Elderand is a 2D action platformer that takes place in a world beset by madness and cosmic horror. With a setting and story themes inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s work, it aims to combine the Cthulhu mythos with hallmarks of the Metroidvania genre like a connected world, challenging bosses, and unlockable paths. Despite some deliciously depraved cultish imagery and a slew of equipment options to add variety to the combat, Elderand is held back by its own reluctance to dive deep into its ancestry. It neither goes far enough into its Metroid roots nor its Lovecraftian themes to fully succeed.
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Doing Lovecraft in video games is hard. The helplessness, dread, and human fragility at the heart of such stories are a direct contradiction to the power fantasy most games strive to offer. Unfortunately, the execution of that power fantasy in Elderand – though certainly not terrible – is flawed enough that it makes that thematic disparity all the starker. Add to that a few troublesome bugs, and the whole package feels a little undercooked.
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The player character, an unnamed mercenary, has found themselves in a dank cave system following a supernaturally imposed shipwreck. With little to go on, they must battle their way to the surface and beyond through a handful of levels, each with its own distinct biome. As players progress, the story is told primarily through notes strewn across the levels and little bits gleaned from item descriptions. There’s the occasional NPC, but most of the tale is told indirectly, like something from the famously confusing Dark Souls games.
First finding a basic sword, players will slowly come across a wide selection of weapons spread across three general categories: melee, bows, and magic. The melee category is by far the broadest with swords, whips, duals blades, and great swords/axes. Each type operates…