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Written by Russell Archey on 2/16/2023 for PC  
More On: Elderand

It seems like I’ve reviewed several Metroidvania-style games over the years; as time passes I've become GN's "Metroidvania guy". Then again Metroidvania is one of my favorite genres, so they tend to come naturally to me and I’ll check out just about any that come my way.  Some of them are fun, some are hit and miss. Then there’s Elderand which, even though it’s only February, is probably already on the list of my favorite games of 2023. How good is the game to already warrant that distinction? Very, very good.

In Elderand a legacy of evil has been forged by a tyrant known as Sserthris. One day a Mercenary is found, one who is potentially capable of eradicating that evil. You play as that mercenary and your objective is to travel around the different areas of Elderand, find Sserthris, and take him out. Throughout your journey you’ll learn more about Elderand, Sserthris, and some sort of cult that you’ll occasionally run into.

You begin the game in a tutorial area that helps you get used to most of the game’s mechanics. As you progress you’ll pick up various weapons, armor, and other items that will help you in your journey. The weapons range from swords to staves to whips and daggers, each with their pros and cons. Swords tend to be the strongest weapons, while staves have minimal attack power but let you cast ranged spells. Meanwhile, whips and daggers have average attack but can be swung at a faster rate. The armor you find can also have various properties beyond just stat boosts such as immunities to various status effects or causing damage to enemies on contact. You’ll also find and be able to buy certain materials to be able to upgrade your weapons and armor, so you have plenty of ways to customize your gear as you see fit to accommodate your playstyle, plus you can have two separate loadouts that you can swap between on the fly.

A lot of Metroidvania-style games will let you go anywhere you want, but almost all paths will be blocked off by something that requires you to obtain a new weapon or item later, and you have to find the one path that you can traverse. Elderand is mostly like that, with certain areas blocked off by needing a certain item to give you new abilities, but a lot of the time you have a bit more freedom to roam around the various areas. At any point I felt like I had two or three different areas I could explore before getting to the point where I needed a certain ability to continue. This looser freedom did have a bit of a drawback though.

When you pull up the map it’ll conveniently show you colored dots for save points, vendors, portals, and points of interest. Points of interest will usually be either story-related locations or barriers that you need a special item to pass through, and each area typically has at least two or three of these locations. That can be pretty useful, except for the fact that once you’ve done what needs to be done at one of those locations, the red dot will remain even though it’s no longer technically a point of interest. This can make things a tad confusing when it comes to those impassable barriers you’ll come across. Once you have the item to pass them you have to remember which of those red dots are the barriers you haven’t gone back to yet. Even with this weirdness, the map system is very simplified and easy to navigate and understand how it works.

The controls feel very fluid and the gameplay works well. However, one piece of advice is to not do what I started out doing and just hacking and slashing at anything that moves. This is not a game where you can just rush in recklessly and attack at will. Even minor enemies will mow you down if you’re not patient and learn their movements and attack patterns. This especially applies to bosses, which ended up being my favorite aspect of the game. To briefly go back to my review of Astlibra Revision for a moment, I struggled a lot with the bosses, feeling like I needed to do a lot of grinding and leveling before some bosses, even respec-ing my stats to make sure I had access to one or two specific skills to even put a reasonable dent into a boss, and even then a lot of the time a fight felt like luck was the deciding factor in whether or not I could dodge the bosses' attacks and survive.

Elderand is the exact opposite. Each boss has specific patterns to how they move and attack. Once you’ve experienced an attack a couple of times you’ll know how to dodge them every time. That doesn’t mean the fights are a cakewalk though. While the attacks do give you time to dodge them, the speed at which some come does mean that you have to be quick to avoid them. That said, the fights can be tough but fair, and can be learned fairly easily if you pay attention. Outside of one boss early on, at no point did I ever get frustrated with a boss fight and have to go grind levels.

