by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Elden: Path of the Forgotten is one of those games that brings about a sense of nostalgia. It is a game that is full of 8bit visuals and 8bit sound effects and in a sense requires a tad of imagination. Indeed, there is only a limited storyline, with a short vignette at the start of the game and one at the end. In between, it is up to you to work out your own path as you hack and slash your way across a number of landscapes.
Elden: Path of the Forgotten does not lead you by the hand. After being transported to the opening area of the game, you are left to wander somewhat aimlessly as you work out what it is you are required to do. Little hints from a friendly bird that circles nearby indicate that there is an important object that can be collected, and you will stumble upon a couple of map-like scrawls that indicate a task you must complete, but that is about the extent of the assistance you are given.
Although the areas are fairly wide-open, you are reasonably confined in where you can go, and as such navigating throughout the landscapes is generally fairly simple. Sticking to walls and cliffs like some sort open-world maze eventually gets you to your next location. There are the occasional puzzle elements, but these seem to fall by the wayside after the opening area, which was a tad disappointing. There are keys that need to be found in order to open gates, but there is little effort in finding them on most occasions.
Slashing and hacking
But it is not as simple as finding your way, as throughout the locations are beasts that will attack you if you wander into their circle of vision. These beasts can be defeated using one of the three weapons you’ll pick up early on in the game – a sword, axe and pike. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. The sword for instance is quickest of the three and has a wide arc but does less damage than the axe. The axe has a shorter range than the sword but packs a punch when it connects. And the pike can reach further but can only hit enemies on one direction. Most enemies have some sort of pattern to their attacks and can be destroyed with a few well-timed hits.
But, swinging the weapons uses up your limited stamina, so wandering into a horde of enemies is going to get you killed. Luckily, as you progress through the game, you will learn several magic spells. But, like swinging a sword, using magic comes at a cost – in this case, it uses up mana. Fortunately, both stamina and mana can replenish over time, allowing you to get back into the thick of the action.
One thing that does not naturally regenerate over time though is your health. One too many hits from a foe, and you will end back at one of the numerous save points. These save points appear at regular intervals throughout the game and luckily appear close to the boss battles, so that you do not lose too much progress if you die. But health can be replenished by eating certain items that can be collected. Apples from trees or fallen enemies as well as fish and chicken can top up the all important health bar so that you can continue your unidentified quest.
There isn’t a dazzling array of enemies, and once you’ve worked out their patterns, defeating them is relatively simple. And once you gain the use of the second and third magical spells, the lesser enemies become fodder for your attacks. By the time you make your way through to the end, the monotony of attacking the same creatures and their limited vocalisations becomes apparent. And for a game that took me roughly four hours to play through, that is a disappointing feature.
As mentioned earlier, Elden: Path of the Forgotten, is a throwback to the early 1990’s from both the visual and audio standpoints. The retro pixelated style does work well, particularly for the landscapes, which change throughout the course of the game. The forest locales, the desert wilderness and the snow covered terrains all provide a unique location through the journey. And although the sound effects are bland, the haunting background music provides a sense of foreboding as you journey towards your undisclosed objective.
Nostalgia, but not much else
Although I did enjoy the nostalgia of Elden: Path of the Forgotten, I was ultimately not immersed in the game. The lack of any real story meant that I was wandering about with no real objective and no real care for the main character. The combat is simple and the magic spells that you learn give a sense of minor achievement, but the small number of enemy types results in bland combat. The game started out as mysterious, and left me just as confused as to what I had spent four hours completing.
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Haunting background music
No real direction or storyline