The talented and brilliant Solo-Dev ACE introduces the mind-blowing AIKODE, an immersive and mesmerizing NieR-vibes Action RPG Hack and Slash with a psychological and cryptic narrative, coming soon for PC and Next-Gen Consoles.
At times, it can happen to be struck or even rendered speechless at the sight of something truly special. That was precisely the case when we first came across AIKODE, or if you prefer, AI-KODE, the upcoming Action RPG Hack and Slash developed and masterfully directed by the Spanish solo-dev ACE.
This is a project that has been on our radar for quite some time, and we are eager to share more than just surface-level details. We aim to delve deeper and unveil additional insights, even though the sheer scope of the content behind the project would warrant more than a single piece.
But, as is our tradition, let’s proceed step by step. Before immersing ourselves in the project, let’s get to know the brilliant and young individual behind the development of this ambitious and captivating title.
ACE: An Artist and Developer Destined for Great Things
Tracing a clear profile of ACE is not an easy task, mainly because the developer doesn’t like to reveal too much about himself and prefers to remain somewhat mysterious. In other words, he prefers to let his project speak for itself rather than being in the spotlight. Despite this, we will try to provide as many details as possible about such a talented developer, including some insights into his background.
ACE is a talented, brilliant, and young Spanish artist and game developer of 22 years old. He began his first experiences in the world of video game development at the age of 13, experimenting with RPG Maker and Unity for the first time, but as he puts it, he “never did anything awesome.” It’s only a few years later that his artistic career takes off, during which ACE hones important skills in the field of 3D/VFX, including animation and modeling, working as a programmer, artist, and 3D generalist.
In recent times, ACE has developed significant skills and expertise, particularly as a game developer, culminating in the development of AIKODE, his debut video game as a solo-dev. Constantly striving to balance his personal life, university, and game development, it is here that we can see the two arts of the developer come together and bring to life what ACE had envisioned, an extremely large, important, and ambitious project inspired by Yoko Taro’s NieR.
We can only speak positively about ACE’s young career, ambition, qualities, and talent, all at his very young age. We do not yet know where the developer intends to take us with AIKODE, but all the good signs are there.
Moreover, it is no coincidence that Yoko Taro himself is following the project with interest, and it was from one of his retweets that considerable interest in AIKODE arose in the Japanese gaming scene.
What is AIKODE?
Before delving deep into ACE’s project and its various intricacies, let’s start by providing you with a couple of preliminary insights to give you a better understanding of what it’s all about and, above all, what we will discuss later.
AIKODE is an immersive semi-open world Action RPG Hack and Slash video game with life-sim elements, set in a cyberpunk/steampunk dystopian universe. As we’ve previously mentioned, this project will mark the Spanish solo-dev’s debut in the gaming industry.
It’s important to highlight that the game doesn’t revolve around a single storyline; rather, it encompasses a multitude of narratives intricately woven together by a strong temporal bond and an emblematic relationship with the past. The game’s central feature is its cryptic nature, a theme we will consistently explore in AIKODE, showcasing various aspects and dynamics of the title, with a primary focus on the narrative.
The Genesis of AIKODE
Much like many creative projects, AIKODE also has a long and complex story to tell, marked by challenges that have molded its evolution and growth.
As ACE underlines, the game’s development began a little over 2 years ago, rooted in the initial concept envisioned by the developer – a massive project inspired by Yoko Taro’s NieR. However, in the following year, ACE, dissatisfied with the direction the project was taking, decided to rethink and re-start AIKODE on his own using Unreal Engine 5. This choice prompted significant changes to the pivotal elements ACE had previously crafted, including the project’s title, character designs, and even the span of the main storyline (initially set for 8 hours).
All of this injected new vitality into the project, giving rise to what we now know as AIKODE: a project that is indeed heavily inspired by NieR, while retaining its own soul, featuring a clean and recognizable art design and exquisitely hand-drawn animations. ACE, working as the solo-dev and 3D generalist, led the project, alongside composer Kevin Simon and secondary content writer Tom, who oversaw specific supplementary aspects like quests and in-game relationships.
From these foundations, we will try to unravel and decode AIKODE’s cryptic lore, potentially the most intriguing and mysterious aspect of ACE’s title, on which the developer is working nearly entirely behind the scenes.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana: The Life of Reason, 1905.
Beginning with this timeless quote, we delve into the narrative—a story entrenched in the past, shaped by its relationship and ramifications, and intertwined with all the ensuing consequences. As we are aware, the past remains immutable and unalterable; yet, within the AIKODE universe, there might be a solution.