With everything I have to say to praise Elderand, there are a couple of minor nitpicks that I do have. Every time you find a campsite to save, you’ll see two other options besides save: the ability to fast travel and reset your stat points. Unfortunately they’re unavailable at the start of the game and don’t unlock until at least a third of the way through, depending on what areas you go to and when. The ability to fast travel is always welcome no matter when you get it, though I felt that by the time I could reset my stat points it didn’t help me too much in the late game, but that was also because I mostly did melee attacks and only used spells when I needed something ranged. By the time you can reset your stat points, you might want to change things up a bit and experiment to see if something else works better for you.

The other nitpick I have is with the weapons, though this is also a personal bias. While you can purchase some weapons, armor, and accessories, others can be found in chests and the rare enemy drop. Since you can have two loadouts, I tended to have a staff in one slot so I could fire off spells, and I experimented with the other weapon types in the other slot. More often than not though, I’d stick with swords because any other time I found a new weapon, it didn’t seem to be that big of a change. The damage may be a bit lower but that’s compensated by a slightly faster attack speed. Again, it all comes down to your playstyle, and you might be better with daggers or whips. Once I started using swords (and the occasional axe), I barely touched any other weapon types.

Overall, Elderand is an amazing game that feels like a classic Metroidvania reminiscent of the Game Boy Advance Castlevania games, or Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The graphics and sound are great, the gameplay is nice and tight, and the challenge can be difficult, but fair and very learnable. After finishing the game, I’m starting to think I’ve not quite done everything and might be missing something else big. I mentioned coming across the cult a few times in your journey. There is something you can do in those instances to cause a sacrifice of sorts and gain a new item. Thing is, I don’t think they’re required to finish the game, making me wonder if the game has multiple endings. That, the multiple weapon types, plus I’m literally missing .2% of map completion, gives me all the more reason to play through this game again, and I definitely will. If you’re not quite sure about Elderand, you can check out the demo on Steam, but if you’re a fan of Metroidvania games or want to check out the genre, Elderand is a great entry point.

If you’re into Metroidvanias, Elderand is a fantastic entry for the genre.  The game looks and sounds great, the controls and mechanics and tight and responsive, and the challenge is fair with tough boss fights that are very learnable.  With multiple weapon types to swap between and some optional things you can do that might change the game’s outcome, there’s no doubt that I’ll be playing through Elderand again. This is definitely one I’d recommend checking out.

Rating: 9.5 Exquisite

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I began my lifelong love of gaming at an early age with my parent's Atari 2600.  Living in the small town that I did, arcades were pretty much non-existent so I had to settle for the less than stellar ports on the Atari 2600.  For a young kid my age it was the perfect past time and gave me something to do before Boy Scout meetings, after school, whenever I had the time and my parents weren't watching anything on TV.  I recall seeing Super Mario Bros. played on the NES at that young age and it was something I really wanted.  Come Christmas of 1988 (if I recall) Santa brought the family an NES with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and I've been hooked ever since.

Over 35 years from the first time I picked up an Atari joystick and I'm more hooked on gaming than I ever have been.  If you name a system, classics to moderns, there's a good chance I've not only played it, but own it.  My collection of systems spans multiple decades, from the Odyssey 2, Atari 2600, and Colecovision, to the NES, Sega Genesis, and Panasonic 3DO, to more modern systems such as the Xbox One and PS4, and multiple systems in between as well as multiple handhelds.  As much as I consider myself a gamer I'm also a game collector.  I love collecting the older systems not only to collect but to play (I even own and still play a Virtual Boy from time to time).  I hope to bring those multiple decades of gaming experience to my time here at Gaming Nexus in some fashion.
These days when I'm not working my day job in the fun filled world of retail, I'm typically working on my backlog of games collecting dust on my bookshelf or trying to teach myself C# programming, as well as working on some projects over on YouTube and streaming on Twitch.  I've been playing games from multiple generations for over 35 years and I don't see that slowing down any time soon.
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