What I love the most about the Indie crowd is the fact that we get to see games being developed in all kinds of genres, including those that would not get given a second glance from bigger developers and publishers. Indie developers with their burning desire of creating the game of their dreams in order to hopefully catch onto a niche audience will pour their heart and soul into a project. I am almost convinced that without Indie developers, there would be several genres of video games that would no longer be developed. Without smaller game studios, would we really see games come out like Project Aether: First Contact? It might not mean a great deal to gamers who’s interest in games solely sits within the realms of the next Call of Duty or Fifa, but the truth is that this game will sit nicely within a niche of gamers who will welcome it with open arms.
Even if you are only slightly interested with Indie games you will have no doubt heard of the term “bullet hell” being tossed about here and there on occasion. You only have to look as far as how popular games like Enter the Gungeon are to find out how popular this sub genre is becoming, particularly within the Indie scene. What Project Aether: First Contact has to offer is a gateway into the bullet hell universe with plenty going on to keep shmup fans happy. I may be quite terrible at certain types of video games but one in particular is a bullet hell because my tiny brain struggles to comprehend too much going on at once and trying to avoid it all whilst maintaining an onslaught of attacking bullets from myself. So obviously I wasn’t overly confident going into this game for the first ever time, yet my hands on experience with the demo left me in rather high spirit and not terribly stressed out like I normally would be after playing a bullet hell. What I discovered is that Project Aether eases you into this type of experience really well which is ideal for newcomers and people like me who generally consider themselves bad at them.
I’m not suggesting that the game holds your hand too much, because I for one cannot stand it when games do that so often and we see it a lot particularly in newer games but that’s a topic for discussion another time. What I am saying is hardcore shmup veterans will not find the demo too hard but will enjoy the experience with it as much as newcomers will. In typical shmup fashion you will be flying around the screen on rails in a top down view whilst shooting down as many enemies as you can with your choice between two different types of ranged attacks. Your default being a faster mini gun type of weapon with the option of switching to your rail gun on the fly which has a lot slower rate of fire but packs a wallop! Personally I preferred the mini gun as with the rail gun you need to be half decent at aiming because it’s a lot slower so you need to make every bullet count. Me being poor at aiming found it a lot easier and more enjoyable using the mini gun so I stuck with it throughout the majority of the demo, although I may have found it easier had I been using a keyboard and mouse. I played with an Xbox One controller which is my go to way of playing but I can imagine using a mouse to aim would have made it a lot easier for me.
Besides all the flying and gunning you are armed with a few more tricks up your mechanical sleeve, my favorite being the melee attack. Shooting a swarm of enemies from a distance and following up with a three hit melee combo by holding the melee attack button down to finish them off never felt better! I am very much looking forward to seeing if this melee attack of yours can be upgraded in the full version in some way, I would imagine you will be able to acquire more types of ranged weapons so maybe you can do the same with melee weapons? A big factor of the game for newcomers will be the fact that you are able to heal yourself by pressing the A button, you get to use this 5 times before it runs out. Shmup veterans will no doubt feel that this is not a factor that will pull them into playing Project Aether so hopefully for their sake they will get the option to turn this off in the full game or maybe there are harder modes that prohibit the use of them. Also your mech is able to perform a dodge dash by pressing the LT button, which can come in handy by either dashing out of harms way or by dashing towards a foe in order to carry out a quick melee attack. But that is not all! Once you have shot an enemy enough times you will see a magnetic field appear around them and if you go inside this magnetic field you can destroy the enemy with a simple press of the RB button. A pro will be able to expose the magnetic field of an enemy, fly within its proximity, wait for a couple more enemies to fly within it and hit that RB button destroying all of them at once!
In terms of how the game looks I would say that visually it looks stunning! Being in space you will generally see a lot of stars around but the detailed look of planet earth as you fly away from it and approaching the moon looks epic! The idea of potentially flying to a variety of different planets and seeing the level of detail they all have is an exciting prospect. The soundtrack is very fitting too, it is heavily geared towards the style of an intense action shooting game which is exactly what a shmup is. Did I forget to mention that the demo level (as well as the tutorial) has a boss fight at the end? Well it does and I didn’t find it too challenging but it made me realize that this is probably the easiest boss in the full game when it gets released and I should be prepared for a much greater challenge. If you don’t master the art of being able to dodge the onslaught of what gets thrown your way whilst maintaining your own heavy fire then you will not win. Project Aether: First Contact is coming to Steam and is important to know that although we do not have a release date yet, the developers at Sleepy Spider Studios are very active on Twitter so it would be worth giving them a follow to keep updated on the games progress. If this game interests you even a little bit, go check the demo out and you will understand my praise for it.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Project Aether: First Contact, let me know in the comments down below. Thanks for reading!
Written by Sammy J on 2nd November 2019