The lead developer of Eidolon is a dear friend of mine. I am not a member of Eidolon’s development team, but I have been playing Eidolon since its earliest builds and having conversations with its creators about the game for even longer. Since I’m not capable of writing an objective review of Eidolon, I’ll attempt to describe as best I can from an insider’s perspective what Eidolon is and why I think you should play it.
What is Eidolon?
“Eidolon is a game about exploring a mysterious landscape and uncovering the stories of the people who lived there once before. It is a game about history, curiosity, interconnectedness, and the slow and inevitable beauty of life.” - Ice Water Games
Eidolon is an exploration game set in post-apocalyptic Western Washington. A thirst for adventure and a sense of wanderlust are all you need to enjoy Eidolon’s beautifully handcrafted world. Beyond that, Eidolon is entirely what you make of it.
The menus and interfaces of the game, much like the world around it, are clean and minimalistic. When you click the “play” button on Eidolon’s home screen, no cutscenes or tutorials appear. Instead, the menu simply fades away as you’re seamlessly dropped into its world.
Its map is over 100 square miles in size and jam-packed with sights to see and hidden gems to find, but there are no bright arrows or nagging narrators to guide you along your journey. You don’t need to be anywhere. There is no winning or losing in Eidolon. You can die, but death is merely a stopgap. You can collect everything the game has to offer, but that wouldn’t really be the end of Eidolon.
The story of Eidolon is told through scattered journal entries, newspaper clippings, and various pieces of media which have been left behind from before, during, and after the apocalypse. The lore of the game manifests itself as shining squares of green light that permeate across its landscape. When collected, the lore is placed into your journal for you to read and piece together the history its world.
Though you can choose to spend your time searching for collectibles, Eidolon is far from an RPG. Your character will get hungry, tired, and sick as you wander, but Eidolon isn’t a survival game. It shares the open-ended, no-objectives feel of a sandbox game, but Eidolon isn’t about building or attaining something - Eidolon is all about the journey.
I’ve been conditioned by video games to expect conflict at every turn, but conflict in Eidolon is almost entirely self-inflicted. Eager adventurers might choose to fight a bear or swim through the freezing waters of the Pacific Northwest, but these ideas can prove just as fatal in the game as they would in real life. Your only “enemy” is the environment, but in Eidolon’s lonely world, the environment is also your only friend.
Why should I play Eidolon?
“Minecraft’s greatest strength, in my eyes, wasn’t the potential for building, but the potential for exploration; you wandered this completely random, endless world and made your own stories along the way. Eidolon is the embodiment of that spirit; except here there’s intricate craftsmanship on show. Ice Water Games have created a world that is at the same time subtly detailed and sweepingly beautiful, with no hand holding and minimal guidance as to what you should be doing.” - Max Downton, Coffee Break Gaming
Eidolon is a game of beauty, adventure, and solitude. I’ve spent almost as much time admiring the landscapes of Eidolon as I have actually playing it. Its filled with sights to see, content to discover, and experiences to have.
Eidolon will not hold your hand. There are no completion percentages to track or achievements to unlock. Eidolon simply exists for you to experience. In my opinion, this is Eidolon’s greatest strength, but I understand that this might be off-putting to gamers that are looking for a quick thrill. To me, Eidolon is equal parts video game and interactive art. Eidolon is not for everyone, but for those that it strikes a chord with there is simply nothing else like it.
From the earliest stages of its development, the goals of Eidolon were to tell a story, to craft an experience. The majority of the team at Ice Water Games were writers, fully devoted to creating the lore of the game. The sheer amount of content in Eidolon reflects that, as does the occasional bug.
If you come into Eidolon with the expectations of a survival game like the The Forest or DayZ, you will likely be disappointed. There are no guns to shoot in Eidolon, no enemies to fight. Eidolon is first and foremost a story-driven exploration game, and the survival aspects of it take a backseat to its rich emergent narrative. With that said, Eidolon is the only game of its kind and an experience unlike any other.