Happy New Year everyone.
The gods have dealt their hand and the message is understood, they don’t want humanity to succeed any more. Such a futile and archaic notion that the gods think they can prosper without humanity. Who would be there to serve them? Who would be there to pray to them? It is man that gives them power in exchange for hope; now they give us disparity. What the god’s fail to understand is, that man together provides hope, man together provides power. Fear not gods, it will be the hands of a man that will end your tyranny.
Jack Boyles discusses Eldest Souls…
The Souls-like genre (I know, I hate the name too) has been a genre that has exploded the past few years due to the success of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. As such, we’ve seen games like ‘Salt and Sanctuary’, ‘The Surge’ and ‘Elex’ arrive with challenging yet rewarding gameplay; Souls games are slower paced, there’s more strategy and more thinking required than your typical action adventure game. Though it’s not just the gameplay that make the Souls games great, it’s the world building, lore and atmosphere; some of the examples above have these elements within their games yet they never feel a cohesive whole.
Eldest Souls is an independent game made by Italian Studio ‘Fallen Flag’. Pitched as a Pixel-art Souls-like RPG, as you can tell from the title, it proudly wears its influence on its sleeve.
Humanity has been thriving with kingdoms blossoming on the once forsaken temples which imprison the old god. In retaliation, the old gods have unleashed a great desolation on the world as crops turn to barren wastelands. It’s your job as a lone warrior to slay the old gods ending the great desolation.
Firstly, the pixel art is nothing but outstanding. It manages to evoke so much atmosphere and it really captures the true art of using pixels. Little details of vines hanging from a tree, swords sticking into the ground from fallen warriors all elicit this sense of deprivation using limited visual fidelity.
Then you have the enemy designs, these giant creatures visually show their experience of battle, standing there panting and looking haggard. Everything looks aged and windswept as you travel through the forsaken land. It’s an impressive feat to achieve that sense of foreboding using pixel art, yet it’s that restriction in quality that enhances the atmosphere.
To my surprise the sound design didn’t follow suit with the retro aesthetic, instead, choosing to go with more grounded and realistic sounds. However, it works and works very well. If anything, it supplements the art direction and atmosphere using realistic sounds to strength the sense of danger. It reminds you this world matters and doesn’t care about you.
Sounds are an indicator to the player, as certain roars of enemies let the player know what attack is coming; here that is more important as enemies can’t really indicate attacks by animation as clearly. Furthermore, we have the soundtrack, like Dark Souls, it is very silent allowing the ambience to lure you into this world but when the time comes erupts to heighten your senses; it keeps you alert and to add gravitas to boss battles.
There is no need to worry though, Eldest Souls is a satisfying game to play. Never did I once feel like the character was doing something I didn’t want him to do nor was there any latency. He dashed when I wanted him to dash and he swung his sword when I wanted him to, which is precisely what you want with an game such as Eldest Souls; you would forget the demo I played is still in Alpha.
The introduction of Eldest Souls is surprisingly slow. You wander through the land looking at what has failed before you. Along the way, there are hazards like a strong wind gushing parts of a rickety bridge apart and a spike trap you must avoid. Though these are minor, it does create a small amount of tension and lets the player know that they shouldn’t get comfortable. But most of all it really establishes the sense of isolation; a long hollow walk into an unknown land.
It’s here the game acts as a tutorial, setting up various situations to get to know the controls like smashing down a wooden wall or dashing through the spike traps. Stamina works slightly different to other Souls games, as you have three little bars. A dash will use one bar, upon using all three bars you’ll only be able to dash once a bar is fully filled.
Arriving at the boss you quickly grasp that the combat is more offensive like Bloodborne. As a first boss, I’ll admit it I got slapped about a few times. Unlike those games where you can use what stamina you have as soon as it builds, Eldest Souls lets you wait until the bar fills, meaning any wrong movement has a detrimental effect on you. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to spend with the game, albeit what I played I enjoyed.
Eldest Souls captures the spirit of its obvious inspiration. It may not do much to change the formula but what it does offer is a refined gaming experience. With From Software leaving the Souls brand, as well as the stamina bar in Sekiro; this may be the right game for that core Souls audience.
As polished as Eldest Souls is already, my only concern for the game is the amount of Souls-Borne games we’ve seen; will this game stand up to the already saturated market?
Only time will tell.