I'm not used to seeing a lot of story in my beat 'em ups. The most I'll get is that someone was kidnapped by a gang with little to no fashion sense and that, for some reason, they're all waiting in a convenient line for me to punch their faces in. Kiro'o Games aspires to much more than that with its game Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, telling a rich African fantasy tale set in a beautiful world. The preview build already does an excellent job of showing that the game is more than just an excuse to punch people (which it also does a great job of), creating a fully realized setting for mystical martial arts powers and telling a story of the strength of a loving community.

I've played many beat 'em ups that take place in gritty streets and dark slums, but Aurion is more interested in brilliant colors in its lush cities and lands. Lined with statues, artwork, and other personal touches, it was a delight to walk through the city in the demo and take it in. It also gave me a sense there was a living history to the place just by looking at it - that the statues and artwork told their own long tale. Most beat 'em ups that I've played focus on areas in decline, filled with relics of what have brought society to violence. Most also only feature the kind of artwork you see in Aurion when it is in ruins or old cities, places long abandoned or lost to war. The history has been consumed by some old conflict. Here, that history is intact, and the people are at peace. This makes the coming battles feel that much more important while also giving the players something nice to look at.


The people also add a lot of positivity to that initial exploration. These aren't typical NPCs who only speak to inform the player of something, or who exist to give the town a semblance of life it doesn't deserve. The people of Aurion are there because they belong there, and each says the sort of things you'd hear from a kind neighbor (well, a kind neighbor to a prince). They remark on his upcoming wedding, about what children are playing, and tell stories to each other. It makes the city of Zama feel more real to have these people, of all different cultures, talking and laughing with each other. It doesn't serve the gameplay in any real way, but they add a life to the city that is often lacking in games. These people, with only a line or two of dialogue that has nothing to do with bandit hideouts or where the fire keep is, make the world feel more real and believable.

The tone was a lot more friendly than I would expect toward a member of royalty, too. The people treat main character Enzo as a friend, and this helped me feel some connection to them through the story. It wasn't that I cared for any particular villager more, but rather that I wanted to help this community. The city is just filled with kind people, and I felt a connection to them as a whole from the small niceties they related to me as I walked by. Kiro'o Games' work here was simple, yet absolutely effective. Do you know how often I care about NPCs? They're often nothing more than walking dummies to push the plot forward, but here, they created this bond between my character and them. I actually wanted to keep these people safe. Also, I'm used to a disconnect between royalty and the characters of the game world, but here, being king felt more like a privilege than a power. We felt like equals and that I should use my power in the game world not just to beat up bad guys, but to help these people. I felt motivated by positivity more than a desire to just slap some people around.


This was driven home through a wedding that occurs in the preview. The events of this build lead to Enzo's marriage to Erine Evou, an event the whole community is excited for. Again, this was a view of royalty, or even a video game protagonist, I wasn't expecting, as the entire community was involved in bringing them together for the ceremony. The entire time, instead of acting like some spoiled brat, we can already see that Enzo is conflicted. He loves Erine, that much is without question, but he wonders if he is ready to lead his people. His thoughts are already on his community. It's strange to see that for someone who is used to the more common power stories, where a physically, and sometimes morally, weak young man must gain strength to lead his people. The focus on violent capability -on being the toughest, physically and mentally, to rule - isn't here. Instead, there is a focus on community, family, and having a good heart to be the king.

The game almost rejects violence and physical might as a right to rule, which is personified in its villain, Ngarba. He comes to court to fight and show that his power is what gives him the right to be king of Zama. Not that power struggles are unusual for games, but here, his power-driven coup seems that much more strange. Enzo's family don't rule here because that is what they've always done, but because the community loves him and he feels a need to serve them back. There is a connection here that is much more important than martial prowess or the ability to keep the community protected and fed. Ngarba's focus on power feels even more out of place because of it, which makes the conflict against him feel more personal and intense.


You might be wondering when it is you'll actually get to hit someone, what with all this community and connection stuff I've been rambling about. The preview was actually quite combat-heavy, and Aurion's combat system is definitely no afterthought. You can do a lot of stuff to your enemies, calling on Aurionic powers on top of the flurries of kicks and punches you normally throw. It looks like a lot to keep track of all at once, but it all comes together in simple ways that will have the payer changing stances, overcharging, and hurling lions made of spirit in minutes.

The preview featured a few simple combos that you could do on the ground or in the air. Straightforward stuff that the button masher in me loved. You can also turtle up and defend yourself, although taking hits in this stance consumes stamina. I found this much less useful than the dash move, which also requires stamina, but also adds a guard-breaking ability to attacks you throw during the dash. It inclines you to play more aggressively, which is good because enemies come in large waves (and combat is on a single plane with enemies often starting on both sides of you) and like to defend. Still, you can't do these moves all the time and must wait for your stamina to recharge if you use them too often.


On top of stamina and health, you also have a bar that powers your Aurionic powers. These can be executed by holding a direction and hitting a button, which made throwing fireballs pretty easy. These are handy when you're waiting for your stamina to recharge or just giving yourself some ranged offensive powers. Unlike stamina, which recharges over time, you can charge this power just by pushing down and standing still. This puts you at added risk in combat, but it charges fast, so it's usually worth taking a chance.

After a certain point in the preview, I unlocked the power to overcharge the Aurionic meter at the cost of health. Overcharging makes your abilities hurt a whole lot more, but puts you in a very dangerous spot as it just chews your health to bits to get in that state, and it happens fast. You have to use most of your HP to get a decent overcharge, but the damage payoff is pretty nice, and really the only way to go against tough bosses. Using attacks in this state also gives you access to your most powerful abilities, which involve Dragonball-Z level blasts of energy lions. It's a neat risk/reward system that makes combat tense.


Still, it's no use if you get too low on health and die. This was where Enzo's new wife, Erine, comes in. She hangs around combat as a support character, able to provide healing with a quick button press. She is the only reason that overcharging is viable, as she'll pull your dumb butt out of the fire when you get too carried away fighting. It's an interesting connection to see, as they can really only use the full extent of Aurionic power as a single unit, with their marriage and love being what makes them strong. They are more powerful together, which is a nice story element and also an interesting one in combat. Still, from some of her dialogue, I wish she was a playable character in places. She sounds pretty tough, and I'd love to see her knocking heads around once in a while.

All of this stuff leads to busy combat, and is made even more challenging through a lack of a stun-lock system. Enemies don't just stand there and let you finish your combo, and will immediately take action to hit you back or get out of the way of your punches. You need to look for moments of weakness to pull off your big attacks, or be really sure you can get out of the way yourself if you miss. It's dicey to commit to some of your best attacks because of it, and although the enemies do move slower in this game than many more fast-paced beat 'em ups I've played, they fight smarter, so nailing one with every step of your powerful combo is hard. It made the game feel a little uncomfortable at first as I felt like I was always committing to attacks that were missing, but when I realized I had to be willing to drop a move and bail, it grew more intuitive.


Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan has deep, intricate combat for a game whose story focuses on togetherness and community. Its message of working together, of the responsibilities of a leader to their people, adds a positivity to the game's world and Enzo's connection to the NPCs. It made me feel a personal stake in this beautiful city and the well-being of its people, and that gave more agency to the moments when I had to use the game's intricate combat to protect it. The battle against Ngarba, and the connection between Enzo and Erine, create a conflict that goes deeper than just punching the faces of the jerks that stole your girlfriend. It's shaping up to be a wonderful story with deep meaning, and it will be interesting to see where Kiro'o Games takes the game next.

For more information on Kiro'o Games and Aurion, Legacy of the Kori-Odan, you can go to the developer's website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and YouTube.