the game.

Once the game is started, the designated room is rendered and positioned in the scanned area. The game takes place in around 3m2, at least that how it was on my living room and I did scan a larger area. The scanning instructions were very clear and demonstrated using text and animations, so everyone who plays the game can understand how to initialize the game, which is great.

ARia's Legacy AR game screenshot

The interactive and decorative objects are spread quite evenly across the gameplay space, which gives the game its 3-dimensional volume, rather making it takes place in a limited space or XY-axis. You feel like you are actually in a new room. The game doesn’t use virtual background elements to block the real world scene, it’s supposed to be an AR game, after all, not rendered as a virtual reality game. Some games did go with that approach, and I personally disliked it. It felt like playing a VR game but just with the handheld device serving as a controller,

Some rooms have more virtual decorative elements than others. In the 2nd room, if I remember it correctly, there was a front wall, a door, and many decorative elements, yet the developer made the right and left sides open and also the real-world floor was still visible. So even levels with more virtual elements, you still felt you are playing an AR game and it seems it was designed with player safety in mind.

Vase with flower in arThe room objects blend in nicely with your current room you are playing the game. It’s not 100% perfect but looks nice and convincing. For example, you might see a door that is not aligned with a wall in your room, but in the middle of it, still, you do get the feeling like you are inside a room, different the real world one that you are physically at.

The reason the developer used a relatively larger space is to allow players to roam freely within the room and bringing the physical searching activity into the game, rather than relying on just tapping on objects while staying put.  This makes the escape room experience similar to that of on-location based ones.

Puzzle cluesThe game, however, at least from those chapters that I did play, doesn’t impose excessive physical activity, and I guess this is done for better accessibility. For example, you won’t find items hiding on the floor underneath a cabinet or very high above which will require climbing on a chair to locate. Everything is more or less within reach while in standing position. I have to admit that when I saw stuck, I did try crouching and searching for clues underneath item, above or behind items, but eventually, I found out that the solutions are actually right in front of me and I didn’t need to crouch or stretch out to find a clue. it was quite funny in that aspect.

Most of the puzzles are logical puzzles that require careful thinking. To complete a level, you’ll need to work with your brain, not physically.

The game employs different types of interactions: interacting directly with 3D objects, picking up items, inspecting items, and using items on objects.

You can pick up items and place them in the sidebar inventory by tapping on them. In the inventory, you can tap and select the item then choose to either inspect it or when it’s selected, to use it with a virtual object in the environment.

Let’s take a look at some gameplay in action!

how Difficult is ARia’s Legacy Game?

Escape room games should be challenging, making players break their head. I get satisfying playing those games if they are very challenging. I don’t mind even not being able to solve a room even after an hour. I get satisfaction once I was able to eventually beat the puzzle. It makes me think that I actually achieved something. I was able to outsmart the people who designed it. This is why I never look for solutions online. I want the game to make me think hard. I know the solution is out there, I just need to find how to solve it.

Key hiding inside a clock
A key hiding inside a clock, sneaky.

There is no point in making a game like this easy. It will just feel like a 4-piece jigsaw puzzle game, and I wouldn’t play such game because there is no challenge, same goes to other types of puzzle games like escape room games.

I am glad to say that ARia’s Legacy, for me, was challenging, at least from those chapters that I did get to play. I’m pretty sure that its developer will make the difficulty scale in newly added chapters and this would be great. It makes you eager to see what’s coming out next. You know that future chapters are going to be even more challenging than before.

Now, although the gameplay was challenging, it wasn’t “too hard”. It obviously varies from one person to another. I was stuck in the last puzzle like 30 minutes. The thing is that the room doesn’t employ too many items and interactions, but it still managed to be challenging. Some of the puzzles involve carefully observing the environment and items that you collect. In some case, the solution is right in front of you and you won’t even know it.

