Eldritch: A Fun Horror Adventure
Horror games are something I usually don't gravitate towards. As of late, I've been playing quite a few games that hope to terrify, and they're actually starting to grow on me. I'm very fond of them, now. Let's see if Eldritch continues the trend. I know that it's not exactly a horror game, though. It's an action, adventure game, but you do need to survive, and I mean, come on? H.P. Lovecraft inspired. Horror Adventure!
Eldritch is a first person, action, adventure, game developed and published by indie company Minor Key Games. It was released for Steam on October 21st, 2013.
You are a man, or woman, I guess I should person, that begins within a Library. You find three books, glowing with a strange, enchanting power. The urge to read is overwhelming, and as your fingers ease into the twinkles of light, the world around you shifts and dances. Then darkness. The Books are gateways to a world, within the story. As the adventurer, you need to proceed to the deepest depths of the maze, and find an artifact that will allow you to, now only leave, but traverse the other books, as well.
You start in the Library. You always start and end in the Library. Upon entering a book, you're thrust into the depths of some long forgotten corridor. Each level, or book, is always randomly generated, so you will never play the same area twice. You have the ability to move in any direction, jump, open doors, and pick up items.
You have a variety of weapons at your disposal, from rocks, bottles, dynamite, and knives. Up to two weapons can be held at any given time. When you pick up something new, you drop the weapon in your right hand, and the new item replaces it.
Aside from standard melee and long range tactics, there are also statues that imbue you with different powers, like teleportation, creating blocks, or hypnotizing the enemies, so that they fight on your side. To gain these other worldly abilities, you need to pray at statues. You're only allowed to have one power at a time, held in your left hand. Each spell costs blue coins, or Artifacts, to cast.
Artifact coins are currency in Eldritch. They allow you to, as I said, cast magic. You can also go to a fish-faced vendor, and buy various odds and ends. He'll sell you keys, boots, meat, weapons, guns, special medallions, first aid kits, and other items to help you on your journey. You can also steal or attempt to kill him, but he's a tough opponent, that will most likely leave you dead.
You have a limited supply of what you can carry with you, as far as inventory goes. You can have a medallion, a pack, and a pair of boots. Each slot grants the player special effects and abilities. For instance, there are medallions that show where the exit is, boots that make you jump higher, and packs that heal you or allow you to eat the flesh of your fallen victims. You'll, also, eventually find the souls of the Old Ones.
Within the books, you fight against strange creatures, like a faceless wizard that shoots fireballs, fish people, lizard people, tall aliens, squid faces, floating eyeballs, snakes that scream, and tiny bugs that look like Oglops. If you've played Final Fantasy IX, you know what I'm talking about. Enemies respawn once you've looted their corpses.
The health bar is made up of hearts. You start off with three, and can increase this by drinking from a mystic fountain. Damage will occur, often. So, in place of potion, you can eat various foods, like lumps of pot roast, apples from a tree, to refill lost life. However, you'll lose health if you decide to eat rotten meat.
Speaking of death, when you die, and you will die, you resurrect inside the Library. And when you do, all your items disappear. Everything. Money, weapons, magic, if you have it, it'll be gone. Thus, chests are you best friend! Well, as far as Artifacts are concerned. Randomly generated within every dungeon are chests, where you can deposit your coins. Artifacts within the chest stay, no matter how many times you die. They're safe. So chests act as banks, where you can withdraw and store your money for later on. Weapons and other items cannot be stored, sadly.
The graphics are 3D, with a strong pixalated look. Think Minecraft, with a bit more detail, and more monsters. The subtle details are limited, and everything looks like an 8 bit era game stepped out into three dimensions. Colors are muted and dull, and work well with the horror tone of the game. Despite the lack of detail, you can tell objects apart, and exploration is always interesting, due to the variety of different objects, textures, and creatures. Cracks are blotches of gray, grass and moss are nothing more then smears of green, while enemies share the same simplistic color palette. Enemies, also, have simple character models. They hop, float around, slide, or crawl, and have a limited amount of animation.
I like the graphics, despite their simple look. It isn't high resolution, and it isn't supposed to be. It works well, and I think that it adds to the fun. It's different, and different is always a good thing, to me! The characters have a distinct look that's almost cute, but still freaky, when you see them bouncing out of nowhere! This, along with the amazing atmosphere, make Eldritch a great experience.
That said, the game play is interesting and fun. Exploration is surprisingly fulfilling, since you never know where you're going, and once you find your way, it gives you a great sense of accomplishment. You need to be careful and mindful of all the sounds, where you search, how you decide to use your keys, or risk falling prey to a monster, or getting lost, or trapped! You really need to earn it.
The music, along with all the horrible sounds, create a great atmosphere of tension. Creature sounds pervade the air, and it's really unsettling, since you can never tell where they are, until you actually see them. That is if you see them. It's creepy, especially when you're armed with a short range knife, a gun with few bullets, and only 3 hearts. There's chanting, moaning, bubbling, and this strange gurgling, like something is drinking?
You hear them, constantly. You can always hear them, and you're never sure where those freaky things are going to pop out! It isn't terrifying on a psychological or physical level, because everything isn't too scary. It's freaky on a survival level, never knowing what is lurking around the next, tight, claustrophobic, corridor, and whether you'll be able to kill it before you take on too much damage. It made me cautious, and tense the whole time. The deeper I went into each book, the more on edge I became.
Map is a bit hard to read and understand. You're never really sure where you can go, since the map is only a 4x4 area of squares. It doesn't tell which squares you can enter, and which ones are blocked off. I guess it lends itself to the beauty of exploration and trying to figure out your own way into the depths of the dungeon. But after dying so much, I started wishing for a map that could lead me through all the peril, a bit better.
It's difficult. Not really a strike against the game, cause I quite enjoy the challenge. However, I died, over and over again, and I always ended up in the Library. I had lots of keys, a pocket bulging with ammunition, and blue coins brimming my purse! Or man bag? Whatever! I had shoes that allowed me to jump higher, and a pack that would revive me after I was dead! Of course, that would cost 50 blue chips, but at least it's something that would allow me to continue, instead of starting over. Then I'd die, because near the bottom levels, everything seems to have the innate ability to shoot fireballs... and it'd be back to square one.
This is a great action game. It's just freaky enough to keep you on edge, and gives you just enough to survive. Barely. You need to keep your wits about you, and it never gets boring exploring the world within the books. There's always a new challenge, and something lurking around the corner. If you like Minecraft, H.P. Lovecraft, and exploration, definitely give Eldritch a try. It's available on Steam For $14.99.