Time and time again I slayed and filleted the unknowing guards as I attempted to escape from my dirty confines in Elium: Prison Escape. The small one man indie developer – Lone Artisan Games – has put together an extremely strategic stealth combat experience. While considerably unpolished in many aspects of the game, once you battle your way through the initial trials of adapting to the control scheme, making your way through the procedural prison dungeon becomes a touch more thrilling.
After the simple and rather short tutorial which takes you through the basic movements and attacks, players may begin to embark their escape out of the medieval prison. With a four-direction attack range using a variety of different melee weapons – mostly swords and axes – players may also equip shields in their other hands. While the standard weapons are the most efficient methods of disposing enemy guards, it’s how players use the other aspects of the game to escape that’s important.
The tutorial shows players the gist of how the mechanics work in Elium. Interacting with items and doors, singing your fists or weapon, picking up objects and throwing them, or utilizing the stealth aspect are all viable techniques for safely finding a way out of the grim dungeon. Shadows are ever-so important in staying out of sight, so the brightly lit rooms that you’ll frequently pass will need to be dealt with in a shrouded manner. One easy method is finding a bag of ash to dispense on the lights, further covering the area in darkness for safe passage.
Elium: Prison Escape – Stick To The Shadows
Through the many shadows lurks patrolling guards ready to stick you the moment you’re discovered. Though busted out of prison by an unknown prisoner, you’re quickly abandoned and left alone to fend for yourself. However, as you make your escape through the procedurally generated dungeon, fellow prisoners may be found along the way and are able to help you in battle. These companions are helpful as the combat can be rather difficult, but not in terms of their AI skill sets, which are rather clunky and unresponsive. Setup as a mouse and keyboard only combat title, players not up to par with traditional PC gaming controls might want to hone their skills first.
The randomizing rooms concept is an excellent way to get to the point of what seems like an endless journey to escape prison. Upon death, players must start whichever level they died on from the beginning. The procedural process makes starting over much less painless, as players avoid trying the same path and discovering the same secrets in a repetitive pattern. While this particular form of gameplay offers better depth than most survival combat titles, there’s not much else to Elium.
Players are also able to dabble a bit in changing their equipment and other item inventory options. Though, my time with Elium revealed problems with the inventory system – more than anything else in the game. Searching through chests and downed guards provides similar inventory swapping from beloved RPG titles, *but too often did guard armor, boots or belts turn directly into a prisoner shirt, netting me around half a dozen useless shirts after only a couple of kills. While weapons and other items typically didn’t fall under this error, the cost of negating protective equipment makes staying alive more difficult; but only if you’re looking to mercilessly slash your way through the campaign.
*Edit: This bug has since been patched by the developer.
Escaping The Bugs
Elium: Prison Escape is a straightforward combat experience with a big helping of stealth. With almost no story, the first person dungeon crawler is purely for those looking to engage themselves in a tactical sword fighting title as they lurk through the shadows. Each level is filled with more procedurally generated rooms throwing constant surprises for the first few hours of gameplay, but soon after it begins to feel a bit stale and is often frustrating. Glitches will also appear and frequently cause players to start the level over in hopes of negating the problematic errors.
While the thrill of finding your escape route provides an initial exciting experience set in a gloomy medieval dungeon, Elium falls short as nothing more than a set of linear challenges. Though the randomizing levels add a certain sense of depth to the game and the combat can be a joy for tactical sword-swinging players, there’s still a fair share of bugs and tedious gameplay to work around.
Elium: Prison Escape isn’t a game-changer for the stealth action genre then, but it still manages to capture a dark and challenging experience that’s capable of entertaining at a mostly satisfying level.