Elderand Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The genre blend of Metroidvania and Soulslike is a tried and true combination. And it makes sense; two styles of game with a deep focus on exploration and strict difficulty were bound to cross paths. Games like Salt and Sanctuary, Blasphemous, and — of course — Hollow Knight have successfully taken what makes the genres and mashed them into a mini-genre of their own (although some would argue that Dark Souls itself is essentially a Metroidvania already). Debuting developers Mantra and Sinergia Games have thrown their own hat into the ring in the form of Elderand, which further shows why this mix works, even if this particular concoction could do with being more potent.

You take on the role of a nameless hunter who has washed up in a mysterious land with his crew dead and no bearings to work from. This place is filled with a litany of monsters and threats, and throughout your journey, you unravel a tense plot involving a cult, a serpent society, and a village under threat. While the story is a lot easier to follow than its FromSoftware inspirations, Elderand also tells a lot of its story through the use of item descriptions, letters found across the world, and environmental storytelling. Truth be told, the story didn’t do much for us, with a lot of it being omnipresent text flaring onto the screen. However, the worldbuilding impressed us, each of the game's areas feels cohesive, and you can really see the effects of events prior to the game beginning.

Elderand Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The first thing that stands out is the in-depth spritework. The customisable main character — and most humanoids — are admittedly a bit underwhelming, but the game makes up for it in droves with its strong enemy design. The highlight has to be the Hungry Abyss; a big disgusting venus flytrap of a creature, who unsettled us the first time we laid eyes on it. It’s through enemies like that you can feel the Lovecraft influences. The bosses are gorgeous too, thanks to their size, the spritework really showing off these intimidating enemies. There’s also the game's seven areas which look very nice, albeit appropriately oppressive, further emphasising the state of the world.

The game also revels in its gore; while some death animations are the equivalent of a goofy old Mortal Kombat fatality, others are real stomach-churners — for example, the Hideous Disciplinarian, whose stomach bursts into piles of viscera every time you defeat one. The worst of it has to be the cult sacrifices scattered around the world (which are optional, but give you items in return) which use some medieval torture devices. It’s not enough to fully put us off, but Elderand is certainly not a game for the faint of heart.

Pairing with the grim atmosphere is brutal combat. You have access to different weapon types such as sword-and-shield, great swords, bows, magic staves, and our weapon of choice, dual blades (there’s also a whip, but more on that later). The combat is punishing, and while you can level up and boost your health, strength, dex, and mind stats, you’re only ever a few hits away from life or death. That being said, a lot of the fighting strategy tends to be jumping behind the enemy while they attack and slash away, even with some of the bosses. You still need to be on your toes for the correct timing, but a lot of the enemy AI can be dealt with through this strategy.

Elderand Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

As you would expect in a Metroidvania, the game has that loop of exploration, fighting bosses, and finding upgrades to open up new paths, although there is only a handful of upgrades across the entire game and none of them are particularly interesting. Obviously, a double jump, grapple hook, and an air dash are welcomed additions to any kit, but those being the only real upgrades is a bit underwhelming. A few extra movement options and some combat-focused powers would have been nice. The game also trends on the shorter end of the genre. We achieved 100% map completion over our four-and-a-half-hour playtime.

While we’ve mentioned the Souls influence, the team behind this game clearly adores the Castlevania series, too. The game feels both like a spiritual successor to the GBA and DS entries and a love letter to the entire series. The core gameplay is similar, it even brings in sub-weapons like the axe and knife, which work exactly like they do in Konami’s series, and as we mentioned there's a whip. The game is littered with references to Castlevania’s past (with a specific boss even mimicking Dracula’s attacks). The soundtrack also feels very inspired by Michiru Yamane’s work and is one of the game's strong points.

Elderand Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

We experienced a fair few technical issues in our playthrough, though. The most prominent was random freezing, even when nothing is going on on the screen to cause it. This happened every so often in handheld mode, but was much more common in docked mode. We also experienced audio issues in the mine area as well as a couple of crashes (both hard and soft). We’re told the game will be patched again in time for release, so fingers crossed the majority of these will be dealt with by then. You'll want to keep an eye out for those patch notes before playing, though.


Elderand is another solid entry in the Metroidvania genre, though it doesn’t push any new boundaries where gameplay is concerned. It does manage to stand out somewhat thanks to its strong enemy design and worldbuilding, as well as a good soundtrack. For a debut game, it’s impressive to see something as well realised as this, but there's precious little here you haven't seen elsewhere in this crowded genre. Perhaps it needs a second entry to fully live up to its potential.