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September 2018


Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: 2016


PS4/PC Preview - 'Eitr'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 14, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

The Shield Maiden's destiny was shattered when the mischievous god Loki dripped spots of the wretched substance Eitr into an unwoven loom, forever altering her path and engulfing the great tree Yggdrasil in darkness. The Shield Maiden must venture into the nine Norse worlds and unravel the mystery of her fate.

In Norse mythology, the titular Eitr is a deadly poison that's produced by the serpent Jormungadr. In the world of Eitr, the deadly substance is corrupting the world and has infected the tree Yggdrasil. The Shield Maiden is immune to Eitr, so she is the only one who can save the world. If she can't find a solution, she is doomed to watch the world die.

If you've played Dark Souls, the gameplay in Eitr will feel familiar. While it is an isometric action RPG, Eitr strives for the same feel in its combat. The Shield Maiden controls similarly to a Souls protagonist, with block, dodge, parry and swing moves. You even need to manage stamina to make sure you can attack and dodge.

There's a variety of weapons available for you to find in Eitr, although we only saw a handful: axes, maces, shields, swords and a variety of other items. You can choose to dual-wield weapons without completely negating your defensive abilities. You can parry attacks if you try, but sacrificing your shield for a second weapon means you're going for offense over defense. A second weapon allows you to attack significantly faster, so it certainly has its benefits. You can swap weapons quickly on the fly to find what works best. Bows are also available for those who prefer to attack from a distance.

Eitr also include elements of Diablo. According to the developers, they loved the Souls games but deeply wished for randomized loot akin to the Diablo franchise. As such, Eitr contains a bit of both worlds. All of the loot in the game, aside from a few specific items, is randomly generated. Randomly generated loot can drastically alter how you're going through the game. You might find a lot of high-defense items and try for a tank build, or you may find powerful weapons that allow you to focus on smashing foes. It also has the potential to add a lot of replay value to the game.

The skills you can access are tied to your loot, so randomly generated loot also means that skills are randomly generated. You can have tons of passive abilities, a few strong active abilities, or a mix of the two. Active abilities are powered by a charges system. As you kill enemies, you regain charges. Some abilities only take one charge, but others can take as many as five. It's an interesting twist on the formula since it means you're not able to depend on a certain powerful skill. Many Dark Souls replays involve running to certain places to get strong gear, but Eitr is more focused on the Diablo-style loot grinding.

The Dark Souls feel applies to the leveling system as well. Rather than gaining levels traditionally, you earn Favor for doing certain things. Favor is dropped by bosses and enemies or found as loot. When you gain Favor, you gain a temporary stat boost, but you lose all Favor as soon as you die. You can also spend Favor to gain a permanent but lesser boost to your stats, so it's a bit of a balancing game.

You need to think about how you spend your resources since death is a very real possibility. Enemies are difficult and can hit surprisingly hard. If you rush into a group of enemies, you'll be quickly overwhelmed.

There are some differences from Souls. Bonfires exist in Eitr, but they're more like Resident Evil checkpoints. You have to find flint to light them and activate the checkpoint, but resting at a bonfire doesn't respawn enemies. Enemies only respawn if you die, so you can take advantage of this to gradually make your way through a stage. If you're lighting every bonfire and being super-passive, you might run out of flint when you arrive at a boss room.

We took on a boss in our demo, and it was a surprisingly nasty fight. It was a gigantic scythed monster who fought with a variety of patterns. He teleported around the room, created explosive runes beneath the character, summoned additional monsters to fight for him, and tried to reap our heads. The fight rewarded smart exploitation of his pattern. His scythe move was easy to attack, but if I got to aggressive or used too much stamina, I'd be helpless during his follow-up attacks. It was a fast-paced and intense battle and showed that the game has some real teeth.

Eitr was absolutely one of the highlights of E3 2015. The fantastic pixel art alone provides a striking look, but it isn't coasting along on the fancy graphics. There's a real sense of high-quality design to the game that makes the Dark Souls comparisons more than just superficial. We only got a brief hands-on with the demo, but what we played felt fantastic. If the final version of the game can live up to what we saw, it'll be a must-play game for fans of challenging action-RPGs. Eitr is due out in 2016 for the PlayStation 4 and PC.

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