The style mix of Metroidvania and Soulslike is a tried and true mixture. And it is smart; two kinds of sport with a deep give attention to exploration and strict issue had been sure to cross paths. Video games like Salt and Sanctuary, Blasphemous, and — in fact — Hole Knight have efficiently taken what makes the genres and mashed them right into a mini-genre of their very own (though some would argue that Darkish Souls itself is actually a Metroidvania already). Debuting builders Mantra and Sinergia Video games have thrown their very own hat into the ring within the type of Elderand, which additional reveals why this combine works, even when this specific concoction may do with being stronger.
You tackle the position of a anonymous hunter who has washed up in a mysterious land together with his crew lifeless and no bearings to work from. This place is stuffed with a litany of monsters and threats, and all through your journey, you unravel a tense plot involving a cult, a serpent society, and a village below menace. Whereas the story is so much simpler to comply with than its FromSoftware inspirations, Elderand additionally tells quite a lot of its story via using merchandise descriptions, letters discovered internationally, and environmental storytelling. Fact be informed, the story didn’t do a lot for us, with quite a lot of it being omnipresent textual content flaring onto the display screen. Nonetheless, the worldbuilding impressed us, every of the sport’s areas feels cohesive, and you’ll actually see the results of occasions previous to the sport starting.
The very first thing that stands out is the in-depth spritework. The customisable important character — and most humanoids — are admittedly a bit underwhelming, however the sport makes up for it in droves with its robust enemy design. The spotlight needs to be the Hungry Abyss; a giant disgusting venus flytrap of a creature, who unsettled us the primary time we laid eyes on it. It’s via enemies like that you may really feel the Lovecraft influences. The bosses are beautiful too, due to their dimension, the spritework actually displaying off these intimidating enemies. There’s additionally the sport’s seven areas which look very good, albeit appropriately oppressive, additional emphasising the state of the world.
The sport additionally revels in its gore; whereas some dying animations are the equal of a goofy outdated Mortal Kombat fatality, others are actual stomach-churners — for instance, the Hideous Disciplinarian, whose abdomen bursts into piles of viscera each time you defeat one. The worst of it needs to be the cult sacrifices scattered around the globe (that are optionally available, however provide you with objects in return) which use some medieval torture units. It’s not sufficient to completely put us off, however Elderand is actually not a sport for the faint of coronary heart.
Pairing with the grim environment is brutal fight. You’ve entry to completely different weapon sorts reminiscent of sword-and-shield, nice swords, bows, magic staves, and our weapon of alternative, twin blades (there’s additionally a whip, however extra on that later). The fight is punishing, and when you can degree up and enhance your well being, power, dex, and thoughts stats, you’re solely ever a couple of hits away from life or dying. That being stated, quite a lot of the preventing technique tends to be leaping behind the enemy whereas they assault and slash away, even with among the bosses. You continue to should be in your toes for the proper timing, however quite a lot of the enemy AI may be handled via this technique.
As you’d anticipate in a Metroidvania, the sport has that loop of exploration, preventing bosses, and discovering upgrades to open up new paths, though there’s solely a handful of upgrades throughout all the sport and none of them are notably fascinating. Clearly, a double bounce, grapple hook, and an air sprint are welcomed additions to any package, however these being the one actual upgrades is a bit underwhelming. A couple of further motion choices and a few combat-focused powers would have been good. The sport additionally developments on the shorter finish of the style. We achieved 100% map completion over our four-and-a-half-hour playtime.
Whereas we’ve talked about the Souls affect, the workforce behind this sport clearly adores the Castlevania collection, too. The sport feels each like a religious successor to the GBA and DS entries and a love letter to all the collection. The core gameplay is analogous, it even brings in sub-weapons just like the axe and knife, which work precisely like they do in Konami’s collection, and as we talked about there is a whip. The sport is affected by references to Castlevania’s previous (with a selected boss even mimicking Dracula’s assaults). The soundtrack additionally feels very impressed by Michiru Yamane’s work and is likely one of the sport’s robust factors.
We skilled a good few technical points in our playthrough, although. Essentially the most outstanding was random freezing, even when nothing is happening on the display screen to trigger it. This occurred now and again in handheld mode, however was far more widespread in docked mode. We additionally skilled audio points within the mine space in addition to a few crashes (each laborious and tender). We’re informed the sport might be patched once more in time for launch, so fingers crossed nearly all of these might be handled by then. You may wish to preserve a watch out for these patch notes earlier than taking part in, although.
Elderand is one other stable entry within the Metroidvania style, although it doesn’t push any new boundaries the place gameplay is worried. It does handle to face out considerably due to its robust enemy design and worldbuilding, in addition to a superb soundtrack. For a debut sport, it’s spectacular to see one thing as properly realised as this, however there’s valuable little right here you have not seen elsewhere on this crowded style. Maybe it wants a second entry to completely stay as much as its potential.