Archives by Day

May 2024

Ereban: Shadow Legacy

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Baby Robot Games
Release Date: April 10, 2024


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Ereban: Shadow Legacy'

by Cody Medellin on April 10, 2024 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Ereban: Shadow Legacy is an action-packed stealth/platformer that combines stunning graphics and innovative gameplay mechanics in an immersive and new original universe.

Even though the Steam pages seem to be flooded with roguelite survival auto battlers and Metroidvania titles, stealth games are also quite prevalent. The idea of taking down someone via lethal or non-lethal means without being seen is appealing when you consider how the direct approach is the standard in most games. As with many crowded genres, a new stealth title must do something fresh to stand out. For Ereban: Shadow Legacy, that inspiration comes from an unlikely source.

You play the role of Ayana, the last member of a race of people known as the Ereban. They were once known for the ability to move and manipulate the shadows, but the arrival of Helios, one of the galaxy's powerful energy corporations, coincides with their disappearance. After accepting an invite to become part of the company, Ayana escapes their obvious trap and decides to investigate what happened to her people.

The premise is fine, but the story easily qualifies as a low point in the game. The character lines are good enough, but their decisions sometimes seem nonsensical. You see this early on, with Ayana going along with the invite to Helios' HQ even though she suspects they're evil and responsible for the disappearance of her people. Head-scratching decisions like this occur quite often, as does the sudden trust in complete strangers in the name of plot advancement. The narrative twists all occur at the very end of the game, and the whiplash is enough that the resolution doesn't feel satisfying. The game tries to supplement the world lore by including letters and notes from people you'll never see, but the trick has been used so often and the content feels so repetitive that you can ignore picking up the missives. Even as a "turn off the brain" experience, the story unearths more questions instead.

The gameplay revolves around stealth in a 3D space, and Ereban nails the basics. You can run or do a crouch walk to emit less noise. Enemies have decent range to hear and see you, so you won't be spotted from unknown locations. You can go behind enemies and kill them with one hit, but you can also dive from above and perform a kill like in Assassin's Creed. While the game nails the basics, the abilities don't follow some of the genre's modern conventions. For example, you can't directly attack anyone, so even though you have a big blade on your wrist, it only appears when you dive from above or hit someone from behind. Your jump may not be high, but you also can't vault over low walls or grab onto ledges to pull yourself up. Don't expect to hide bodies initially, and while you can survive a long fall, it only takes one hit from an enemy to kill you. It's a "back to basics" approach to stealth, and it feels refreshing rather than limiting.

The big gimmick is how the game uses shadow as your greatest asset. The title takes a page from Nintendo's competitive ink-shooter Splatoon, so players can turn into a blob of shadow and move around in that form until stamina runs out. You can only move in areas without any direct light. This works fine for moving around undetected, but it also lets you climb and move on walls or slip through grates to lower levels. The ability does wonders for mobility, but it also means that you'll encounter areas where the game asks you to move with the shadow. The shadow could be cast by moving fans or other objects, making platforming feel rather dynamic and ingenious.

Swimming in the shadows is a neat trick, but Ereban takes great care to not overdo and exhaust the mechanic. You'll want to sink into shadows often, but not every area features moving shadows. Instead, the game provides a number of abilities and tools to play with to keep the stealth aspect enjoyable. For example, sonar creates outlines in the area for enemy locations and denotes the whereabouts of important collectibles. You can also throw a ball of shadow at an enemy to blind them or use a mine to stun foes with an electric shock. Some of those abilities you'd expect from other stealth games also come back as shadow powers, such as using a shadow realm to dispose of bodies or using shadows to warp behind a foe, similar to the feature in Aragami.

This makes for a fairly flexible stealth game even if you take into account the previously mentioned limitations, but these tools and powers come with some baggage of their own. You must select each power specifically from a menu on a different screen. If you want to use them, each power has a different set of controls. Throwing the shadow ball means holding down the tool button and then using what would normally be the jump button to fire it. If you want to possess someone, you need to be in shadow form and hit a button to possess someone — but you must remember to let go of the shadow form or else you'll immediately relinquish possession of your victim. Unless you want to burn a few turns trying to perfect the controls of each new ability, the controls are cumbersome enough that using newfound powers is a rarity rather than something to leverage often.

