Elden: Path of the Forgotten is an 8-bit tough-as-nails RPG with a jaw-dropping diverse aesthetic and a wealth of spunky enemy designs ripe for hacking and slashing. Barring a handful of quirks, it’s a standout indie experience with plenty on offer.
This one-man team-made charming retro title with a rich somber ambiance has engaging gameplay reminiscent of fellow indie gems Raindancer and Salt & Sanctuary. The premise is simple, with an emphasis on parrying and dodging, keeping yourself high on health whilst taking on hordes of charmingly-designed foes by not getting hit. Yet, whilst it stands as a polished experience with engaging combat right out the gate, it steps back a few paces with its clunky stamina system.
Movement is abhorrently slow which means that when you’re moving from A to B, covering empty land with no ghouls to cut down, things get a tad bland. You end up smashing the roll button to speed things along and it works but when you’re thrown into the heat of a fight, with your sluggish stamina regeneration atop of dodging and swinging taking up too much of your sweet green nectar, you soon regret wasting rolls to get on with the adventure.
A happy medium would be to lower the roll cost and remove weapon’s stamina use altogether, as many games opt to simply punish you for hardier attacks that require more gusto and strength. As it sits, Elden‘s combat suffers as it often ends up being a case of standing at the behest of a group with little room to duck and dive. Yet, when you’re knee-deep in a battle, it’s engaging all the same with hearty sound-effects and a satisfying UI, only dragged down by the clunky animations and stamina system.
Since the duels make up the major portion of the gameplay, that’s somewhat souring and will likely be off-putting to those who decide to venture into Elden, but apart from that, the semi-open world is a treat, with plenty of paths and room for backtracking, making you appreciate the landscape you’re traversing and its intricate design.
At first, the journey feels somewhat aimless as you awaken with little direction and no guidance – even Dark Souls tells you how to play with its nifty Asylum tutorial, but Elden throws you right at the enemies and says good luck, occasionally offering a button prompt in the less than necessary times.
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Figuring out what in your inventory is actually a healing item, how to use it, and how to cycle your hot-bar is unbelievably arduous to put it lightly. This can make the learning curve a little unfairly steep, but once you figure out how to fluidly utilize your gamepad to take part in the world, it quickly becomes second nature, and given experience with prior games in the genre, it’s fairly intuitive. Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that the beginning will be alienating to many.
Story / Personality
With a more than overused narrative of finding a lost loved one, in this case, Elden’s mother, it would be safe to assume that the story borders on cliche, generic, and uninspired. However, on the contrary, it revels in its mysterious aesthetic and more subtle narrative, nailing the Lovecraftian vibes that it basks itself in. Barring the aforementioned rocky and aimless beginnings, this more nuanced take on expressing the story works wonders, as it only engrosses you in Elden’s world of beautiful sceneries.
Graphics / Art Direction
Clunky gameplay can be saved by a plethora of features so long as it has its redeemable qualities and doesn’t border on unpolished, nightmarish, and regressive like with the unfathomably grotesque Resident Evil 6. Luckily for us, Elden fits the bill, as its combat, whilst flawed, is still refined and responsive. Whilst movement is slow, the landscapes you wander through are gorgeous, with surreal 8-bit designs and a vibrant color palette that only emboldens the atmosphere. Sprites are no different, with personality-rich friends and foes and an instantly memorable protagonist.
Music / Sound Design
The clashing of metal against flesh, the swooshing of magic, the rumbling of the earth being manipulated and the scenic breeze behind the spectacular environments are all up to scratch: the height of the bar is set right from the beginning of your adventure with the forest’s ambient sounds immersing you in Elden’s world in a way that many indie RPGs struggle to.
Final Score: 75%
By no means is Elden a perfect game, but being that it comes from one lone wolf in Australia, working their socks off to bring us this heartwarming adventure, it’s impressive all the same. A few tweaks and alterations wouldn’t go amiss, but at the core, Elden is an experience that should not go untouched and is definitely a title that should leave a blip on your radar.
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