My first impression of Elden: Path of the Forgotten was one of confusion. After the initial cutscene (which doesn’t give much context for the story) you are thrust into the gameplay and the unforgiving map. Despite this void of context, the eerie landscape invites you in and the satisfaction of progressing still spurs you on through the game.
Being dropped into the action is a pretty common way of opening a game, but a little world building can usually be found as you progress by talking to NPCs or written text. This is not the case in Elden. There are no NPC’s apart from the ones you fight, and unfortunately they aren’t up for much conversation, and any signs and texts you find through the game are written in Elden, a language that’s illegible to both the character and the player. This indirect method of storytelling does everything to add to the confusion and mystery of the game; it creates a vacuum where the storyline would usually be and was frustrating in the lack of context for what I was doing.
That’s the intent behind Elden: Path of The Forgotten, to explore non-traditional storytelling using a combination of technical combat skill and foreign languages to tell a story that you may never fully understand. Exploring a land that is foreign in both terrain, language and enemies creates a bubble of confusion surrounding the game, full of questions that may or may not ever be answered.
The 8-bit inspired landscape was dark and eerie, and while enticing you to go on and explore, it also felt like a warning not to continue. The shapes often merge together, making a wall seem like a path onward and vice versa. This maze-like effect adds wonderfully to the confusion of the world, creating multiple paths that could easily be missed and clearings that almost invite a wave of enemies that never come. This distortion within the map is complemented by the score. Equally eerie and ghostly, it creates a haunting atmosphere that is both beautiful and terrifying.
The controls are simple and accessible, with basic movement, attack and a dodge roll. You can change your weapons, allowing for a different style of attack, and eventually gain the ability to cast simple magic as well. Despite the upgrades, the controls are forgivingly straightforward. The enemies, however, are not.
Enemies have a range of attacks, from simple melee to unleashing earthquakes that target you specifically. The effects that these attacks have are more than a simple loss of HP, but can temporarily distort you vision in ways that feel almost psychedelic. Enemies come in fairly large groups, meaning that you can’t button mash your way through battles. If that’s your go to technique, you’ll need to practice patience and observe the different monsters, and time your attacks.
There’s definitely some strategy required, which may have you repeating certain areas a few times to get right. This can be frustrating, but is incredibly rewarding once you successfully complete a fight. A slight challenge is the scarcity of save points, which adds to the challenging nature of the game. While that can be a pain, it makes each save point you do come across give you a great sense of relief at finding a respite from the unforgiving landscape.