The lore is shrouded behind a cryptic and almost indecipherable veil of complexity and mystery. For this reason, we will only discuss what ACE has unveiled to us thus far about it.
“Seven days ago, you were born into a world that appears irrevocably fragmented, and doomed to repeat itself in an endless cycle of death. Yet, there may be a way to break free from this grim fate – a child, a puppet, a contract.”
The world referred to by ACE is known as Somnium, the realm where Aiko (the main protagonist of AIKODE), a Kyao created by “The Order”, comes across a puppet that will lead her to the worst of futures – her own past.
As you may have deduced, the game’s world is irrevocably fragmented, mirroring the very memories of the characters we will encounter. The boundary between humans and machines is fading, approaching the verge of near-complete rupture. The plot weaves together multiple storylines and timelines, embracing a deeply introspective and psychological approach to storytelling.
According to ACE’s statements, the main quest is expected to span between 24 and 30 hours of gameplay, though, naturally, its duration will depend on the player’s balance among the main quest, world exploration, and additional quests. In the latter case, of course, the duration of our experience with AIKODE will be significantly extended.
Now that we’ve given an initial glimpse into AIKODE’s lore, let’s also take a brief look at some of the intriguing personalities that will compose the expansive cast of characters ACE is working on.
According to the developer’s revelations, the game will feature 7 playable characters, each distinguished by their diversities, backstories, personalities, and their connection to an apparently unchanging story. So different, yet bound by a common thread. This connection ties them to something much greater from their past, something that can be rewritten to alter the destiny of the present and the future.
On the game’s official website, ACE has unveiled the first 8 characters featured in the game, including some of the main characters and playable ones. So, without further ado, let’s take a brief glimpse into who they are and their backgrounds.
- Aiko: She is a kid who was rescued thanks to the “baby post” system at Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto. Aiko was abandoned in 2007 when she was only six years old. In addition to suffering from cancer in her right eye, she had albinism, which gave her the characteristic white color of her hair and the intense red of her eyes. After the events at Jikei Hospital, Aiko decided to move to Shibuya at the age of 18 and began using the pseudonym “ACE”. She also started wearing a blue prosthetic eye with the name “SAYA” written on the iris. At the age of 35, Aiko, now a scientist residing in Shibuya, decided to conduct an extensive investigation on the Kyao. However, despite her efforts, she was unable to complete her research. That is, until she was recruited by the Order as a Kyao herself: created for the purpose of protecting humanity, like many other before her.
- Nia: An energetic and curious young girl, always brimming with vitality. Her impressive talent lies in working with the machinery of Sector F, and she never leaves without her trusty bag of tools. As one of the “chosen ones”, Nia dreams of exploring the sectors outside the walls that surround Sector F alongside her best friend Emma. Nia is one of the playable characters in AIKODE, as indicated by the in-game footage showcased by ACE.
- Emma: She has been Nia’s best friend since they were very young, and their friendship is so close that they seem like sisters. She is a kind young girl who always tries to do her best, even though she can be clumsy at times. Sadly, Emma’s parents passed away when she was just three years old, and she was raised in an orphanage located in Sector F. Throughout her life, Emma has looked up to Nia and trusted her friend to provide protection due to her delicate physical condition.
- The Puppet: Its age is unidentified, much like its enigmatic purpose within AIKODE. Nameless and seemingly soulless, with puppet-like appearances. Yet, as they say, appearances can be deceiving. The Puppet will play a pivotal role in the overarching lore of the game, a fact underscored by its innate familiarity the world of Somnium in the trailers and the hints dropped by ACE regarding its importance in the pursuit of truth and its link to the past.
- Joshua: He was born on a winter day in Shibuya when the entire city was covered in snow. From a very young age, he had a great admiration for his mother, who always provided him with protection and security. Just after reaching 17 years, Joshua, despite his introverted nature, was always willing to lend a helping hand. However, when he turned 18, everything changed as he witnessed the collapse of the world around him. The cruelty and injustice of life overwhelmed him, and he found solace in studying Kyao, becoming his sole motivation and life’s purpose. Putting disillusionments behind him and maturing, Joshua, now also known as “The Savior,” emerged as a prominent figure, a remarkably powerful individual, and ultimately the founder of the Order. Even though much of his background has been unveiled, in AIKODE, nobody knows for sure his age or his past, which adds to the atmosphere of mystery surrounding him.
