by Stephanie Chan
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “fantasy”? Is it knights and dragons and Tolkien elves? Kiro’o Games is looking to change that — starting with Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, the first African fantasy action RPG by Cameroon’s very first game studio.
In recent years, fantasy games are increasingly exploring more varied worlds, but they are still largely inspired by European and East Asian traditions. Aurion draws instead from a pantheon of pan-African stories and myths.
“[The] African-Fantasy recipe is to take African myth and lore and to imagine it if we had 50k more years of civilizations without colonization,” says founder and CEO Madiba Guillaume Olivier.
In Aurion, you play as Enzo and Erine, the young king and queen of Zama who are exiled after a vicious coup. You embark on a pilgrimage to learn the secrets of the Aurion, a kind of energy that draws on the powers and characteristics of a person’s ancestors.
The battles are a mix of melee combat as well as magical attacks, encouraging players to unlock powerful combos using both Enzo and Erine’s abilities. Their journey is populated with colorful characters and richly realized landscapes.
Olivier’s own journey to start Central Africa’s first game studio has been a long, arduous one with all the odds stacked against him. It started in 2003, when he first discovered RPG Maker. He began teaching himself everything he needed to make a game, all from scratch.
“It’s a revelation,” Olivier writes about the experience in a dev log, “everyone can really make a game.”
But of course, things couldn’t be that easy. Among the many roadblocks were: a brutal development schedule, lack of access to typical crowdfunding resources, skeptical investors, and frequent power outages. Even after finishing a demo of the game and securing partial funding, the path was not simple: His entire team left the project only 2 weeks before the studio was to open its doors. Determined to succeed, Olivier recruited an entirely new team and re-trained all of them — and so, Kiro’o was born.
“I realized that we were responsible of an entire industry for our continent,” Olivier writes. “Much of the future of young aspiring African Game Designers was going to depends of our ability to make a good game.”
When asked about the world that he’s created in Aurion, Olivier says, “[For] the world, we focused on our own African story and the actual challenge of our generation. There is a big analogy in the Enzo/Erine Path and our own question about ‘Why our ancestors who were so great in Egypt didn’t prepared us for the real brutal world?’ and also ‘What will be our choice now? We have to choose what kind of Africa we will build, we must inspire the world to a new social/economic model event if we are so powerless.’”
Aurion has attracted a devoted fan base and there are now 2 other professional game studios in Cameroon. Hollywood has also noticed that a fresh take on fantasy is long overdue: the production studio Good Fear Film have picked up the rights to Aurion to turn it into a feature-length movie.