Elderand Review – Symphony of the Fight

I’m a sucker for a good Metroidvania, and everything I saw of Elderand in previews and demos ticked all the boxes. The bright and colourful pixel aesthetic, the array of hideous beasts and the blood-soaked combat all brought back memories of the days when Konami actually released games. Promising action-packed platforming and the light RPG mechanics that characterised the very best of Castlevania titles, Elderand became one of my most anticipated indie titles of 2023. Could it possibly live up to my expectations? Nearly. So very nearly.

Graphically, Elderand is massively influenced by the adventures of the various Belmonts, combining a medieval fantasy aesthetic with a horde of monsters ranging from mutated insects to screen filling bosses. Everything is topped off with more blood than a vampire’s shopping list and a set of environments far more varied than the traditional castle setting.

The backstory to Elderand is refreshingly low-key. Rather than beginning with an end of the world scenario, you play as a mercenary on what seems to be a normal mission before everything starts to unravel. It isn’t long, however, before you get caught up in a standard Lovecraftian tale of otherworldly creatures and prophecies. As you explore the world of Elderand you’ll find a host of notes that offer insight into the wider lore but in truth the story mostly takes a backseat here. The main focus is the challenging combat based gameplay.

When you first begin your time with Elderand you’ll find yourself dying fairly frequently. The combat is unforgiving and enemies hit hard. You have a relatively effective combo, a block, and a backdash to avoid enemy attacks. You quickly learn that a careful approach is required, and the combat takes on a more strategic, almost Souls-like rhythm. At heart this is still an action platformer though, and once you’ve levelled up a few times and figured out the range of your attacks then regular enemies become fodder for your blades. That isn’t to say that things become easy, though, as new monsters will still quickly destroy you if you aren’t careful.

You begin the game with a standard mercenary sword, adding a bow for ranged attacks and even a staff for a magical approach. You can switch between two equipment loadouts at the press of a button, creating the opportunity for some strategy and tactical options. Start weakening a powerful foe with your bow before closing the distance to finish them off with a melee weapon. Dash back from dangerous attacks to fire off spells or risk blocking and striking back.

New weapons are found in chests as you explore the various areas of Elderand, with the most powerful being locked behind areas that need specific abilities or items to unlock. Melee weapons range from quick but short-range daggers to heavy and slow axes. These varied weapons do actually make combat feel different but I mostly stuck with the middle ground of swords. Bows are effective at the beginning of the game but the fact that arrows are limited (although relatively common as drops) diminishes their usefulness in boss battles.

Choosing your preferred approach is necessary in order to fully benefit from the levelling up system. You gain experience points from defeating enemies and can increase your stats as you develop. This gives you the chance to increase melee, ranged, or magic damage, or add extra health to your total. While a rounded character is possible, I found focusing on strength and health to be most effective, taking my character through to the end of the game.

Summary
Elderand is a worthy addition to the wider Metroidvania genre and offers plenty of bang for your buck. It takes clear inspiration from the best of Castlevania and marries it to challenging combat. That being said, there isn’t anything particularly new here, and there is a lack of consistency across the level design. The result is a solid indie game offering plenty for genre fans.
Good
  • Challenging combat
  • Neat pixel graphics
  • Excellent soundtrack
Bad
  • Nothing particularly new
7
Written by
Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.