Live 2023-08-17 -- ARIA -- Live Playthrough with R3N and Panta Rhei and Q and A
There is so much to say about this game, about the live stream and the music that was used for the game. In order to add some structure to this review, it appears to be best to separate it into three parts:
I: The game The game has been made available on itch.io and can be downloaded for free. In terms of the genre it is a rpg of sorts. It combines a variety of genres and styles, which range from turn based to real time battles, isometric perspective in terms of the actual game and references to games from the early dungeon crawling era to "modern" games like Undertale. The cover artwork plays homage to the stylistic expression of the early days of rpg games -- see the Wizardry or the Realms of Arkania series. The setting is simple, as is the game itself, which is to expected considering the time to develop it over the course of a year -- not full-time that is -- and by a sole software developer; R3N. One gets some nice settings, which change over the course of the game, has to face various types of fights and beside the end boss, also a terrifying midgame boss fight with an ... no, there will be no spoilers here.
It has a lot of charm and it is nice to see how the game and the music harmony with each other. The former was made out of inspiration from the latter. Guided by the music, the player is to experience the various tracks from the album and see how R3N and Panta Rhei have interpreted these. Of course they have left a very distinct kind of humour as well, which has manifested itself in the village and garden level, in which the discussions with the NPCs are littered with insiders and references. During the presentation of the game during the live stream, all of these were explained, but of course not written down for the purpose of this piece of writing or so. Therefore, those who happen to be familiar with the music spread by the label Pure Life and the bands/artists on it, might get this or that nod, while the rest will remain in the shadow.
All in all it is a nice game, with an interesting atmosphere and one can see the amount of dedication and energy that went into creating it. So much work in order to present the music in a different kind of way.
On a small side-note: the game was also spread as physical copies, but from what I remember, all of the copies were sold and none are available any more. Do not quote me on that, though.
II: The music Maybe the first idea that would come to mind on how the tracks used for the game could sound, especially considering that it is a rpg, might be "dungeon synth" or maybe even chiptune; in particular the former of these two has seen a rise in prominence and recognition over the last few years. CMD094's music is not of this sort. Rather, and somehow this can be expected due to the label and the kind of music that sees the light of day there, it is a wide variety of electronic sounds that have found their way on the album Aria. It should be noted that or rather it needs to be emphasized that the release comes with some additional tracks now, which increase the overall amount from nine to fifteen in total. Panta Rhei mentioned sixteen tracks, but I do not know where the last one is supposed to be.
Layers of electronic sounds guide the listener through the various landscapes and through the tracks. What makes this release interesting is not only the use of odd and engaging melodies, it is also the variety of approaches, which can be found in the tracks. It is not predictable, but good enough to maintain the interest. With influences from soundscape music with a lot of atmosphere over to music with electronic beats, it is difficult to find the smallest denominator in this regard. Some of these facets are even mixed together, which makes it even more difficult to nail it down. For instance, the splendid opener and its very particular sound, is revisited later on, but differently though still interesting.
The bottom line here is that, similar to the game itself, a lot can be discovered on this album. >Maybe this had been one of reasons it had been chosen to make a game out of.
III: The live stream Well, the Pure Life streams over at Bandcamp tend to be a little bit longer, but this one has definitely taken the cake. R3N and Panta Rhei discussed exhaustively the game and the music, while always responding to input from the "audience" submitted via the chat.
Overall, one has to admit that it was a great though rather long stream, which at times felt as if one would be flooded with too many details and information. Nevertheless, the length that this label went through to support and to spread the music is not something that is common on Bandcamp. The game, the music and the presentation need to be praised and pointed to as exceptional.