- Ahiko: Despite the success she has achieved as the most recognized “idol” in the sector N.E.D.E, Ahiko considers herself a “No name” and doesn’t understand her purpose in life. Her dark past seems to be linked to the Order, which she considers a cult that ruins lives and deceives people. This way of thinking and her past have led her to make complicated decisions in her life. In her “second life”, transitioning from being human to becoming a Kyao, Ahiko emerges as one of the most formidable and fearsome Kyao ever conceived by the Order. Proficient, nimble, and as cold as an assassin, we witness her engage in combat in the dedicated CG Teaser against Aiko (could she be her nemesis?). Ahiko is yet another playable character unveiled thus far by ACE, alongside the already known Nia and Aiko.
- Izagi: He is one of the most enigmatic and inscrutable characters ACE has unveiled. His background remains a mystery, as well as and even his age and other personal details. Is he human or a Kyao? Who can truly tell? The only things we know about him are that he is a highly reserved yet ambitious individual, likely one of the most prominent and influential figures in Shibuya.
- Saya: “Humans complain to God that evil exists, when all God did was give freedom to humans.” Who is Saya, really? This young girl, whom we’ll get to know in both her childhood and teenage years in AIKODE, seems to be closely tied to Aiko’s storyline. Despite ACE currently concealing her background and personal details, tantalizing clues surface in the trailers, that shed light on her true purpose. What if she were the key to rewriting the past? What if she holds the solution to breaking the cycle?
Worlds and Exploration
In AIKODE, exploration naturally assumes a central role and emerges as one of the most captivating and immersive features within ACE’s title. It spans three prominent macro areas: the world of Somnium, Synthetica, and Saya’s Mind, each encompassing a mosaic of locations, districts, and cities that will shape the core of our experience in the game.
Let’s delve into the specifics of these areas:
- Somnium: This world is the dream of the rotting corpse of a child who is still alive, an opaque and closed box, a macabre metaphor where the last breath of a cat is called “poison”.
- Synthetica: A new world, the last great metropolis and humanity’s salvation. Ruled by “The Order”, this world brims with technology and is composed of several sectors.
- Sector F: It is a unique and fascinating place that stands out from the rest of Synthetica, where nature and technology coexist. At its center, there is a large tree known as “Yggdrasil”, surrounded by a bustling city that operates using gears and steam-powered machinery. Despite the contrast with the other sectors of Synthetica, Sector F emanates a sense of peace and tranquility. It is believed that only a few individuals are chosen by a higher power. These individuals are marked with “The marks of God”, distinctive marks on their skin that signify their status as the chosen ones. Interestingly, only they are allowed to venture beyond the walls and the dome of Sector F, tasked with fulfilling their mission.
- N.E.D.E (Sector N): The Sector N.E.D.E is a bustling metropolis that reflects the frenetic energy of Synthetica. Flying vehicles move quickly through the air, while the streets are filled with constant movement of people. The urban landscape is dominated by towering skyscrapers, whose facades are covered with holographic ads that that flash and flicker incessantly. A sector that seems to extend infinitely vertically, an expanding urban jungle that never sleeps. At the heart of this sector stands a monumental building known as “The Order”. This imposing structure towers over the urban landscape, its elegant and grandiose shape a testament to the power and influence of those who reside within. As the center of the sector N.E.D.E. , it serves as the hub of commerce, industry, and politics.
- Shibuya: Official reports indicate that Synthetica was built using Shibuya, a district in Tokyo, Japan, as its blueprint. In 2018, Shibuya was a bustling metropolis, its streets and buildings flooded with bright colors from the advertising screens promoting a wide variety of products and stores. Through a remarkable engineering achievement, the essence of Shibuya was captured and transplanted into a new realm, giving rise to Synthetica.
- Seiryukai Jikei Hospital: Located in Kumamoto, Japan, it was a hospital that in 2007 introduced a measure known as the “Baby Post”, which allowed mothers to abandon their children anonymously and legally. Although it was met with criticism. This system proved to be a lifesaver for many children who would have otherwise been abandoned in unsafe or life-threatening conditions.
- Saya’s Mind: Saya’s mind takes on a physical form, becoming an abstract space where the mysteries of the world of Somnium can be unraveled.
- Sacred Ruins: The entrance to Saya’s mind is an ethereal realm where the laws of physics and gravity seem to have no influence. The ground is a crystalline mirror that reflects a world of ivory buildings that stretch endlessly in every direction, blurring the lines between up and down, sky and earth, reality and illusion.
- Schrödinger Town: In Saya’s mind, everything ends with a mysterious city, situated in the middle of an empty ocean. Its peculiar inhabitants are none other than children dressed in immaculate white clothes and with red flowers instead of faces. Interestingly, the streets of this city are filled with cats that wander freely. As the inhabitants walk beneath the shadows of the city, their skin seems to become translucent, revealing the contours of their bones.