Another issue with the tools and powers is that there is no way to get all of them during one run. Even if you spend a good deal of time scouring every last inch of a stage, there aren't enough items to craft all of the shadow powers and all of the other upgrades in the game. The limitation forces you to concentrate on going for a completely lethal or non-lethal set of powers; trying to balance the two ensures that you'll never get some of the more interesting stuff, like being able to turn into a shadow before an enemy goes in for their killing blow and countering with a killing blow of your own.

The choice of a lethal versus non-lethal run doesn't seem to affect much. Try to go for a mercy run, and that means you have to avoid killing robots and humans. Only humans seem to count when it comes to getting a final lethal or non-lethal status, so the game tends to contradict itself. The reward for going a non-lethal route is fairly small, as it just means that the humans you encounter won't sound the alarm on you, and this only occurs in the game's penultimate chapter. Since you'll encounter more robots than humans in the game, it seems like such a tiny reward for the effort.

The only other knock against the gameplay is the presence of bugs, specifically in the later stages. There are no crashes, but the lack of collision in some areas means that it's easy to go outside of the gameplay area and see other parts of level geometry that weren't meant to be seen. This can sometimes occur when in shadow form but can also happen if you do an animation, like a stab from behind or gather up parts from the environment. The result is either death from falling below the kill plane or a checkpoint restart, since there's no way to return to the playfield once you leave. Granted, we were playing a version marked as a pre-release build, and these issues may be fixed by the final release, but it is fair to warn others in case the issues haven't been addressed yet.

There isn't too much to do after the credits roll. You can choose to replay the whole game to go for the non-lethal or lethal routes, but as mentioned before, that only affects some stuff in the final chapter and doesn't alter the ending. You can save time by continuing the game from before the final ending choice (since the game auto-saves at that spot), enabling you to quickly see all three endings. You can replay all of the previous chapters to get better ranks and clean up missed items. You might enjoy doing that post-credits, since you'll carry over all of the abilities gained in the initial playthrough. Otherwise, that's all there is if you're trying to extend things beyond the campaign's six-hour playtime.

The audio in Ereban is quite good. The music doesn't convey too much of a sci-fi vibe, but it does make for a moody set of background tunes. The effects are fine, and nothing seems out of place, but the voice work is the real star. You might grow tired of half of the lines being delivered with dripping sarcasm, but the voices are appropriately cast, so none of them feel off. While the game isn't great with intentional humor, the fact that the robots all announce their intended emotional state before saying their lines is humorous no matter how many times you hear it.

Graphically, the game occupies an interesting space. The characters are nice but rather homogeneous except for some of the major ones. They're drawn with some light anime-style lines and colors, so it's a nice touch, but it also doesn't make them stand out too much from the environment. The game uses the standard industrial and desert motif instead of something more imaginative. The animations are good, and although it feels like the developers cheated a bit by having everyone wear helmets or masks, it means that the other animations used to convey emotion can be a tad over the top. The frame rate is also good enough on mid-range hardware to deliver at least 60fps without having to dip far below that line. While the game has plenty of upscaling options, there's no explanation for what any of them are, as they opt for terms that no other game uses. The only recognizable upscaling option that most people have heard of is DLSS, but it isn't clear which version of the technology it's using. It is also a shame that XeSS and FSR aren't present for those not running the game on Nvidia video cards. The game runs on Linux via Proton, and ultrawide support is available for everything except for a few of the pre-rendered cut scenes.

Those with a Steam Deck will find that Ereban needs some real tweaking before it can be acceptable. The default resolution of 1280x800 is available, but all of the graphical settings are turned up to their maximum level. The result is a game that fluctuates wildly between 25fps-40fps, depending on the environment and number of on-screen characters at that time. Battery life on the Steam Deck LCD version is less than 90 minutes on a full charge. Turning everything to low and rebooting the game helps a bit, and employing the device's own FSR claw back some battery time — but not by much.

Ereban: Shadow Legacy is a flawed but enjoyable game. The presentation is fine, and even though the mechanics are simplified compared to other games in the genre, the stealth mechanics create some very cool moments. The overall game length is fine, and while the collision bugs can get fixed, the lackluster story doesn't do its part when it comes to motivating people to play to the end. Ereban isn't necessarily a must-play title, but it is well worth a look if you're in the market for something new.

Score: 7.0/10

More articles about Ereban: Shadow Legacy
blog comments powered by Disqus