It’s important to make the challenges smart and not do something that the player will have no way of finding out.  The interaction should be well defined but masked so the solution fo the puzzle won’t be so obvious.  This is why most of the solutions are logic based. However because it’s an Augmented Reality (AR) game, and derived from the location-based escae room equivalent, it does require the player to move around the environment, explore and observe it.

Some chapters have very little items in them, in fact, most are. When the level starts, you think to yourself: “How hard can that be?”, there are only like 10 items in the room. You soon find out that this isn’t going to be such an easy task as you thought it would.

I personally can’t wait to try out the upcoming chapters. I think it would be nice if the puzzles had a difficulty rank on them, like those on Chris Ramsay YouTube channel. It gives a great satisfaction when you are able to solve a Level 10 puzzle, compared to solving a Level 3 puzzle. It helps to describe more precisely the difficulty of that puzzle and give the person who was able to solve it better satisfaction, knowing that he or she was able to beat a very difficult puzzle in a high difficulty scale.

There are many puzzle games that fail to nail it right. some hard just too complicated and can cause a great deal of frustration to casual players who enjoy playing these type of games. Others are too easy and you don’t feel that gratification feeling when completing a puzzle. Aria’s Legacy nailed it right in my opinion, or at least I can say, the difficulty was spot on for my puzzle-solving skills.

Beautiful Enchanted Music

Usually, I write a few lines about the music in the game, sometimes nothing at all. However, the music in ARia’s Legacy has a deep influence on the emotional state of the player. It helps to create the special aural atmosphere that accompanies the narrative of the game, creates an acoustic encapsulation that immerses the player with the storytelling aspect of the game and helps draw the player deep into that alternate reality experience as the developer envisioned it.

This is very important in AR games and why I more than recommend playing the game with headphones on. I use my Turtle Beach P12 headphones while playing this game and it made a huge difference. The reason is that when we play a game like this in AR and not in a closed acoustic room, noises from the real world can interfere, distract us and impair the experience. Many PC and console gamers use headphones to get more immersed in the game—this doesn’t change in Augmented Reality games. In fact, it might be even more important as with standard games, as it helps to feel in the gap of the lack of a full virtual scene that was designed to match the game’s narrative, gameplay, and atmosphere. you can block the worldview with virtual walls, but then it doesn’t become an AR game anymore (not in the technical aspect) and it loses its unique appeal, let alone that the safety aspect of things, which require you to observe the real world objects in the environment as you play the game.

The enchanting music beautifully complements the game’s narrative, the puzzle-solving state-of-mind and in some way, also reduces the tension that can be involved when playing a brain-teasing long-session puzzle game.  Time feels like it is shortened and sometimes you just feel like it is standing still, waiting for you to finish what you are doing before it continues moving on.

I also really liked the voice parts where we here Aria speaking as you find and interact with different objects you find in the scene. It is said with a calming and enchanting echoed voice that further enriches the overall enigmatic atmosphere.

Bottom line, listen to my advice and make sure you experience ARia’s Legacy using headphones, please don’t skip that.

UI & Touch Interactions

Although I think it will be amazing playing a game like this with AR glasses, this game runs on mobile devices. This means that all of the interaction will be done using the touchscreen.

The game was designed well, staying with simple tapping touch interactions. It does support swipe gesture for rotating objects in the inventory (i found that a bit annoying though) but other than that the touch interactions are very simple to use.

The UI is minimal with only the inventory and a pause button in view. This leaves most of the view clear for users to consume the AR experience in its fullest.

How good are the Visuals?

The graphics in ARia’s Legacy are good but not great. 3D objects don’t reflect shadows, which make the AR experience feel less realistic. The textures of most of the 3D objects are of low resolution (e.g. the cabinet, drawers, painting).

Found the hidden chest

I did wish that the scene looked better. After all, this is a slow-paced game with not a lot of objects in it. However, I am not an expert in that field and maybe having better textures and high-poly 3D models would have significantly hurt performance. The thing is that this is an ARKit game, so it should run on powerful iPhone and iPad device. Update: I’ve talked with the developer, and it’s indeed due to performance reasons. To be honest, I better have a reach and detailed environment such as this than less reach and one with sharper details, so I am fine with that decision.

