Elderand is a side-scrolling dark fantasy action platformer developed by Brazilian studios Sinergia Games and Mantra. PID Games published it for mobile. Despite taking obvious inspiration from Soulslike games, Elderand is a Metroidvania platformer at heart. While far from the definitive example of the genre, it’s a solid game with much to recommend. However, the Android version is in definite need of some significant polish.
Elderand players are bounty hunters dispatched to hunt an evil cult leader called Sserthris. However, a mysterious figure summons a lightning storm to sink their ship, stranding them on the titular island. The player character then wakes in a flooded cave, which serves as the tutorial area. However, opens up once players escape into the jungle and defeat the second boss, unlocking the double jump. This also opens the closest thing Elderand has to a hub area, where they begin their hunt for Sserthris.
Exploration is the name of the game in Elderand, with the map consisting of seven maze-like zones. Players will find new items in chests, with scattered documents fleshing out the game’s lore. Filling out the map is also pretty satisfying. However, as a Medtroidvania, players will need to unlock new items and abilities to get past obstacles.
The map comprises six maze-like zones with different enemies and visual theming. This is also where the game’s influences are most apparent. The area left of the jungle wouldn’t look out of place in Castlevania. Meanwhile, the ruined city to the right gives off immediate Dark Souls vibes. The Soulslike influence extends to calling the save points Bonfires, but that’s where it ends.
Swords, Sorcery and Platforming
Gameplay is relatively straightforward, but getting used to the mobile controls can take a while. The developers recommend players use a controller, which might be a good idea. Without the controller, players move their characters using a four-way directional pad on the left side of the screen. They jump block and dash with buttons on the right side. The latter has a bit of a learning curve, but I got used to them eventually.
Weapons consist of swords, knives, whips, bows, two-handed axes, and staves, each with different attacks and abilities. Melee weapons abilities block attacks, and bows let players jump backward while firing. The staves are interesting since their main attack is a melee strike, with a short-ranged magic projectile as its ability. Staves also have a common ability that combines the two modes.
I mostly found myself sticking with knives and bows as much as possible. Many enemies have attacks you can’t block, making swords and shields only situationally useful. Meanwhile, the bow has a much longer range and faster fire rate than magic. Granted, bows require ammunition, and the merchant doesn’t give you a bulk discount on arrows. However, you can carry a lot more arrows than you can store mana for spells.
Elderand also has throwable secondary weapons, including axes, daggers, and bombs. Elderand players can equip a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and two potions in a weapon set. They can have two weapon sets and switch between them on the fly.
Good but Not Great
Overall, combat feels pretty good but not perfect. As I said, many enemies can ignore your attempts to block. When facing the flying insect enemies, you have to spam attack and hope for the best. I also wish there was a way to fire arrows and spells diagonally instead of just left and right. That would make the flying enemies a lot less tedious to fight.
Enemy designs are outstanding and highly varied. Unsurprisingly, given Elderand’s inspirations, a few of them are also really gross. The maggot things in the temple are particularly unsettling, which is impressive, considering it’s all pixel art.
However, I can’t talk about Elderand on Android without talking about the bugs. The first was the menu not opening, preventing you from looking at your inventory or map. Minimizing the game and then opening it again fixes the bug temporarily. However, it will happen again and keep happening enough to get annoying.
The other bugs have to do with the save/load function. Sometimes, you will load a game and spawn outside- the map, making you unable to move. Other times, loading save will take you to a black screen. These were rare but game-breaking and unfixable, as far as I can tell.
Overall, I liked Elderand, but I but there are definitely better platformers. The story and gameplay are serviceable but nothing spectacular. Without the bugs, I’d call it a solid and enjoyable game but not a particularly impressive example of its genre. With the bugs, however, I’m unsure if I can strongly endorse the Android version.
Is It Hardcore?
Elderand has good moments, and there are the bones of a great game in there. However, a set of serious, recurring bugs turn an otherwise solid Metroidvania into an annoying hassle.