What would happen if an indie developer tried their hand at the Dark Souls formula? After all, this is a genre that has grown leaps and bounds over the years, but usually by the hand of experienced developers like From Software and Bluepoint Games. But Fallen Flag Studio has recently provided an answer of its own with Eldest Souls, a game that doesn’t look like it can keep up with the formula at first, but then delivers beautifully once you get into it.
The game takes place in the Citadel, which one used to serve as a place for gods to reside after they were defeated by humans. Somewhere along the way, they managed to get the last laugh, turning the Earth into a desolate, nearly abandoned place. As a lone warrior taking up a sword and deciding to try and turn the tide, you set out to face these gods one by one, hoping to survive while facing the near-impossible task of bringing everything back.
It sounds bleak, and as you first get into Eldest Souls, it kind of is. You’ll find right off the first boss battle that the game is definitely hard, and will send you to your grave if you’re not prepared. But with a game like this, there’s a learning process; and once you get it down, you’ll find yourself rewarded as you bring down that boss and eventually make your way to the next one.
Eldest Souls isn’t afraid to find a dark connection alongside what made the previous Souls games – and others like it – work. It wears that darkness like a badge of honor, with everything from the theme to the dialogue to the music wallowing in that place. This definitely isn’t the game to play if you want something bright and chipper. It serves as an inspired spin-off for the genre that will truly test your mettle.
Fortunately, Eldest Souls benefits from sharp gameplay. Even in an indie design, the formula works really well, between your slash attacks and the ability to earn additional strength through Bloodburst. This is where you build up energy over the course of your battles, and then unleash it in the hopes of making the boss you’re facing crumble quicker to their knees. What’s more, you can also assign new abilities to your character, along with stat boosts that make you a little more powerful, even while you remain minuscule in size. The more bosses you beat, the more you can open up your skill tree and become a true bad-ass warrior – which will be helpful after you clean house in the main game and try your luck at New Game +. Oh, yeah, it’s here.
It helps that the bosses differ as well. Although they’re fewer in count here than a typical Souls game (it is an indie effort after all), they each have different techniques and attacks you’ll need to figure out and master. And even then, you’re going to die – like, a lot. Just remember that patience is the key here, and perseverance can truly pay off after a few more attempts. This definitely isn’t a game for the patient, tell you what.
But the game also benefits from a terrific indie-style presentation. It utilizes pixel art wonderfully, both in terms of the animation and the overall world design. Again, yes, it’s very bleak, and once you accept that, you’ll appreciate the work that went into its design. It’s harrowing to look at, but that’s the point. It’s supposed to be inspired by Souls, and it’s not afraid to tell you that. Not to mention that the music and sound effects are really good too, with Sergio Ronchetti (who we actually interviewed about the game) providing a dark, moody score. You won’t get enough of it.
If you’re not a fan of Souls games, well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this, so go enjoy Garfield Kart or something. But for those who are, Eldest Souls is a real surprise, an indie game that serves just as great a purpose as the From Software games that inspired it. The gameplay is hugely in-depth and worth exploring; the stat system is excellent; the presentation can’t be beaten; and the game’s longevity is surprising, especially with the extra content after you rip through it – which will take some time in itself. Seek a challenge? The gods are waiting.