Indie Title Eldest Souls – Beware Of The Gods

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.

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Desert Child game

Racing RPG Desert Child Due Out Q3

The heat is exhausting out here, the only time you get shade is when the sun sets and then, you still want to be under an umbrella. For me, well I just get on this hoverbike over here and ride, for pleasure, for pay; it makes no difference.

Racing RPG Desert Child Game

The hot air turns cool. Of course, it can get pretty hot then let me tell ya – but when I ride, it’s like, what’s the word, Zen, you know… Free. It’s then I forget about the earth and its bullsh… ha, sorry kids, its nonsense. That’s not the life for me; the life for me is up there, Mars; and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Me and my trusty Judy here, my hoverbike.

Desert Child game
Dine on a range of interplanetary cuisine with sweet buffs to help you win

Hell, I’ll race, hunt bounties and deliver drugs; whatever it takes… Oh, you don’t like that? Listen, kid, you may snarl away to yourself as you’re reading this on your phone, tablet, but out here you do what you can for a buck. Breaking the law? Nah man, it’s survival. It’s the difference between having a meal and rummaging in the bins for scraps.

To me, I see as I’m playing some RPG, life-sim, racing game; the more points I get, the better the ranking, the bigger the taking. Man, I sometimes see the scores with my very own eyes I get that absorbed in it. Pfft, don’t look at me like that, I’ve got rent to pay and noodles to eat. I might even customize I, Judy, here.

Desert Child game
Race, shoot, and get better! Designed for replayability, with secrets that keep you coming back

I know you don’t understand but look, kid, if you want to survive out here you should do the same, earn what you can and get your ass to Mars.

You’ll see me soon kid, by Q3 you’ll understand and if you see me, you’d better shoot first kid; like I said, just think you’re on your PS4, Switch, Xbox One or PC… It makes it easier.

Desert Child game
Hunt bounties, deliver drugs, throw races – do anything you can to earn cash

Desert Child, that’s who I am. And that’s who you’ll be”.

Keatz: The Lonely Bird Review [PC] – Being Lonely Never Felt So Bad

Unforgiving and unpolished, Keatz: The Lonely Bird is a dreadful story about a flightless bird whose species has been banned from the ungrateful bird community of the fowl nation – Heavens. Feeling down in the dumps and desperate to seek vengeance on all those who toss aside anyone not up to par by their standards, Keatz embarks on a 2D platforming journey riddled with flaws and errors to the core; but if dissected carefully, shows promise of much greater future endeavors from the young indie developer – Anamik Majumdar.

After a rather heart-wrenching introduction, players take over as the flightless bird, Keatz, and begin firing away with the mysterious gun they obtained in a dream. Now flightless but deadly, Keatz is able to hop around the moderately sized platforming levels in search of a variety of different coloured gems, and that precious loot we all hunger for: money. Throughout these clunky platforming levels, players may take notice that they have no ending location. They’re simply over when the player has completed the objectives mentioned on the loading screen before the level starts.

Keatz: The Lonely Bird
Keatz: The Lonely Bird forces players to embark on a challenging 2D platformer, using a painful control scheme.

It’s easy to find the frustrations that leak through the cracks of Keatz: The Lonely Bird. The scavenger hunt to seek out all collectable items to end the level comes with its own share of miscues. Passing up important collectables only to be forced to backtrack across otherwise impossible one-way platforming obstacles is a rage-quit inducing tactic and happens frequently. The level design is unique and shows a decent amount of challenging traps and hazards, but still lacks the finishing touches to leave a positive impression.

Ouch, Those Controls Are Painful

The smooth controls in a platformer are key in creating a memorable and delightful experience for gamers. Both the keyboard and gamepad options feel clumsy, offering an unwelcome learning curve to manoeuvre around the sticky movements. When using a gamepad, the game forces players to use the left analogue stick to move left and right, but also using it to jump as well. The face buttons don’t exactly hinder the experience, but moving and hopping about the levels are often a wild beast that can be rather frustrating to tame.

Other than gems and cash to collect, there are also health packs, ammo crates and other similar useful items. Guarding many of these items are the enemy bird henchmen that fire away at Keatz on sight. Through a variety of different weapons, players will need to persevere through a relentless amount of trial and error to continue further in the campaign. There are a total of 20 levels to play through, both available in easy and hard modes. However, these difficulty settings don’t help with the obvious holes and clumsy mechanics featured in the game.

Keatz: The Lonely Bird
Across 20 different levels, players will find themselves in many different settings filled with a variety of deadly enemies and hazards.
Keatz: The Lonely Bird

There’s not much to the simple platformer in terms of story – a lonely bird cast out from an overruling government wants revenge. Yes really. The story seems to strike a chord of personal feelings from the developer as a positive message to not let someone’s unwelcome judgement anchor you down. It’s unfortunate, however, that the gameplay and mechanics themselves un-apologetically anchor the story down with glaring frustrations, issues and an overall unpolished feeling. Through all of the clunky moments and my rotten words towards the casual platformer, there’s still some dim light that shines through the ever-present cracks in Keatz: The Lonely Bird.

You can find Keatz: The Lonely Bird available for PC on Steam coming this January 2018.

Antiquia Lost Review – A familiar fantasy RPG [PS4]

Antiquia Lost shows off its deep roots from the early years of the Final Fantasy saga, but deep down the game sits quietly with a mold of its own identity. Powerful and heroic characters mixed with emotionally charming plot lines and dialogue, Antiquia Lost brings a surprise nostalgic experience to the broad circle of traditional RPG titles.

Deep Roots

Starting the game in the small town of Crysta Village, you take control of Bine – a red-haired demon hunter engaged in the beginnings of a warm and exciting adventure. With the help of his mysterious power and newly acquired friends, you’ll dive deep into the fantasy world full of intriguing towns and villages, dungeons, as well as plenty of turn-based battles along the way.

Antiquia Lost Review
Bine and his cast of powerful allies are full of interesting and eventful dialogue moments in the charming story.

Lunaria and Safira hail from the goo-like people of the Ruta tribe, Jade – an elder of the cat-like species from the Eeth tribe and the protagonist Bine is home to the Fai tribe. Each represents one of the three elements being Earth, Fire and Water. The peaceful tribe lives in harmony with one another in the vibrant world of Antiquia Lost, until important figures from all over the lands begin to disappear. Venturing to the Capital City with your trusted group of friends, you’ll begin to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances that are taking place.

The battle system is set up in a traditional turn-based RPG format, only now with a few enhancements and quirks that help keep the game original. Each character in your party is capable of common physical attacks with whatever weapon is equipped, and of course various magic spells ranging from fire attacks, healing water abilities to ancient powers and the unique Brave Arts ability. Random enemy encounters occur throughout the sprawling world map, rewarding the player with experience points, useful items and equipment and tasty gems which act as Lunaria’s special method of leveling up.

Antiquia Lost Review
Many different physical and magical abilities are crucial in defeating the monsters found throughout the world.

New or Robust?

The storyline in Antiquia Lost doesn’t offer anything new or robust coming out of the stale isometric RPG genre, but creates a wonderful cast of friends and dialogue to keep fans of cheesy narrative lines and fantasy tales playing throughout the campaign. Talking with your party members during down time in between quests will give you the opportunity to either boost your status with each individual – or lose trust – based on the response you choose in dialogue selection areas. Paying attention to each ally’s personality will give subtle hints as to which direction to take the conversations.

Traveling from town-to-town, each small village has a number of villagers, some with additional side quests to add to the playability. Traversing back through previous areas in search of a lost item, piece of equipment or even a stray sheep, more often will result in ending these side quests with a powerful demon fight to cap off your short journey. Once you’ve fully explored the current village or dungeon to your desire, the option to move along with the story remains in your trusty quest log for quick ease of use.

As your party members battle their way through waves of enemies, gaining vital experience and gems to help build the power of their abilities and other attributes, enemy encounters become increasingly more difficult, featuring various forms of every monsters. Color-coded by specific strengths and weaknesses, some monsters require unique weapons to be defeated, while others just require more persistence and strength.

Antiquia Lost Review
Boss battles require careful strategy and powerful skills to defeat the monstrous enemies.

Antiquia Lost Review

Using your attacks and defenses to your advantage is crucial, such as strategically using multiple-hit skills to strike down every enemy in specific rows and columns. These techniques prove useful against large mobs of enemies that out-number your party.

A large variety of supporting items are also present, curing status ailments, healing items and various fruits to help boost important stats in your characters. These fruits can be grown in potted soil kept in your inventory. After obtaining seeds labeled for specific skills – i.e. strength, vitality, speed, attack , defense etc. – as well as other rare items, you’ll plant them in one of the desired planting pots located in the inventory menu. After the timer ticks down, the fruits are ready to be harvested and saved for a time in need to help sway the tide of battle in your favor.

You can find Antiquia Lost available now on the PS4/Vita on the PS Store, mobile devices on the App Store and Google Play, and Steam.