When Demon’s Souls came out and thrashed unsuspecting players, no one expected it to become its own genre of game. Now here we are over 10 years later and Souls-like games dominate a large part of the market. The overwhelming challenge they offer awakens a sense of determination which provides tremendous satisfaction when victory is attained. Fallen Flag Studio is aiming to awaken that same sort of instinct with its latest game Eldest Souls. As a nameless warrior, your job is to eliminate the gods of old who have become corrupted by evil and threaten to destroy the world. It’s an epic boss-rush that will test your skill and patience.
How Did We Get Here?
If there’s something that Souls-like games are notorious for, it’s ambiguous storytelling. Usually we’re given a general background and are provided additional pieces through the lore we find, the characters we talk to, and the enemies we fight.
That’s not the case here; Eldest Souls opens up with a pretty complete story. Long ago, pieces of the moon fell to Earth and transformed into gods and humans. They lived in harmony for a long while until an evil god corrupted the other gods and sought to destroy humanity. The humans imprisoned the gods, but they have since broken out and continued their destruction. With humanity on the brink, the moon shed one final piece, which transformed into a warrior representing hope. Now you must wield that hope to finish what humans couldn’t and save whatever remains.
Reasons To Be Hopeful
When all the cards are dealt and things are looking bleak, you have to look wherever you can for hope. Eldest Souls presents a very harsh scenario, but there are reasons to be hopeful. One reason is the overall feeling and appearance of the game. You find yourself in a lifeless world with any characters you encounter trying to distract themselves from the horrors of their situation. By contrast, all the bosses are distinct and energetic, which gives the impression that they have taken everything, and you want to take it back.
Then there’s the character-building mechanic. Like with other RPGs, you have access to three skill trees that focus on different gameplay styles. The catch is that you can’t multi-class, so you have the option to alternate between them based on whichever boss you’re planning to face. You also have slots for your primary abilities which you can alter based on what boss shard you put into them. It’s fun to see the effects a shard can have on dashing compared to attacking.
Last and probably most importantly is the variety of bosses. Being a boss-rush game, you move from one encounter to the next as you explore the world. Each boss has a different arena and behaviors to challenge your adaptability. They have dynamic designs and will surprise you.
Sometimes the situation is so bad with so much against you that things feel hopeless. As hard as it tries, Eldest Souls has that feeling a few times. It comes through in the boss balancing. When it comes to games like this that don’t really provide any direction, there’s no way to find the best path for you without trial and error. As you explore, suddenly you’ll find yourself in a boss fight and being thwarted within seconds while other times it’s too easy. This keeps things fresh, but it’s still an exhausting roller coaster.
Then there’s the strictness of the leveling up system. While having to commit to one class at a time creates a degree of strategy, it’s also really restrictive. There’s no effective way to test how different classes are without facing a boss which wastes time. On top of that, it’s also very tedious to move all the points from one tree to another. You only get so many and you can’t switch over until all the points have been removed. Imagine zooming down the highway only to come to a full stop every time you want to switch gears.
There are also some small things about the aesthetics which are bothersome, like UI elements that tend to stick or linger after their effects have ended. Then there’s the character model that, while cool, also looks and feels removed from the world. It’s almost like the hero is sliding around on an invisible treadmill.
Respect Your Eldest
Eldest Souls is a Souls-like RPG where you have to explore a ruined world and hunt down corrupted gods. It takes place in a haunting environment, pitting you and your character skills against a diverse cast of bosses. The game struggles with direction, stat restriction, and small technical stuff, but that shouldn’t stop players with a taste for tough combat from checking it out. Like the rest of the game’s challenges, these are troubles that can be overcome. And if Eldest Souls has any other lesson to teach, it’s that Souls-like games aren’t getting old anytime soon.
Final Score: 7
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Eldest Souls is available now on PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.