Return of Aetheria is an exciting game that incorporates aspects of alternate and augmented reality together through its story and methods of gameplay. This is presented to players through a variety of technology, from simple card games to huge touchscreen tables and all the way up to an immersive Oculus Rift experience. Players take part by solving puzzles, playing games, and seeking out clues all in the attempt to progress through the story and further their scores to win awesome prizes.
What began in 2013 as a partnership between the School of Informatics and the various gaming conventions of Indianapolis, Return of Aetheria has flourished into the Media Arts & Science game production class, giving more students a chance to experience the process of making a game. Through the MAS game production class, students from different practices such as 3D, art, audio, game design, programming, video, and social media, come together to craft an ambitious, innovative game and gain real-world experience at the same time.
In the beginning, the epic story of Return of Aetheria was brought to the world by players discovering that magic, or “aetheria” as it was once known, was sealed away long ago in an attempt to protect it from evil. Players worked together with an entity called Espir to revive magic back into our world. In 2014, Return of Aetheria: War of Realms, the second installment, transported players to the realm of Aetheria, where a war waged between two factions over the right to wield magic. This quarreling allowed for the fall of their civilization, a quarrel engineered by the same Espir that deceived players into reopening a portal to Aetheria in the first chapter. The chaos from the war allowed for Espir to open a second portal, one to a realm much more twisted and insidious than any we have ever known, to summon his dark, shadowy master. And now, 2015 will see the third and final installment of the RoA series – Return of Aetheria: Rise of Nether.
The end of Return of Aetheria: War of Realms resulted in an unfortunate outcome for those of us in the Earth Realm, but an even greater loss for our heroes in the realm of Aetheria. What began as a conflict between Roxxy and Nereida over the right for Earth to wield, or be banned from, the use of magical power resulted in a war that escalated faster than either anticipated. Espir, the one responsible for deceiving players into reopening a portal to Aetheria, worked subtly behind the scenes to push the conflict into greater proportions. The chaos of the resulting battles allowed Espir to stabilize a portal to the Great Beyond, a nightmarish realm inhabited by the shadowy being, Nether. Furthermore, Espir had manipulated both forces of the war into bringing all of the champions of Aetheria into a single battlefield. It was here that he cast a great spell of corruption on the champions, binding them all to his beck and call, save for the spirit champion, Roxxy. Now, Nereida, Sun Wujie, Ah’ Kin, and Irisi, once the elemental champions of Aetheria who fought to preserve and protect balance for all, fight alongside Espir and Nether as minions of chaos, seeking to unravel that which they once upheld.
From what we’ve learned, Nether is a being as ancient as Aetheria herself. Where Aetheria creates and provides the life force within all living beings, Nether is the antithesis of this. He is a being of pure evil, fueled by destroying and consuming life, such as the kind found plentifully in Aetheria, as well as on Earth. However, Nether has not yet passed into Aetheria, as the gateway to his realm is not yet strong enough to allow him through. But he is coming, and his arrival will result in the end of everything we have known. For now he is sealed away in Great Beyond, using Espir as his puppet in the realms he cannot yet enter. Though Nether is not yet in Aetheria, his presence can be felt throughout the land, with the lands twisting and changing, the creatures becoming more aggressive and dangerous, and the once-proud champions of Aetheria now sowing chaos in the name of their new dark master.
The once dormant volcanoes surrounding the fire capital of Zutekuli now ooze with molten rock and cast clouds of ash into the sky. The lush jungles that lead to the earth capital known as The Ring of Gaia have turned vicious, attacking travelers and devouring the unlucky ones. The golden sands of New Alexandria, the wind capital, now churn in an eternal sandstorm, suffocating the city and sealing it away from all. Twisting currents have torn the water capital of Triton’s Deep from its roots, leaving little left in its wake but roiling seas. Even the great Arcanopolis, spirit capital of Aetheria, has crashed down into the ocean, with the wreckage from the city sinking deeper every day.
The world of Aetheria lies in ruins, and if Nether continues his path of destruction, our world will surely be next. It is up to you to save the once beautiful world of Aetheria and restore peace to the land. Join the fight! Master your element! Help us defeat Espir, destroy Nether, and take back the realm of Aetheria!
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