If you're looking for a relaxing laid-back gaming experience to coast you through the weekend, then Eldest Souls is not the game for you. This pixelated world is designed to entice players with its beauty before punishing them with challenging battles. The two-person dev team from Fallen Flag Studios has built a game meant to challenge players to the brink of outrage. Eldest Souls is a top-down boss-rush title that gets right to the heart of what makes souls-likes so addicting: boss battles.
Boss After Boss After Boss
Being a souls-like, Eldest Souls is intentionally very difficult at first. It won't be until players have put in a couple of hours that they start to understand the importance of every aspect of the game's combat system. However, there aren't any smaller enemies for players to bully to brush up their skills. Eldest Souls consists of 10 brutal but fair boss fights that require players to think on their feet. You're never going to be able to brute force or "cheese" your way through a fight. You will have to study and memorize their attack patterns while patiently waiting for the moment to strike.
Each boss is beautifully designed while also being downright terrifying. While you may want to stand still for a moment to bask in their glory, standing around isn't an option while on the battlefield. These battles can be frustrating, but defeating one of the Old Gods is a very rewarding feeling. But with their only being 10 bosses and each fight taking a couple of minutes, the adventure felt over before it really got started. It also doesn't help that the combat system seemingly makes fights easier as you progress. The second and third bosses felt much stronger and more difficult to overcome than the latter half of the game.
Beautiful World We Know Little About
In keeping with souls-like tradition, players likely won't know what they are doing and why. There's no magic fairy to lead players the right way or narrator to tell you why you're fighting a dog wearing armor. Some people enjoy this fragmented style of storytelling, but others may find it convoluted. It's up to the player to hunt down bits of parchment or talk to pretentious NPCs to piece the story together. The story itself is not that interesting, but the gameplay and world it's set in are fantastic.
Eldest Souls is a piece of living pixel artwork that allows players to explore a beautifully crafted world. You still won't know why an entire town has frozen over, but the lack of history inspires wonder. The attention to detail in each pixel exudes life in a canonically lifeless Citadel. There are also a few NPCs dotted around the map, but most seem to ignore the peril of their situations. Or maybe they've come to accept their fate? Regardless, they feel at home in this desolate place and add to the overall mystery surrounding Eldest Souls.
Fight How You Want, Sort of
While obviously inspired by Dark Souls titles, the freedom to choose your own fighting style is very limited. Players are restricted to the same greatsword throughout the entire playthrough, but they can customize their fighting style. There are three fighting styles (Windslide, Berserk Slash, Counter) that players can swap between at any point in time. Each one has its own skill tree that unlocks new abilities or buffs old ones. Players can also use stones they receive after defeating a boss to further customize their fighting style. There is a lot of reading and strategic planning involved in building the perfect character for each boss, but the changes in fighting styles do make a considerable difference.
Combat boils down to charging up an attack, getting as many hits in as possible, dodging the boss's attack, and repeat. However, different abilities can make some fights much easier to win. What works for the God of Unity likely won't work on Drakmur the Nightmare. You have to mix and match your abilities to find what works best. This trial and error mixed with learning attack patterns make Eldest Souls' combat fun, challenging, and addictive. You may lose to a boss 12 times in a row, but winning that 13th battle is exhilarating.
Eldest Souls | Final Thoughts
Eldest Souls is yet another top-down souls-like that many people could shrug off due to the oversaturation of the genre. But even in a sea of brutal boss-rush titles, this game is worth experiencing. It's a beautiful, challenging, and rewarding game, and I only wish that it were longer. If you're looking for a bite-sized souls-like and couldn't care less about the story, Eldest Souls may be the game for you.
TechRaptor reviewed Eldest Souls on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
- Beautiful Pixel Artwork
- Challenging but Fair
- Rewarding Boss Fights
- Less Than 6 Hours Long
- Fragmented Storytelling
- Limited Combat Customization