Eldritch review
3 May, 2014

If you found this via a web search, well done, because pages mentioning this game are just about impossible to find that way. This is when subtitles are helpful: you want a one-word title, but still easy to find, so you're unique (or at least less common) subtitle is what people search for. Anyway, title is unrelated to content, so let's move on to the actual game.

Eldritch is a Lovecraftian horror, first-person shooter, dungeon crawler with permadeath. And very low polygon models and pixel-art textures, for no obvious reason. In the hub dungeon, there are no monsters, a few books providing gameplay information and backstory, and some fruit for regaining health when you return from the actual dungeons. The backstory is, you are the member of a team of occult researchers who volunteered to be sealed in the world in which they imprisoned The Old Ones, but “an errant word” in the incantations wiped your memory. Fortunately, some books in the library tell you this.

Upon entering the first level, you receive a compass, which highlights the exit right away and points of interest on your map as you discover them. Aside from this, you have no starting items, so you'd better get moving and find a weapon. You will most easily find empty glass bottles, one-use ranged weapons; and rocks, multi-use ranged weapons that you have to retrieve after each use. For melee attacking, you can use your fists until you find a dagger. Since you'll get sick of going to fetch your pet rock after every attack, especially when you miss, you'll want to pick up the first revolver you find. They're very common since the dungeons never give you ammo outside of a revolver, except for loot on corpses, both of which are very common.

Now that you have a dagger and a revolver, get used to using them, because they are the only weapons you will ever use. I'm not exaggerating; this is the highest weapon tier. You may want to occasionally use dynamite to blow holes in the dungeon walls, but since you can only hold two items, you'll have to temporarily give up either your good melee weapon or your good ranged weapon to carry around dynamite, so make sure you have a place in mind when you set down a weapon to grab some dynamite. In the second dungeon (not to be confused with the second level of the first dungeon), the tripwire gun is available. But this is even less useful than the dynamite, because you also have to lure enemies into your traps and you have to remember where you placed them so you don't kill yourself when running away from monsters. You may also end up sacrificing one of your weapons, anyway, so you can carry around some dynamite to blow up the otherwise-indestructible, weeping-angel statues, and a tripwire gun and a bundle of dynamite is not good combination for unexpected encounters, which is all the time.

Full disclosure: this is where I stopped having fun, kept dying, and tossed the game aside. There are some good ideas in Eldritch, it's just that they're all underdeveloped, resulting in a very shallow game. There are multiple item types, but hardly any. There are spells you can cast, but you only ever have the ability to cast one particular spell at any time, which is determined by what shrines are in your randomly-generated dungeon, and casting costs money, bizarrely, instead of having a mana bar. Except for the dungeons, which you might as well play in the same order every time because they increase in difficulty, there is nothing to unlock, so you have the exact same items and spells in every playthrough. And the only thing you retain across playthroughs is money, which gives you diminishing returns to more you hoard, and plateaus very early on, because the shops have so little in stock and you can't hold many items anyway.

The game is pretty obviously trying to allow for different play styles, but it doesn't work, for all the reasons given above. Instead, there is one optimal approach, which is to run in like you're playing Hotline Miami, only pausing to blow up or avoid the weeping-angel ripoffs. As for stealth, this game fails miserably (although to be fair, that's much harder to do well). I've heard Eldritch compared to the original Thief game, but I don't see a resemblance at all; there aren't even shadows to hide in.

Unless you are a complete sucker for anything borrowing from the Cthulu Mythos, give this game a miss, and even then, there isn't much for you here.