Is it that bad? absolutely not, but it does leave something to be desired. This might be improved when the game is finally released. When I played the game, I was immersed, that I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the visuals, that again, wasn’t bad. Yes, I did stop to look at the items from time to time, because I was reviewing the game, and then I notice those “imperfections”.

I did like the use of the old furniture and decorative items. It was really cool seeing those spider webs and hear the cricking sound of the old drawer when I opened it. Because of the old look of the items, the low-res texture felt less of an issue, especially when you view them in like 3 feet away.

virtual sand on the floor
The virtual sand on the floor made the AR scene blend better with the environment.

Rounded objects like the door’s handle or the old clock’s face didn’t have a smooth circular look, although metal elements did appear metal and it looked great alongside the old wood texture.

I did like the use of textures on the floor that makes the 3D scene blend more seamlessly with the environment. Look at the picture on the right. You can see that instead of just placing the scene without a floor, the developer added virtual sand particles which help blend the virtual scene better with the environment. It makes the scene feel more believable and making the player more immersed within the AR experience.

Conclusion

ARia’s Legacy is among my top favorite  AR games to date. I love large-scale AR games, but many of them were done improperly and therefore made the experience much less exciting and even annoying. ARia’S Legacy, on the other hand, was designed with a good understanding of the accessibility aspect of designing such a game.

Aside from a good  AR design perspective, the game itself was very exciting to play. The puzzles’ difficulty felt spot on. It wasn’t too easy to not impair the feeling of accomplishment and not too hard to make you feel like you should have done a degree in advanced Mathematics.

The music beautifully compliments the game’s narrative and increases the emotional impact and immersion, as well as helping maintain a certain state of mind that makes the puzzle-solving experience somewhat relaxing while still being shrouded by an enigmatic atmosphere.

This mobile escape room game is probably the closest that you can get to an on-location escape room experience in your own home or anywhere you decide to play it. Imagine it, it’s like taking a whole physical on-location escape room experience is shoveling it into your phone and let the “AR Magic” to the rest.

What I’ve experienced was just a prologue of what will be eventually a 50-level escape room experience which should be released (based on the official trailer) n 2019 for both iOS and Android.

I have to admit that some AR games disappointed me not because they were bad, but because they lack content. I wanted to play more of them but those never received any more content.

The developer of ARia’s Legacy, The Pixel Crushers, release this prologue, but as mentioned in the press release, there are many more levels to come. This way I know that although I finished the prologue, there is much more content coming our way. The initial version (prologue) is free and from what I know the other chapters will be paid ones. I think it was a smart marketing move. It gives players a taste of this great game and gives the developer enough time to build and polish the other chapters. It will help gain more feedback from users and of course, give the developer enough time to promote the game -so when it’s finally released, it will reach the targetted audience and those who enjoyed the prologue will buy the full game.

You usually don’t get to see an AR game that takes its time, pre-release a free version of the app only to promote a game that is supposed to come at a relatively late date after release. This just shows me how dedicated the developer in creating a great AR gaming experience without compromises.

One last thing that I need to mention. The full release of this game will include a local multiplayer game, so you and your friends can try to solve the same puzzle together like in a real escape the room game. The game will be available for Android (ARCore) as well when the full version launches in early 2019.

The developer mentioned that they plan to release 1-2 episodes every month until all chapters are released, which is great. I adore the developer for fully committing itself for making a great AR title for all of us to enjoy.

ARia’s Legacy is a must have AR game, I just can’t recommend it enough and can’t wait to try all those new chapters when they come out and see how the story unfolds – Thank you, The Pixel Crushers, for making such a fantastic game!

Download ARia’s Legacy from the App Store (iOS: iPhone/iPad) here.