Genre: 2D Soulsborne boss rush
If you love Soulsborne/Soulslike games but rather just cut to the chase and fight the genre’s tough-but-fair bosses in a 2D top-down fashion, Eldest Souls is going to be your 2021 indie jam. Despite its dubious title, the quality and design of this indie slaughterfest is anything but. Everything in this 2D action game is meticulously built to test your action limits, and you are sure to break a controller or two as you fail over and over getting mauled by the game’s adversaries the first 10 times.
The story is this: there are Old Gods you need to kill in this place called the Citadel because they messed up the land you’re in. The area itself has its own story you need to explore for yourself, being a crusader wielding a giant two-handed sword, complete with lush 2D pixel art and a harrowing-yet-kinda-bright art direction.
However, it’s all kept tight and linear, to the point where all you need to worry about is killing the bosses in the area. There are some quests you can partake in to get special items that buff you, but that’s up to you if you want to uncover them. The meticulous of you lot will find a lot to uncover here.
Each boss is unique and oozes character, from a giant guard with dark tendrils to even a Deer God. They will test your mettle and unleash a few surprises your way. If you think the game’s 2D pixel art style looks inviting, a couple of fights with these Old Gods will prove otherwise. Eldest Souls is tough as all hell, with most of the bosses requiring you to die multiple deaths to get the hang of their patterns and rhythm.
While one or two of these monstrosities can be a tad cheap, each bout here strikes a fine line between fun and frustration. You’ll be itching to go at a particular boss one more time even with multiple deaths, with most of them being so close to completing the fight. Developer Fallen Flag Studio really nailed the essence of a Soulslike title without the exploration and minion-culling bits with the way the bosses fight and requiring you to pay attention and be patient.
And just like those From Software inspirations, charging in head-first and hoping for the best is not going to get you far. But when you beat them with just a pixel of your health left, you feel just damn good conquering these behemoths and feel proud that you’ve done it with skill and perseverance.
I Got Soul, But I’m Not A Soldier
To help you out, you have the aforementioned giant two-handed sword that you can charge to do a forward power slash that heals you (Bloodthirst state), a Blood Burst attack that you can unleash if you land a charged slash hit, and a dash for evasion. But the latter has a catch: you only can have up to three dashes before you’re out. Use up all three at one go, and you can’t use it until at least one dash pip on the meter is filled up.
The dash is Eldest Souls’ stamina mechanic; you cannot spam this evasive technique. Some bosses will take advantage of this restriction with multiple attacks in succession that seem quick from the get-go. You’ll have to find ways to evade without relying so much on the dash at times.
Personally, I find some fights really taxing but fun when I realize that some of the Old God’s attacks can be dodged by just moving and weaving carefully and craftily on the battlefield, just a few pixels away from an attack’s hitbox. Brilliant, really.
You also have three different skill trees to spec in to complement your playstyle. See, after killing an Old God, you get a skill point and a Shard. The former can be allocated to either the Windslide (Green), Berserk Slash (Red), and Counter (Blue) tree.
They’re pretty self-explanatory: Windslide makes you move fast and hit quick, Berserk Slash lets you hit super-hard consecutively, and Counter lets you play defensively to punish enemy attacks. After many, many deaths and attempts at luck, I just stuck with the Windslide skill tree because I like to dart around the field like Muhammad Ali. Your playstyle may vary, but Eldest Souls offers flexibility to brave the bosses. This basically makes up for the game’s lack of weaponry; the sword is all you got for this 8-hour boss rush.
Controls are spot-on too. Dodges, slashes, and movement are smooth and precise. Even with my countless cock-ups and deaths, I blame myself more than the controls. They really are close to perfect.
Have Sword, Will Travel
Eldest Souls, while derivatively named, is a ball of a time that’s catered specifically towards hardcore action game fans who want strict controls and an actual challenge. All others need not apply especially if Dark Souls, Sekiro, and all its clones out there aren’t your cups of tea.
This indie title is definitely worth the 8-plus hours, whether you want to complete it in one playthrough or you want to go for New Game Plus with beefed-up Old Gods and an Arena mode to test out your speedrunning skills.
- Challenging and thrilling boss fights.
- Restricted dash mechanic adds further challenge & strategy.
- Decent customizable fight style options.
- More to do post-game with New Game Plus & Arena Mode.
- Not for folks who hate Soulsborne games.
- Last boss can be a pain.
Final Score: 80/100