Treasures of the Aegean Review

The notion of being trapped in a time loop has been explored in a variety of media for years. From Harold Ramis’ classic Groundhog Day to the dark lands of Termina in Majora’s Mask, audiences have fallen in love with the idea of escaping the cycle. 2021 has seen the idea reach new heights with a plethora of titles using the premise in strange and innovative ways. Placing exploration at the forefront, Treasures of the Aegean aims to take you on an epic journey of discovery but will it be enough to differentiate itself in a crowded genre?

Based on reality, the game explores the history of the Minoan civilization. After a tragic and devastating volcanic eruption, the island of Thera is destroyed leaving only traces of the now-forgotten culture. The protagonist, Marie Taylor, a talented, acrobatic adventurer is in search of the buried kingdom. With the help of James Andrew, a knowledgeable treasure hunter, you discover that the historic event is caught in a time loop. You now take on the mammoth task of uncovering the secrets of the Minoans to complete an ancient prophecy to break the loop.

Goin’ Deeper Underground

Each trip through the Aegean ruins is varied due to the vast and expansive environment. You will start at random points and are let loose to discover the many secrets that live within. Inside are valuable relics for you to collect, each containing snippets of information about the lost culture, helping to build the overarching narrative. Multi-faceted puzzles adorn the caverns. These require you to find items and work out conundrums to progress further into the non-linear world. The lack of an objective is both freeing and frustrating. At times I found myself craving a little direction in order to progress in one area, however, due to the size of the world, there is always somewhere new to go and explore.

Unfortunately, the map itself isn’t the greatest. Although it populates over time, huge portions are left with you just an outline of structures when you wander through. You can place markers on key points, however, I feel that locations linked to puzzles should be automatically added to the map, which would save you from constantly switching back and forth.

Marie can effortlessly traverse the labyrinth of half-demolished structures with ease. With the ability to scale walls, slide under obstacles and zig-zag up buildings, she possesses parkour skills that rival Ezio Auditore. Whilst her movement is slick, animation issues did surface from time to time, however, these infrequent occurrences didn’t hinder the experience. 

A handful of enemies are scattered around the environment, requiring you to work out routes to avoid their sight. If identified, they will shoot you, however, their bullets travel at an unnaturally slow pace, giving you the opportunity to avoid the shot. If you get hit or fall from a long distance, you will simply dust yourself off and respawn from a location close by. This allows you to instantly jump back into the game, but it does remove away any sense of danger.

A World Worth Exploring

Areas are expertly designed, allowing you to combine techniques to pass through the barrage of barriers you will encounter. The map seamlessly flows from various themed areas making it simple to identify new and uncharted terrain. Whilst still connected, you will discover sunken ships, plane wrecks, and much more as you search for treasures in the mysterious land. 

Countering the open world are linear segments that take place before the time loop in which you are trapped. These help to develop the narrative by exploring the background of the protagonists. You will be transported to different moments in time to steal artifacts, escape a helicopter in pursuit, and much more. The sections are exciting and are beautifully designed, requiring you to use all the skills in your arsenal. Opposing the amorphous open areas, these short and structured moments ensure the game maintains a lovely pace throughout.

Capturing the Panels

Bande Dessinée fans will instantly feel at home as each aspect has been crafted with love and admiration for Franco-Belgian comics. The hand-drawn world jumps off the screen due to its unapologetically bright color palette that echoes that of its influences. The comic book aesthetic is further cemented through its excellent presentation. Cutscenes are told in panels, speech bubbles, and narration boxes, anchoring the game to the beloved medium.

Treasures of the Aegean is an intriguing and audacious game. Giving you complete freedom, you can decide how you want to tackle the enormous environment. Due to the protagonist’s free-flowing approach to traversal, you can gracefully cruise through areas to discover the plethora of secrets that are buried within. Whilst some may be deterred by that lack of a clear objective, those who crave an adventure that gives you control should definitely check out this liberating trip to a lost, ancient world.

*** A Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher ***