Eldest Souls is a title we told you about before because we got to try it out at the beginning of the summer before it was released, as we told you in our impressions. This “soulslike” is the work of a small but dedicated team of two, Fallen Flag Studio, and was developed over four years. When we first stepped into his dark and spooky world, we were blown away by the flexible combat system and well-designed bosses. Now, after a few months has passed, the game has made its way to Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One and we checked it again to see if our first good reviews hold up on the full experience.
The action in Eldest Souls is incredibly fast, and the only way to restore life is to approach the enemy and launch a charged attack. As you perform these attacks, the blood flow will increase until the sword turns red. Then you get life for every hit you chain. This mechanic makes the confrontations exciting, because you always have to put yourself in danger and death is never far. On the other hand, if the bar is full, you can also press the A button (on the Switch) to do a stronger slash, but this will cause the bar to empty completely and preclude any future opportunity for healing.
Another important factor in combat is lunge ability, which allows you to dodge attacks without taking damage. You can only jump a maximum of three times and each time you do this it will take a few seconds to charge. You might be tempted to keep slamming when many projectiles are thrown at you, but you need to use the ability wisely. There are some attacks that cannot be dodged without fail, and if you run out of stamina, it’s game over.
In contrast to other more traditional “soul-like” Eldest Souls focuses solely on boss fights. You will not find smaller enemies in the world. The designs of these formidable opponents are excellent, and each boss I’ve encountered has its own set of mechanics to master. For example: Eos, the god of unity, made me fight two enemies at the same time, while Hyem of the glacial desert made me very considerate of my position as the area of his glacier attack has the power to deactivate my thrusts . With most bosses having more powerful playoffs, many of them have cost me dozens of attempts to kill them, but I felt compelled to keep going because the fights are fair and almost every time I fail it has been too premature.
Although you can easily move from one boss showdown to another, you also have the opportunity to complete missions and earn collectibles that immerse yourself in the game’s story. As you move around the gloomy map of Eldest Souls, you may come across NPCs in need of your help and in return will give you essential items to aid you in your adventure. For example, one of those I received while completing a mission was the Feather of Dawn, which increases your speed by up to 20% when moving around the map (not in combat). I also like that once you’ve visited a place, you can teleport back there and take the items you left behind on the way with you.
What I have to say, however, is that there is a pretty steep difficulty curve right from the start that might surprise us and put off the most impatient players. I was able to defeat the first two bosses relatively quickly, but then the “real game” begins and the confrontations become much more demanding. I also didn’t like that there is no way to pause the game as the title isn’t being played online. I understand players are being forced to defeat a player’s boss, but having to give up progress when receiving a phone call for example is frustrating.
Back on the bright side, there are three different skill trees (Counterattack, Wind Dash, and Berserker Slash), and they all have up to 25 skills each
Defeating bosses will also give you shards that can give you power-ups and secondary effects when you place them on Charge Attacks, Blood Burst, or your Dash ability. For example, there is a shard that increases your speed by 40% when you perform one of these actions (depending on where you placed it) and another that increases your health and stamina by 4% for three seconds when your health is low below 50%. There are tons of things to experiment with between skill trees and boss shards, and it’s exciting when you discover different skill combinations that work well together.
Eldest Souls, the debut album from Fallen Flag Studio, is definitely not for wimps. This pixelated “soul-like” exclusively focuses on his intense and challenging boss fights and sometimes even gives the feeling of being a “bullet hell” shooter because there are so many things on the screen to watch out for. Nonetheless, the action is tough but fair, and I have taken command time and again after an excruciating confrontation. If video games frustrate you easily then I think Eldest Souls might not be for you, but those looking for an interesting and fun new twist on the “soul-like” formula can stop looking now.