Not every game can change the world. It’s the fate of some games simply to offer an experience that’s “good enough”, one that may never challenge the kings of its genre for their thrones but which can help you while away a perfectly agreeable few hours nonetheless. Elderand is one such game. Created by developers Mantra and Sinergia Games, Elderand is a 2D Metroidvania platformer inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft, as well as seminal classics like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid.
In essence, Elderand is a patchwork of ideas from other games. It’s a little bit Blasphemous in its boss design, a touch Timespinner in its exploration, and reminiscent of Rogue Legacy in its movement and combat mechanics. It simultaneously struggles to find an identity of its own while also offering a solid amalgamation of everything that the best Metroidvania platformers do well, albeit not to the same degree. If you’re looking for innovation in the platforming space, then you’re definitely not going to find it here, but that may also work to Elderand‘s benefit.
If It Ain’t Broke, Elderand Doesn’t Fix It
When it comes to gameplay, Elderand is a pretty by-the-numbers 2D action-RPG Metroidvania platformer. It has everything you’d expect from the genre. Your map fills in as you explore, and each area is color-coded. Like-in Symphony of the Night, there are a range of weapons to find and use, and they’re pretty standard: quick but weak daggers, all-rounder swords, and heavy but powerful axes and greatswords, as well as magic staffs that let you cast a variety of different spells. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll likely find a single weapon type that works for you and stick to it for most of the game.
Elderand‘s exploration is also pretty straightforward. At first, you’ll be limited in where you can go, but as you unlock traversal powers, more of the map becomes open to you. The traversal powers to which you gain access are standard and uninspired. There’s a double jump, an air dash, and a grappling hook, and none of them feel like they bring anything new to the game in terms of skill challenges. They’re simply ways to access more of the map and backtrack to areas you couldn’t visit the first time around. That’s fine, but it would have been nice to see Elderand come up with some more outlandish traversal ideas to match its horror-inflected setting.
With that said, there’s nothing Elderand does particularly wrong, either. Movement has a nice snappy feel to it, and leaping around the various platforming challenges on offer feels rewarding. Metroidvania games depend on your sense of wanting to right unfinished wrongs, so if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll be aware of the pleasure of revisiting an area you couldn’t go to before and finding it open to you after an upgrade. If that’s all you’re after, Elderand delivers; it won’t shock you, but it’ll certainly provide satisfaction if you like exploring every nook and cranny of a competently laid out map.
Elderand‘s World Is Fun, But Weightless
Though it purports to be inspired by the work of HP Lovecraft, Elderand lacks the bug-eyed cosmic dread of Lovecraft’s best work (and, thankfully, also the horrific racism of his worst). Its enemy design is mostly pretty rote. You’ll be fighting corrupted knights, giant spiders, and cultists, as well as the occasional eldritch monstrosity. In the latter case, though, the art design feels a touch uninspired. Considering that these are supposed to be cosmic monstrosities from beyond the stars, they usually don’t feel particularly ominous or scary. There’s no sense of creeping, dreadful escalation like you’d find in Bloodborne gold Blasphemousfor example. Elderand‘s music doesn’t help matters, either; it’s a little too campy to take seriously, but too serious for things to tip over into true Castlevania fame.
Combat itself is fine, if a little wonky. There isn’t a tremendous amount of weight to it; hitting enemies with a giant great ax doesn’t carry the sense of bone-crunching momentum it should, for instance. Enemies are also a little prone to ignoring your hits and winding up attacks regardless, so it’s far too easy to get stuck in a combo when an enemy is about to hit you. This means the most efficient method of fighting pretty much every enemy in the game is to hit them once, leap away, wait for them to finish their attack animation, then jump back into the fray, which feels disappointingly cheap and repetitive.
Luckily, Elderand does have a lot of different enemy types, and some of them do require different strategies. Enemies can also often be found in configurations that require you to think ahead, so you won’t be able to rely on the hit-and-run strategy every time. Things also improve when it comes to boss fights. They range from uninspired to great in terms of visuals, and although they’re all a little too easy, some of their more intricate attack patterns should give you pause for thought, even if you’re a veteran of the genre. If you’ve played games like Ender Lilies gold Hollow Knightthough, nothing here should pose too much of a challenge.
Elderand Review | Verdict
If you’re a fan of the Metroidvania genre and you’ve already exhausted the greats, then Elderand will give you a good few hours of fun. It’s not exceptional or groundbreaking in any way; you’ve seen most of what it has to offer before and often done a little better. Even so, Elderand deserves kudos for its solid and varied boss battles, its well-crafted levels, and the rewarding nature of its exploration. Don’t expect much of Elderand to linger in your mind after you’re done with it, but while you’re playing it, this Metroidvania is a perfectly good time-killer.
TechRaptor reviewed Elderand on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Nintendo Switch.