Eldest Souls Review: A Brutal Boss Rush Masterpiece

by David Sanchez August 24, 2021 @ 12:30 pm

Eldest Souls The Watchdog.

Reviewed on Xbox One

You have to admire a game that doesn’t waste time getting to the point. Eldest Souls from Fallen Flag Studio is all about intense, challenging boss fights. There’s little in the way of exploration, and the optional side quests are super minimal. The focus is on the boss battles. Well, the boss battles and challenging the heck out of the player. While we’ve certainly seen this formula before, Eldest Souls is absolutely worthwhile thanks to its incredible combat mechanics and awesome presentation.

The Wrath of the Old Gods

Eldest Souls graphics screenshot.

You play as a lone warrior set out to defeat the Old Gods, who’ve plagued the land with death and desolation. The story is fairly light, but visually, the game is able to create a wonderful blend of fantasy and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Eldest Souls is super moody and gives off this incredibly hopeless aura. As such, you get the feeling that the player character has nothing left to lose as you take on the game’s gargantuan deities.

A Soulslike Boss Rush Adventure

Though it has some action-adventure and RPG elements, Eldest Souls is primarily a boss rush experience akin to Titan Souls and Furi. You’ll face off against 10 bosses throughout the course of the game. These battles are highly challenging and require you to stay alert at all times and learn the gods’ attacks.

Eldest Souls The Guardian.

Eldest Souls shares similarities with the Souls series and Soulslikes such as Mortal Shell due to its methodically paced combat. Enemies are tough, and they’re designed to kill you with unrelenting fervor, so you need to make every swing of your blade count. You also can’t brute force your way through any of the game’s 10 encounters — reckless play isn’t rewarded here, so if you’re not careful, you’ll be killed in record time.

Learning the patterns of the bosses you face is a lot of fun. Oh, it can be ridiculously challenging to even get far in a boss fight, sure, but there’s that undeniable sense of satisfaction as you chip away at an enemy’s health bar more and more with each encounter.

Not to mention, the combat in Eldest Souls is just really great. You’ve got quick and charged attacks. After hitting a charged attack, you’ll fill your Bloodthirst meter. When this meter is full, any attacks you land will heal you. There are no health items, so hitting a charged attack to activate Bloodthirst is the best way to begin healing all the damage done by the gods. This encourages aggressive play, but you still need to be careful not to get tunnel vision, as this is a good way to get crushed by powerful enemy attacks.

Fools Rush In

Eldest Souls world.

There are three fighting styles, or classes, in Eldest Souls: Windslide, Berserk Slash, and Counter. While these don’t alter the core combat mechanics dramatically, they do give you different perks and affect how you play. Windslide grants speed buffs and allows you to deal passive damage to enemies. Berserk Slash lets you stack up your overall damage over time. Counter rewards defensive play, allowing you to temporarily build up your defense and attack stats. There’s more to these fighting styles, but playing around with the different skills is a huge part of the fun.

You’ll upgrade these classes with skill points and shards earned from defeating bosses. There’s a nice variety of skills to choose from, which should invite some experimentation as well as multiple playthroughs. I was a big fan of the Berserk Slash fighting style as I liked being able to increase damage ouput to crazy levels.

The cool thing about the fighting styles in Eldest Souls is that you could switch between the three at any time during a playthrough. You’re not tied to only using Windslide, Berserk Slash, or Counter, so if one style isn’t working for you, you’re free to switch to a different one. The way the game allows you to reassign skill points and shards to different fighting styles and skill trees is great because you can literally find the combination that works for you at any given time and for each of the boss battles.

A Gloomy, Pixelated Wasteland

Eldest Souls The Deer God.

Even though Eldest Souls focuses mostly on its boss rush gameplay, the team at Fallen Flag Studio has created a really cool world. Those brief moments when you’re not in combat help build up anticipation for the ensuing battles. As you run through seemingly haunted castles or lonely villages, you can’t help but feel the wrath of the gods. It’s in these areas where you can find some interesting NPCs. While they don’t always have the most interesting things to say, their presence is certainly welcome.

You’ll find collectibles in the game world. Giving these to specific characters provides a bit of back story. Whether or not you pursue these items, you’re looking at around 10 to 12 hours of playtime. I reached the final boss and saw the credits roll within 12 hours myself. Beating the main game unlocks Arena Mode, where you can take on any boss you like, and New Game Plus, which lets you carry over your stats but increases enemies’ damage and health, and adds new enemy offense.

Eldest Souls on Xbox One.

From beginning to end, you’ll witness some truly awesome pixel art. The gods look menacing and diabolical, while the areas you visit all have this gloomy, sullen vibe to them. The art style of Eldest Souls is utilized incredibly well and helps create a mysterious world filled with death and suffering. The sound design goes hand-in-hand with the game’s art. When you’re not hearing atmospheric sounds, you’re treated to a grand score that makes each boss fight feel all the more intense.

Eldest Souls is a rich, satisfying experience that will punish you. But as much as it punishes you, it also rewards you for your persistence. The game’s challenge is fair, and it constantly pushes you to learn how each boss battle works. The combat is magnificent, and the art and sound are beautifully put together. If you’re looking for one of the best action-adventure games of the year, Eldest Souls is an easy recommendation.

Score: 9 out of 10

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