We've seen many titles such as Remnant: From the Ashes and Code Vein take the Souls-genre to exciting new places over the last couple of years, but none of these feel just like Fallen Flag Studio's Eldest Souls. The game very clearly wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but it sports a striking 16-bit art style and it features exclusively boss encounters. With its release date looming, we were able to play through roughly the first hour of the game and we were able to catch up with the two developers that brought it to life.
Unlike the more slow and methodical combat seen within the Souls series, the action in Eldest Souls is much more fast-paced, and often taking risks is the only way to survive. When performing charged attacks on enemies, you'll start to fill up a Bloodthirst meter and once this is flashing red you'll earn restore health back for any subsequent blows. As this is the only way to heal your character, you'll find yourself constantly having to thrust yourself into harm's way and it feels truly exhilarating when a boss is down to its last inch of health. Additionally, players have the ability to dash three times and not sustain any damage, but this is on a slow timer which makes using them at the right time all the more important.
With Eldest Souls purely being a boss rush game, it has to have good bosses, right? In my short preview I was able to take on three different imposing opponents and not only did they help me grasp the basics of the mechanics, but they also made for a challenging fight too. The clear standout here was Azikel, God of Light, the first of the Old Gods in the game, which I encountered inside of a dilapidated old church. Azikel is quite the formidable boss and he really puts your dashing skills to the test as he fires unblockable light beams and he also can perform a powerful swinging attack by using the two glowing forks in his hands.
Along with the 16-bit visuals (which are gorgeous, by the way), another element that drew me in about Eldest Souls is its multiple branching skill trees. There are three separate skill trees (Counter, Windslide, and Berserk Slash) and I counted as many as 25 unlockable skills just on the Windslide line alone. Each of these skill trees support completely different play styles with Counter (as its name suggests) complimenting those with precise timing, Windslide enables players to be mobile and land some special attacks from a distance and the Berserk Slash line is more suited to aggressive players attacking up close. What is great too is that you don't have to commit to any upgrades as there's always the option to respec skill points.
Whilst you can purely just move from one boss encounter to the next, there are also quests that you can complete and collectibles that can be obtained that delve into the game's lore. As you move through the Eldest Souls' dreary backdrop, you'll find NPCs that you'll be able to assist in exchange for meaningful items that will help you on your adventure. One item that I received for completing a quest, for example, was the Feather of the Dawn, which rather usefully increases your speed when moving out of combat by up to 20%. I also liked that fast travel is available once you have visited an area, so you can always go back and grab any items you have missed.
Whilst I do have a lot of excitement for Eldest Souls, I did just have one minor complaint. Even though the game is purely offline, there is no pause function, so you're given no choice but to abandon your progress with a boss if you are to receive a phone call, for example. On the subject of online functionality, the team has mentioned that they would be interested in possibly adding multiplayer mechanics similar to the Souls series providing that the game meets expectations. Hopefully, this is something that can be introduced further down the road.
The wait for Eldest Souls is now almost over and I can't wait to jump back into what looks like one of the most promising Soul-likes of the year. The game gives players plenty of flexibility through its three distinct skill trees and its fast-paced action has a great sense of risk for reward. I do wish, however, that there was a pause function considering it's completely offline but this is just a minor complaint at best. Be sure to check back for our full thoughts when Eldest Souls launches on Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series on July 29.