Elderand has been on my watch list for over a year now, and is the latest in a clutch of metroidvanias coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2023. With a medieval setting and the promise to include RPG elements, Elderand certainly looks and sounds the part. However, one or two metroidvanias with similar promises I’ve played recently have been too bogged down in the role-playing stats and associated upgrades, making for opaque and confusing experiences. Let's see if Elderand can strike the right balance!
Elderand is set in a Lovecraftian-inspired world full of beasts and nightmarish environments. Despite being described as ‘story-driven’, I have to say that I found the story somewhat hard to follow, which is probably due to the slightly non-linear approach to traversing through the game world, meaning the frequency at which you encounter story touch-points is a bit disparate. However despite being light on the storytelling, Elderand more than makes up for it in conveying emotion through its beautiful, brooding environments.
The difficulty level in Elderand felt perfectly balanced to me; the combat is challenging and intuitive, but it never feels overly punishing. On top of this, Elderand is pretty generous with its save points and fast travel, meaning you never have to backtrack unnecessarily because the frequently occurring camp fires (which act as save points as well as fast travel points) are all conveniently placed. There’s also minimal loading times between areas and when saving, which all makes for a smooth experience as you meander your way around the interconnected world.
On the topic of the game world, not only does it look great but there’s also plenty to explore here. There are secrets and optional bosses all over the map, all of which reward you for endeavour. To 100% complete the game, it’s a solid 20+ hours which is more than we could've ever asked for.
- Lovely 16-bit environmental visuals
- Pragmatic and smooth gameplay
- Plenty of secrets and optional bosses
Probably one of the most jarring elements of Elderand was the animation of the main protagonist. He kind of runs around like the knight in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts with that slightly bouncy-cartoony gait. It fits well in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts because it’s quite an over-the-top comedic experience, but in Elderand, it just seemed completely out of place with the tone of the rest of the game and slightly lessened the foreboding nature of the world.
The difficulty curve in Elderand is also a bit off and I found the latter stages to be slightly too easy. The boss fights remained a challenge but the general getting from A to B wasn’t particularly difficult as long as you were fairly diligent in upgrading your character as you progressed. It felt as if the difficulty of the enemies didn’t really correlate with the speed in which you can upgrade, and coupled with the fact that many enemies are pretty easy to just jump over and bypass, it meant the challenge really dropped off.
Every metroidvania review needs to have its in-game map scrutinised and Elderand is no exception. To be honest, it ticks most of the boxes of what I would like to see, however one annoying quirk is that ‘points of interest’ which are marked with a red dot don’t disappear once they’ve been completed or utilised, meaning it’s quite hard to keep track of what needs your attention and what doesn’t. A few times, I got a new item and went to see if it was of use at one of the points of interest, only to realise that I had already done all that was required there some time ago. Pretty frustrating!
- Slightly silly and comical protagonist animation
- Late game difficulty curve is too easy
- Map doesn’t update with accomplishments as you go
Final Score: 8/10
Once I’d started playing Elderand, I found it to be one of those games that I couldn’t stop thinking about between playing sessions. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it has a slick presentation and smooth performance, which is enough to compel you to keep picking it up. Allied with the fact that it’s great for what it offers and this will more than whet the appetite for any metroidvania fan who is eagerly awaiting some of the bigger titles in the genre yet to come in 2023.
Thank you for checking out our Elderand Switch review, thank you to Graffiti Games for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: