Aralon: Sword and Shadow Hands-On Preview

While Infinity Blade soaks up all the attention for its breakthrough use of the Unreal Engine, role-playing gamers shouldn’t expect a deep story or wide-open environments. For that, they should wait another week for Aralon, from one of the makers of Ravensword. We’ll take you through our first few steps in what seems to be an epic adventure.

When we first loaded up Aralon, we were taken to a character select screen where we could choose our character’s race, gender, and class. In addition to the usual human and elf races, we were surprised to see trolls included, even if they were limited to male warriors and rogues.

We chose a female, human Ranger, and named her Aragal (the female Aragorn) and gave her a shock of red hair that partially covered her face. We then watched a short cutscene where an older man is arrested by guards, makes his dramatic escape, and then ends up in our home on a rainy night.

His name is Sir Roderick, and he explains that he was a friend of your father’s. He has a letter for you from your father, and tells you to go to the nearby village of Taryn Ridge to speak to the innkeeper at the Red Lion. Then, he dies.

At this point, you can take control of your character. We searched around the room with the camera, taking a few pieces of gold from Sir Roderick’s corpse, and then finding the letter in his belongings. We grab a fishing pole, pair of boots, and a torch from our chest, and then head out the door.

It’s daytime, and our tiny village seems vibrant and alive. A chicken scurries by, and we notice a pumpkin-headed training dummy in the field. We take a few whacks at it with our hunting knife, and a nearby villager advises us on how to attack and defend. Another villager, a small boy, wants us to rescue his lost dog Feskers from the woods. How could we say no?

As we entered the forest, we were struck by the impressive visuals in Aralon. The shadows on the ground and brightly-lit sky seemed dazzling, and the sound of a rushing waterfall and chirping birds completed the scene. A few wolves tried to chomp on us, but we took them out first with our bows, and then with our knives when they got too close.

We found Feskers not too far away, and commanded him to follow us back to the village. When we returned him to his owner, we hit our first level-up, and completed our first side quest. Now it was time to head on to Taryn Ridge.

We continued, fighting low-level wolves until we came to an old mill near a stream. As we crossed the bridge, the words “fishing spot” appeared in the corner. We equipped our pole and went to work, catching two small fish with a resale value of two gold pieces each. The fish weren’t edible, though.

It started to grow dark outside. As we approached Taryn Ridge, a gang of bandits stepped out to attack us. Fighting them off with our bow, we picked up a superior rusty sabre to replace our puny hunting knife. We made it to the tavern, talking to an imposing troll guard at the gate. He asked us to kill the gnoll king in the nearby caves, but that would have to wait while we completed our story quest.

We found our innkeeper, and he told us to seek out a nobleman in another land, who our father seemed to trust. As we stepped outside, the sun was just beginning to rise in front of us. Even though there was a slight glitch that caused it to temporarily appear in front of the distant mountains, when the scenery popped into place, it created a gorgeous scene, complete with realistic lens flare.

Aralon’s clearly a promising game, with a strong story and an impressive open world. It controls well, and the user interface seems simple, but versatile enough to let you accomplish anything you want to do. We’re still early on in our quest to find out about our hero’s father, and the royal conspiracy he uncovered, and we’ll have the full story for your in our review. Aralon will be available on December 16.

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