Players will be able to explore the game world on foot, riding their own motorcycle, or by flying with their own wings, depending on their preferences. This will make the experience highly adaptable for everyone, granting the freedom to approach this aspect as they wish.
What truly stands out is the realization of cities in various styles, ranging from the magnetic neon style of certain cyberpunk and steampunk-themed towns to an impressively faithful replica of a Tokyo district. It’s in this aspect that ACE truly shines and perhaps showcases its finest qualities in the artistic and creative field.
AIKODE is Freedom
As you might have deduced, one of the most prominent attributes of AIKODE is what we could describe as the concept of “freedom,” encompassing a multitude of interpretations.
The title’s semi-open-world system grants everyone the autonomy to choose what to do and when. The first aspect is the freedom of exploration which, as we’ve already disclosed, allows you to move wherever and whenever you wish, at your preferred pace.
Among AIKODE’s key features, the extensive customization freedom is certainly noteworthy. This feature allows you to personalize your character without limits. You’ll have an extensive array of hairstyles and clothes, with over 200 options available.
Moreover, AIKODE also embraces an interesting life simulation component that lets you take a break from battles and spend your leisure time engaging in activities you enjoy. Decorate your home, go fishing, visit arcades and karaoke bars, or cultivate relationships with your colleagues and friends. The choice is yours, but remember that how you spend your time may have an impact on the game’s story and your in-game relationships.
The combat is highly engaging and fast-paced, reminiscent of Devil May Cry’s combat style, if we were to find a source from which ACE might have drawn inspiration. Even in combat, AIKODE grants players the freedom they desire, primarily influenced by distinct playstyles, movesets, and combat designs of our various characters, as well as players’ ability to customize their combat experiences. In battle, you’ll wield an intriguingly versatile weapon that can seamlessly switch between three modes: gun, sword, and scythe. In this case too, consider yourself completely free to choose the combat style that suits you best. Select it, test it out, and challenge yourself.
Additionally, there are another two intriguing features deserving of special mention:
- Scanning Ability
- The Butterfly Rail System
The scanning, according to ACE, will be a feature inspired from the scanning system in Watch Dogs, and will allow us to scan the surrounding environment and gather information about the NPCs scattered across the map.
A more complex discussion should be held for the Butterfly Rail System, a unique feature that is still largely shrouded in mystery, delving into the concept of “identity.” This theme is quite usual in AIKODE, much like the recurring motif of the butterfly.
Here’s what ACE tells us about it: “What exactly is an identity? Well, to put it in simple terms, you could think of it as a dataset containing unique characteristics that define an individual. It’s almost like data in that sense. Does that make sense to you? it should…. it should…. make sense…Oops, my bad! I bet you were expecting me to spill the beans on another game characteristic. No need to fret, though! You can keep on reading without any interruptions.”
Will AIKODE be the spiritual successor of NieR?
Well, also today we’re almost at the closing credits. But before that, allow us to share some of our sincere opinions about AIKODE.
Honestly, there are so many things that we’ve absolutely enjoyed about ACE’s project so far, starting with the exceptional character design of some individuals (particularly Ahiko) and the facial animations and modeling. Considering that the developer comes from a relatively short and young background in video game development, what they’re showcasing in terms of artistry and creativity is undoubtedly commendable.
Of course, there’s still much to assess. We need to delve into the complexity and density of the semi-open-world system, take a closer look at the environment design, explore the diversity of the combat system, and not to forget the numerous features that ACE is revealing gradually.
Undoubtedly, the lore is the most captivating and mysterious aspect of AIKODE, just like its compelling atmosphere and the concept that the developer has brought to life.
Regarding inspirations, we’ve identified several, each influencing a designated component by ACE. To name a few, the narrative design and atmosphere undeniably bear the mark of Yoko Taro’s works. The keen-eyed might even sense hints of Drakengard vibes here and there, particularly in the art design. The combat isn’t confined to a single genre; it’s more of a hybrid in our opinion, drawing definite inspiration from Devil May Cry.
In conclusion, our initial impressions of AIKODE are certainly positive, showing promising prospects for the future. What remains is to see how ACE will refine the various components of the title in the coming months and what awaits us in the final product.
So, can we say that AIKODE is the spiritual successor of NieR? It could be in a certain sense, but ultimately, we believe it’s not for us to answer that question. It’s up to the developer. So, we’ll pass the baton to ACE.