Title: Eldest Souls
Developer: Fallen Flag Studio
Release Date: July 29, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: United Label
Genre: Single-Player Action
I have a hit-or-miss relationship with Souls-like games. Most seem to stick to conventional methods of high-difficulty gameplay with an emphasis on skill. Still, indie developers have taken these methods to provide a unique experience to varying results. The Fallen Flag Studio developed Eldest Souls is a title that takes heavy inspiration from the Souls series to create a thrilling boss-rush experience.
Eldest Souls has players control a solitary warrior, approaching the fabled Old Citadel, where numerous Imprisoned Gods dwell. There was once an army known as The Great Crusade tasked with ridding the world of these gods, but these soldiers are seemingly no more. With humanity in a state of chaos, the Gods perform their last act of revenge which ruins the world’s ecosystems.
The narrative of Eldest Souls is depicted through a non-intrusive lens. Aside from a cinematic here and there granting exposition, the rest of the story is found through scattered texts. Additionally, NPCs such as bards occasionally make appearances, providing their own deliveries of the world’s circumstances and their place in it.
There’s a considerable degree of lore and dialogue to dive into. Still, this is far from a selling point and is more of a supplement to the gameplay. Nevertheless, the plot is rarely in your face, and instead, there for those who require more insight into the situation at hand.
Combat is Eldest Soul’s primary factor, and it shines brilliantly. This success is due to how the title is essentially a boss-rush, including other lite mechanics. The player character controls naturally, with cohesive movement and attacks. The size of the wielded sword may depict the impression of it being indicative of a slow swing speed, but it never felt frustrating to use across the myriad of battles.
Alongside light attacks, there’s a charged attack tied to a Stamina gauge, which is irritating to deal with but unquestionably necessary. Due to how rapid combat tends to be, the absent restriction of not being able to absolutely obliterate bosses when they’re open would limit any challenge. Charged attacks are a vital component to achieving victory as they deal more damage depending on the length of the charge time, but they also provide a buff known as ‘Bloodthirst.’
This buff is a literal game-changer, with it enhancing all aspects of combat. While active, movement and attack speed are noticeably swifter, and dealt damage is exponentially greater. Hits on the enemies restore health too. The Bloodburst technique deserves mention as it delivers a sizable chunk of damage that rids the current activation of Bloodthirst. Another useful combative tool is dashing, which grants a brief period of invincibility.
It always pays off to get Bloodthirst active, but its charge time demands its usages to be planned in conjunction with dashing and proper comprehension of boss patterns. Having it active as consistently as possible is ideal, but it’s obviously not that simple.
Bloodthirst is not blindly gained since it requires understanding the fights to get the most out of it. Chances are, players will have difficulty activating it without dying a few times first. Therefore, I found it best to learn the bosses’ moves before actually trying to defeat them. Players can retry boss fights with backtracking, which removes the burden of death.
While Eldest Souls takes inspiration from Dark Souls and the like, I’d describe the experience as more akin to Furi. However, it’s not as linear as an experience thanks to lite degrees of exploration and NPC questlines for rewards.
These interactions earn helpful tools and boons to establish a firmer sense of identity for the world. However, I still found them lacking in content and questionable at points. In addition, they created an odd-mismatch with the primary boss-busting gameplay since the explorable areas are exceedingly straightforward with an illusion of meaningful map progress. More focus on these elements would have helped provide a more detailed scope of the world and its people. Or, perhaps, excluding the lite exploration would have given the boss battles even more of a deserved focus given the selling point of the title.
The battle mechanics encourage an aggressive playstyle. Avoidance is necessary and encouraged at points, but that won’t propel players far in the long run. That isn’t to say there is no variance or player agency, though. Skill trees are present with an impressive amount of choices. The Old Gods also drop Shards when killed that are infused within specified sections of the Skill Tree.
Not only is each Shard distinctive, but the slots in which Shards are infused are also individualized. This makes it so that each prospective placement for a Shard adds its own player enhancement. The freedom and choice with custom builds is nothing to scoff at and can easily become overwhelming, but for the right reasons. There is a vast sea of player individuality to pursue and find, and all it requires is patience.
Even though Eldest Souls only contains ten boss fights, the game encourages New Game +. Throughout these subsequent playthroughs, the bosses earn new mechanics and become considerably more arduous. For those who find themselves enraptured by the fair, elegant, and addictive boss design, the replay value here is worthwhile in embracing.
The art style is not especially unique in today’s gaming climate, but its simultaneously nostalgic and wondrous 16-bit nature bursts with charm and effort at the seams. The soundtrack deserves acclaim as well. It emits majesty and chaotic gravitas, befitting the solemn atmosphere and worrisome state of the world.
Eldest Souls suffers only from a limited implementation of world navigation and a not-so-standout design. Still, the combative cycle is compelling and well-implemented through its splendid boss battles, immersive mechanics, and extraordinary audio design. If you’re yearning for a title to demand precision and aggression accompanied by thought-provoking skill progression, this game is worth your time.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.