Reviews - Updated on April 7, 2022

The authors themselves call Elderborn a first-person fantasy slasher in the style of heavy metal, but people who understand immediately dubbed the game a mixture of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Dark Souls, Heretic and Conan. There are really a lot of similarities, but the main thing is that the genetic experiments of the developers from Hyperstrange, who worked on the game for five years, were generally successful.

Messi? No, I’m the messiah!

So, we are transported to the era of barbarian tribes, to a world that, although not called Hyboria, but where everything breathes the atmosphere of books about Conan the Barbarian. In the role of a half-naked beefy hero or heroine, we grab a sword and run to fight the monsters of the Golden Army coming from the doomed city – it is there that, according to the plot, we have to uncover ancient secrets and find our destiny.

The program of entertainment during this long journey is determined in advance and practically does not change. With a first-person view, using various melee weapons, we chop monsters, press levers to open something somewhere, and look for keys to the doors. From time to time there are traps where it is not the mind that is tested, but our reaction – often it is worth taking another important key, as arrows from the wall first fly into the hero, and then monsters run towards him with a roar. Well, big, evil bosses are also in place, of course.

Have a good flight!

The reaction is also important in the battles themselves. Elderborn is not a mindless slasher, especially at first, when we are not yet so strong, and in our hands instead of a huge “Skullbreaker” there is only an ordinary sword. Here, every fight with one or two enemies can greatly undermine the heroic health and even cost him his life. You need to block in time, dodge using instant acceleration, accurately choose the time to attack, alternate between light and enhanced attacks.

Another trick that we all loved so much in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is a big help – the Spartan kick that sends the enemy on the last flight from a high altitude. Or at least repulsive and allows you to unbalance him, which is especially important in fights against shield bearers – this is how they open up and expose their backs to blows.

The authors, knowing how the players like this “trick”, seem to have deliberately made almost a “vertical slasher” – in Elderborn you very often have to climb somewhere and fight at high altitude, where enemy asses ask for a good pendel.

Elderborn game review

The farther, the more enemies attack us at the same time.

To each – in arms!

However, the main success factor is still melee weapons and character leveling. New piercing-cutting and chopping items open as you progress. Sword, spear, heavy hammer, light sickle-shaped daggers – the arsenal is familiar. Later, more sophisticated toys appear, such as a huge two-handed weapon torn from the hands of the first boss, or the aforementioned skull crusher.

So, each blade has its own characteristics and features. It is clear that a huge hammer can famously demolish several enemies at once, ignoring even a block. But it is also easier to interrupt such a blow. The spear hits quickly and is very useful if you need to keep the enemy at a distance. And if you parry with him in time (it’s obviously impossible to block), then you can carry out a very effective counterattack. Well, and so on. As you use each weapon is pumped, which gives a bonus to damage.

That is, theoretically, you need to choose a passing style, focusing on only one type of weapon, but in reality, depending on the situation, you still have to alternate: the damage numbers show that some enemies can receive more wounds from the sword, while others from the same spear. And new samples are often more powerful than the previous ones. By the way, some types of weapons are useful not only in fights – with the help of a hammer, for example, you can destroy weak walls that hide caches.

Fountains along campfires

As for pumping, everything is simple here – and, of course, with hints of Dark Souls. Souls fall out of defeated enemies, but we find them in hiding places and vases. This is the equivalent of experience that can be spent at activated fountains. These fountains will preserve progress and heal heroic wounds. True, if you fully restore health, then the enemies will be reborn. Naturally, after death, the accumulated souls are lost, but we have one attempt to return them. But Estus in Elderborn works differently – in battle we accumulate energy, it fills the cells, and they can already be spent on quick healing.Elderborn game review

Against scorpions, a spear is just right!

The role-playing system allows you to pump three parameters – strength, speed and survivability. Special abilities are available in each branch, to open which you need to invest in this parameter a certain number of times. So, in the branch of strength, you can learn a skill that allows you to tear off the heads of defeated enemies and throw them – such a brutal replacement for a bow or crossbow. And in the survivability branch there is a skill that can literally pull the hero out of the world – it works with a certain chance when receiving fatal damage and slows down the time during which you need to have time to kill the enemy in order to return to the game.

Cool but not perfect

Everything is played as a whole cheerfully – both under the declared heavy metal (which does not always sound here), and without it. Elderborn looks, sounds, and feels like a cool fantasy action game. Yes, the difficulty here is not “souls” (and I played on “hard”), especially when you get the opportunity to wet enemies with wide swings of the hammer, ignoring their defense. But this, I repeat, is far from being a simple hack – in fights with many opponents without knowledge of timings and the ability to parry / block in time, it is not easy. In general, here the authors found a good balance between suffering and entertainment.

That’s just periodically confuses the monotony of the process. We are marinated for a long time in the catacombs of the first chapter, where after a while it begins to seem that you are walking in a circle and all the time exterminating the same three types of skeletons – simple, with a bow and with a sword. Therefore, when we are finally released into more or less open spaces, you literally feel the desire to breathe in fresh air with your skin.

Given that the game is quite long, perhaps more intricate puzzles, picturesque locations, more skills, unusual mechanics or types of weapons could not hurt for a change. On the other hand, barbarians, brutality, dynamics, action… Well, what beauty and puzzles are there!

Sometimes there are also problems with the registration of strokes. For enemies, it happens that they are counted dishonestly – even if the enemy has his back to you, or rather, you abruptly went behind him, dodging the attack.

Hands, swords, shields? The main thing is the legs!

***

In general, the game turned out to be not without flaws, but they are not too significant against the background of the simple fact that Elderborn is really a very peppy, dark and atmospheric fantasy slasher in the spirit of the Conan universe. It is very difficult to break away from the game. Highly recommended for all fans of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Dark Souls and the work of Robert E. Howard.

Pros: peppy and addictive gameplay that combines challenging combat, leveling and exploration; interesting enemies that use different tactics; darkly brutal atmosphere; excellent audiovisual performance.

Cons: in some places the game becomes too monotonous; simple role-playing system; there are problems with dishonest registration of blows.

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