Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Indie Horror: Eldritch

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 8, 2014

EldritchLibrary

My first encounter with H.P. Lovecraft’s horror was in the form of a magazine (I think) with illustrated versions of classic horror short stories. I think I was in sixth grade. The story was “The Outsider,” and it was the only story from the magazine that I remember reading.

My next real Lovecraft encounter was through gaming – playing The Call of Cthulhu RPG with friends one night. Having mostly played straight D&D style fantasy or space opera RPGs, playing Lovecraftian horror was a breath of fresh air. Having read several of Lovecraft’s works (mostly short stories) since then, I have to admire Sandy Petersen & company for showing how to adapt that literature – which at first glance doesn’t look like anything that could be adapted to an interactive medium – into a fun (if completely off-balanced) game world.

It’s to the point now that Lovecraft is permanently associated with games in my mind.

Eldritch by Minor Key Games, is a weird, wonderful mix of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror, Minecraft‘s block-based graphics, the design of Roguelikes, and the immersive gameplay of a first-person stealth game. Like any other stealth-based game, you will spend a lot of your time running and hiding from the monsters, and any good session of Eldritch will be kicking in your fight-or-flight instincts (usually, of necessity, flight – especially in the higher levels). But the simple, blocky graphics are more cute or humorous than truly terrifying, and in some ways it works to the game’s advantage. For a game that will kill you so quickly and so often, it certainly doesn’t appear all that threatening.

The original trailer certainly makes it look like it plays a lot more action-y than I play it. I spend a lot of my time hiding and creeping and trying not to walk into the deadly traps or a wandering monster. Because sometimes there just isn’t enough bullets in the revolver. But there’s definitely something to being able to kill a cultist with a thrown bottle (which I always envision as a beer bottle, but that’s just me).

 


The game is rooted heavily in the lore of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the “father of modern horror.” His stories were full of things that drove the protagonists insane just to become aware of them. Once his stories started getting old enough to enter the public domain, the floodgates have opened on Lovecraft-inspired games. Thankfully, while other games tend to focus on Lovecraft’s most famous creation, the godlike slumbering cosmic entity Cthulhu, Eldritch also plumbs many of Lovecraft’s other creations for ideas.

And not just Lovecraft. My favorite, mentioned in this little trailer, is that you need to “Avoid statues that are similar to but legally distinct from Weeping Angels.” Borrow from the best, man….

So what’s the game about? Well, you find yourself in an arcane, labyrinthine library, with books that hint as to your true nature and purpose there. The main door is sealed, with three empty pedestals. And there are three (well, more, now) books – two of which start out sealed – and touching them transports you to another dimension. You have to sneak, fight, out out-clever your way through to the other side – and to obtain the orb of a waking soul of a cosmic entity to return to the library.

EldritchKilledCultistsOne interesting twist is that dead enemies only respawn if you loot them. Sometimes it may be worthwhile when you really, really need to find a few more bullets, or are desperate for some extra artifact coins to use to cast a spell, but it comes at a cost of a returning enemy. Pick your threat.

While combat is (often) an option, you are not an overpowered fighter in this game. Not by a stretch. Likewise, there’s no “leveling up” from killing enemies, nor is there much by way of weapons or armor upgrades.¬†Going in guns blazing will leave you dead. But unlike many games I’m discussing this month, you do have some opportunity to fight back – or take the first shot. Sneaking up to cultists and stabbing them in the back may not be the most heroic of actions, but as they are evil fanatics who will kill you in a heartbeat (often with magical spells) as soon as they see you, it feels justified. No matter how cute they look, the creatures in this game are deadly. And never really grow less deadly as you go…

The game has had two free expansions added since its first release – Mountains of Madness (inspired by a similarly-entitled story by Lovecraft) taking place in the Antarctic, and sort of a timed-run experience called Asylum. There are rumors to be other options that can be unlocked, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

 

While rooted in horror, the game isn’t particularly frightening. Sure, cultists, monsters, sneaking, hiding, running – it’s got thrills aplenty. But it’s horror-theming is used more for fun and adventure, rather than true Lovecraftian freak-out. If you prefer your scares a little more on the tame side, and would like to check out a game with plenty of replayability with just a touch of horror, Eldritch is worth checking out.


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