Stop me if you’ve heard this one: you’re an adventurer who travels to a land cursed by evil. Though it may seem like an action adventure title, you do wield a giant sword, after all, the combat is far more deliberate than you might be accustomed to. Bosses, of which are the only creatures that inhabit this land, hit hard and can really decimate the hero if the player isn’t measured in their approach. Yes, Eldest Souls does draw immediate parallels to Dark Souls but the team at Fallen Flag Studios is making an appeal to a particular niche of gamer that doesn’t mind this particular brand of brutal gameplay.
Eldest Souls merely borrows the core concept of the Souls series—the rest is unique to the game. After the once imprisoned Old Ones break free from their banishment, they unleash devastation on the land that turns crops to ash and rivers into dust. As the lone hero in a dying land, your job is to hunt down and destroy the Old Gods one by one if humanity hopes to recover. Normally, such a quest means visiting various locations and defeating respawning enemies along the way via trial and error. Eldest Souls departs from that formula and plays more like a boss rush. There are no enemies in the lead up to each of the Old Gods, allowing you to explore the realm at your leisure and maybe pick up a few story clues that shed light on the world around you.
I only had about twenty minutes with the game but that was more than enough time to understand how Eldest Souls’ bosses are designed to be tough nuts to crack. The first was a wolf-like monster armed with a series of attacks connected by tells, which is the only real substantial advantage the player has. Your light attacks don’t do much damage but are the safest option, as you can get in, slice and dice and roll out of the way before the boss gets a hit in. A charged attack does damage at the extent of leaving yourself unguarded for the time it takes to build up power.
Twenty minutes really isn’t enough time for a genre that’s all about studying bosses and their attack patterns but it certainly set the stage for what to expect when it is released later in 2019.
Where do you go after working with a studio responsible for several of the PlayStation’s more notable releases? Well, wherever you want! That’s what Tom Jones and Alex-Kanaris-Sotiriou did, leaving their roles as Art Directors for Guerilla Games to form Polygon Treehouse, an indie studio that gives them the freedom to pursue their personal projects. Their first is Röki, an adventure game inspired by Scandinavian folklore. In their specific words, the game is “a dark contemporary fairy tale, underpinned by a deep narrative, satisfying puzzles and daring exploration.”
You play as Tove, a bookworm of an older sister who is forced out into the world after her younger brother Lars goes missing. The demo I played saw Tove finding herself in an enchanted forest of sorts, marked by the appearance of a tree with many eyes. Along the way, I led her to an interaction with a large bridge troll that needed my help removing a dagger from its rock-like skin and scavenged items in an old abandoned hut to hopefully find my way into a graveyard near a stave church. Identifiable by its beautiful art direction and gameplay reminiscent of point and click adventures, Röki may be poised for adoration by fans of this genre. The game is being designed to be accessible to those unfamiliar or inexperienced with adventure games as it includes a soft hint system that highlights points of interest. The hint system stays largely out of the way, stopping well short of telling the player what to do and instead gives them a little nudge in the right direction.
Like Eldest Souls, a game like Röki is hard to grasp in the short time I was allowed. Still, as someone who enjoys folklore and adventure games, this seems right down my alley.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.