Eldest Souls pushed me to the brink. I love a good challenge, and this game certainly delivered on that front. The whole game is a boss rush that employs the core tenets of the Souls-like genre, and slaps you in the face right from the outset. Call me a masochist, because I loved every minute of it.
Some games artificially inflate their challenges by giving enemies extra health points or larger damage outputs. Others make supplementary mechanics, like platforming, difficult. Eldest Souls succeeds by making the difficulty feel fair. Each boss has its own quirk, and every success and failure are on you. Developer Fallen Flag Studio did a great job making a game that’s not only incredibly challenging, but also one that pulls you in by making you say “one more time” over and over again. Conquering each of the Old Gods feels euphoric.
Eldest Souls is a refreshing game, with its singular focus on providing a solid boss rush experience. It's not for everyone, but if you crave a challenge, this is one to check out. Read on for our full Eldest Souls review.
Eldest Souls review: Gameplay
Eldest Souls has a very simple gameplay loop: Beat the boss, then move onto the next one. There are some NPC side quests mixed in if you’d like to pursue them, but they’re optional. Otherwise, the game has simple controls. You can move, dodge and attack. Holding the attack button lets you charge up, and landing a charged blow will activate Bloodthirst.
Bloodthirst serves two functions. One, it acts as a buff, making your attacks hit harder and in quicker succession; you can unleash a large attack by holding down the Bloodthirst button. But the mode also activates the healing mechanic, which feels similar to Bloodborne. While in Bloodthirst mode, landing hits on a boss will replenish your health. The buff lasts for only a few seconds before you need to land another charged blow, which encourages a serious risk/reward play style.
When you die — and you will die plenty of times — you have the option to restart the boss battle. Unlike in Souls games, there’s no running back through a horde of enemies that could whittle down your health or healing items. This makes each new attempt quicker, and leads to the addictive “one more time” loop I mentioned earlier.
Dodging is a key part of your skill set here, but you’re limited to three charges before you have to wait for a stamina meter to replenish. This process is painstakingly slow — too slow, in my opinion — but it does force you to adapt instead of spamming your dodge skill.
Unlocking equipable items can enhance your play style, as each one comes with its own active or passive ability. You can also invest in one of the game's three skill trees, which offer a ton of build diversity to ensure that you play the game the way you want to.
I won’t spoil any of the bosses here, but rest assured that each one is a treat, with their own unique gimmicks and lore. I wish some of the telegraphs before they attack were a bit better, but you learn quickly. All told, there are ten bosses to defeat. After that, there's a New Game+ mode, which not only buffs the bosses all with more health and damage, but adds new mechanics as well. You’ll also unlock an Arena mode to challenge specific bosses again.
Eldest Souls review: Story and setting
The lore of Eldest Souls is interesting, and you'll learn the story piecemeal, much like in a Soulsborne game. You get bits and pieces of the narrative from boss items, NPCs and notes that you can find scattered throughout the Citadel.
Long ago, the Moon shattered, and from it were born both humans and the beings referred to as gods. The deities subjugated the humans until the humans rebelled. They challenged the gods and imprisoned the entities in the Citadel, a fortress meant to contain them all. But a dark entity made his way into the Citadel and began corrupting everything around him.
In a final act of retribution, the Old Gods unleashed the Desolation, which ruined the world, dried up the rivers and killed the crops. It’s a grim setting, with the apocalypse drawing ever nearer. You play as a nameless warrior who heads to the Citadel to kill the Old Gods. When you get there, the fortress is in ruins, and you must slay everything on your own, armed with your giant sword.
Eldest Souls drips with Souls inspiration in its worldbuilding. Though the story and lore aren’t the game's main focus, they help to flesh out the desolate Citadel with character. If you pay attention, you’re doing more than just beating challenging bosses — you’re trying to save the world. The game’s moody tone and sparse story bits help craft something special, where you’re left to figure out what’s going on and come to your own conclusions.
Eldest Souls review: Visuals and sound
Eldest Souls sports a beautiful 16-bit pixel art style, with wonderfully designed bosses and environments. In-between bosses, you can explore the Citadel and marvel at its decrepit state. The Old Gods themselves are unique, with striking looks and powerful abilities. Don’t spend too much admiring them, though, or else you’ll die needlessly.
I also enjoyed the sound design of Eldest Souls, with grand boss tracks and a somber tone in-between. The music isn’t meant to draw your attention. Instead, it blends into the background, offering an appropriate soundstage for your battles against the Old Gods. It helps you get into a flow state as you take on each new challenge.
Eldest Souls review: Verdict
Eldest Souls is a massive challenge. I wish that there were more than ten bosses, but you’ll still need several hours to beat them all. And when you do, there’s the New Game+ mode to push through, which will keep you on your feet with even tougher challenges.
For a boss rush, Eldest Souls is remarkably well thought out, with an interesting world to explore. I’m a sucker for Souls-like storytelling, and Eldest Souls’ lore kept me interested, even after I found myself growing frustrated with repeatedly losing to the bosses. The grimdark fantasy setting won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I sure loved it.
Grab Eldest Souls if you think you’re up to the challenge. It’s definitely worth the asking price.