I don't think I've had this large a change of heart on a game in a long while. Going into Eldritch, I lost hope almost immediately. A combination of mediocre voxel environments, cartoonish bad guys, goofy sound effects, and stab-happy gameplay just didn't really jive with the whole Lovecraftian aesthetic it claimed to be rocking. Thirty minutes in I'd realized I'd come across pretty much every item I was going to see. An hour in and I'd conquered the first world, having at no time felt threatened by anything I faced. I entered world 2 for a few minutes, finding more of the same. Apart from my grudging admiration for the simple-yet-effective 3D minimap the game uses, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing here worth playing any further for. Bored and angry, I set the game aside for a while, wondering why anyone would publish so straightforward and sloppy a first-person shooter and decide to slap a Lovecraft theme on it.
Coming back to it on a whim, I re-entered world 2 and dug a little deeper. Suddenly, things were different. The difficulty spiked up nicely, adding opponents that required actual strategy, that I couldn't just flail wildly at and never worry about again, that left me feeling more than a little nervous. And then I died, though I'm not exactly sure how. I rushed back in, suddenly stripped of all my magic armaments and life boosts, and last less than half as long. Eventually, I figured out what's going on, learned how to dodge the traps, realized that stealth and discretion are actually necessary to survive, and on I went to a fun, twitchy, jumpy run through the rest of this Eternal Darkness / Spelunky / Minecraft hybrid. It's not terribly deep; as I said earlier, you find the vast majority of the items you'll ever see in level 1, and while the monsters do evolve over time, there's not a huge amount of variety here. Oftentimes, new monsters will simply be beefier and shoot faster, but there's enough weirdness thrown in to keep the game fresh. Also, be aware that this is in fact a roguelike. Dying sets you back to the start with just short of all your progress erased, but thankfully this is a game which rewards knowledge every bit as much as it does lots of ammo and a pair of stealth boots.
Don't go into this expecting any kind of dignified cosmic horror experience. It's sloppy, it's fun, and it's got some nice retro vibes to it hearkening back to the first person shooters of yore. If you're not sure if Eldritch is going to be for you, gauge your reaction to the phrase, "Cthulhu vs. the Ninja Assassin." If that mental image doesn't ♥♥♥♥ you off, well hey, here's your chance to see it in action.
Posted: December 3rd, 2013