Greak: Memories of Azur
Greak: Memories of Azur opens with the titular character finding himself separated from his two siblings during an invasion. The evil Urlags are overrunning the peaceful lands of Azur, and the other Courines, like Greak, are starting to flee when it seems defeat is inevitable. However, Greak is unwilling to leave his brother and sister behind, so he embarks on a quest to find them before it is too late to join the other Courines.
Although the game bears his name and he is the first character players control, Greak: Memories of Azur is the story of all three siblings. This single-player, puzzle-platformer hands over control of Greak as well as his sister Adara and brother Raydel. Players first have to find and rescue the other two characters, but they become a permanent part of the group afterward. While it is not the first game to feature more than one playable character, Greak does things a little differently. Instead of controlling one character with the rest following, this game requires players to take care of everything themselves. It makes for an interesting dynamic but also comes with its own set of issues, which we will discuss later.
Greak is set in the beautiful lands of Azur, with Raven’s Road Camp serving as the hub of the game. It is here where Greak wakes up after a mishap and discovers a group of fellow Courines has been taking care of him. He also learns about the airship they are building to try and escape before the Urlags overrun their camp. Greak quickly begins helping out with finding components for the airship while attempting to track down his siblings. It is not the most epic of stories, but it provides a decent enough excuse to go adventuring through temples, forests, tombs, and ruins.
The most striking aspect of Greak is, without a doubt, the visuals, which feature beautiful hand-drawn animations. While there are only about eight distinct areas in the game, each is packed with little details in both the foreground and background. Both the designs of the Courines and their Urlag foes look great, while some subtle lighting effects make everything look even more impressive. There are also hand-drawn cinematic clips that help flesh out the story, but unfortunately, they are also unskippable.
Although Greak lacks any voice acting beyond some shouts and screams from the characters, it has a stunning orchestral soundtrack. In conjunction with the great sound effects, the epic tunes make the game feel even more like a fantasy epic. The developers recommend playing Greak with a controller, and we would have to agree. Players are able to alternate control between all three characters or use them all at the same time. This works great for solving some of the puzzles but becomes a nightmare for navigating platforms. Not only are characters vulnerable at all times, but if one of them dies, it’s game over. This wouldn’t have been so bad if they could look after themselves if you leave them to their own devices, but sadly this is not the case. Trying to make a jump where two characters are able to double-jump while the third floats is a recipe for disaster, and leaving behind characters only to discover you need them miles away or that they got killed behind your back by a respawning enemy is no fun either. Even the boss fights can become an exercise in frustration if players are not careful.
Another aspect of the game that is sure to irk some players is the tiny inventory of each character. It is possible to collect ingredients and combine them at cauldrons to cook meals with healing benefits, but the limited inventory slots make this a chore. Even worse, quest items can take up multiple slots, so there were many times where we had to leave things behind because there was simply no space to store them.
While this might sound very negative, the fact remains that when things work, they work beautifully. The best example of this is the final area of the game, Aldalar Tomb, where the siblings are split up and have to use their unique skills to solve puzzles and help each other. For example, Greak can crawl through tiny holes inaccessible to his siblings, while Adara can hold her breath underwater for much longer. Raydel can’t swim but has a shield for blocking certain traps and a grappling hook to reach areas the others cannot. Figuring out when and where to swap between characters and then utilizing their skills is a lot of fun, and it is a pity that it is not featured as much in the rest of the game.
Greak: MoA does contain some Metroidvania elements, but don’t expect a vast sprawling adventure. There are only a handful of interconnected areas, and your progress through time is mostly linear. Each area also has a fast travel stone that has to be located first as well as a handful of save spots where players must manually save their progress. Strangely enough, there is a map for the overworld, but players must tackle the individual areas without this luxury. Greak is also not a very long game, and even though we completed all three optional altar challenges, we still managed to complete the game in less than ten hours. In fact, there’s even an achievement for completing the game in less than three hours, although we obviously recommend not attempting this on your first run.
Overall, Greak: Memories of Azur is a very charming game that is a lot of fun to play. It’s not as complex as most Metroidvania titles, nor as sprawling, which might be a plus for some players. The ability to control multiple characters is great when it works but maybe a little too cumbersome in other situations. There are ways to minimize the hassle of navigating three characters around, but less patient players might throw in the towel before they master this aspect of the game. This is a real pity as the game has a lot of potential and kept us hooked right to the end.
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT, 512 GB or AMD Radeon HD 6570, 1 GB
- Storage: 3 GB available space
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 or AMD Phenom II X2 550
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX, 1 GB or AMD Radeon HD 5750, 1 GB
- Storage: 3 GB available space