Atomp Reviews: Eidolon [Ice Water Games]

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The ‘Walking Simulator’ tag has become something of a trope on Steam and like the very best tropes it has taken the linguistic turn of reappropriation. Intended originally as an insult, used by COD-botherers the term appears to have been taken up to some degree as a recognition of a certain genre of game dedicated to exploration and discovery. Eidolon is an interesting prospect, a Proteus-em-up with some survival sprinkled on top, a true recipe of the modern indie scene.

Gameplay in Eidolon is very much centred around exploration, perhaps with the survival taking a back seat. In this sense it is far closer to the Proteus philosophy of exploration and discovery as opposed to the survival game philosophy of being brutally difficult. Food is bountiful with edible mushrooms carpeting the floor in some areas, large swathes of berry bushes in others and discoverable tools providing yet more bounty. The survival elements are not exceptionally challenging with the likes of The Forest with its homicidal cannibals or Don’t Starve with its notoriously hard eating, sanity and season changes proving to be a distant end of the survival genre. Instead the survival elements of Eidolon are there really to give the experience context and draw the player into the game as a physical entity within the environment ala The Forest rather than a floating camera merely existing as an abstract observer ala Proteus. Neither of these are bad things as I have great appreciation for the two very different approaches, hence why Eidolon is such a great idea using immersion techniques from both genres. For example; in Proteus the act of walking around the silent and empty winter season at night is eerie but altogether pleasant whereas in Eidolon the act of walking through the woods at night is borderline unthinkable as random wild noises and a tired character (no running when tired) make the experience of being there without a fire daunting, let alone attempting to travel. It is the immersion that the looming potential threat gives combined with the simple yet bold beauty of Proteus that really gives Eidolon an edge. I wouldn’t say that it was better than Proteus as it is doing something different, however I will say that Eidolon does what it does as well as Proteus does what it does, and that’s fairly high praise.
The context and story of Eidolon is not handed to the player on a plate, in fact you are immediately dropped into the woods with little more than basic control prompts, a notebook and an electronic device which acts to provide player status in a relatively streamlined manner. From there it’s down to you, the player, to decide what to do. Personally I walked up and up until I hit mountains which it turns out are too cold so I had to turn back, an interesting way of avoiding invisible walls. Upon heading down I spent a couple of days, which ingame are fairly short, moving down into and through the valley. From there I found a lake with a few items which provided me with a new self-assigned objective; find out what that really straight line on the top left of the map is. Upon doing this through a longish route that involved quite a few detours in order to hug tree-lines and avoid obvious open spaces (I’ve been playing Arma3 a lot recently and that method of moving across open maps is now something of a standard) I eventually go to a road. This road was dilapidated and broken down with the shells of cars half buried beneath dirt and the like, so I followed it. My immersion was then broken a little as I glitched between a car and a tree and had to cut my expedition short, which is a shame as I wanted to try and reach a city. I have yet to go back and see if I can start again or unstick myself but whether I can or not seems irrelevant as that story ends itself in a way, ‘trapping my leg in a wrecked car’ (glitching) and starving to death is not the ideal way to end that playthrough but it is reasonable from an immersion standpoint.
Visually and audibly the game is an absolutely magnificent achievement. The look is perhaps a cross between Proteus and Shelter sporting big, bold low poly objects with magnificent colouring. This is a screenshot happy game if ever there was one with almost any scene providing desktop worthy screenshots. I think the lighting is the real winner here, with the day/night and weather cycles altering the lighting and colouring of the game. This creates some brilliant variation that reminded me at times of Operation Flashpoint thanks to the immensely immersive nature and sound. (Operation Flashpoint doesn’t seem like the obvious candidate for comparison but it really really is). The sound is equally well done, matching the graphics perfectly with a very well realised soundscape. My one minor gripe would be the combination of acoustic and electronic music in the soundtrack, I’d personally have preferred either one or the other as transitioning between the two can be a little distracting. This is a very minor gripe though in a game that generally has created and realised a world that it is a joy to be in.
Compatibility-wise the game is Unreal based with a current Windows build, promised Mac build and no sign of Linux. Whilst I believe Unreal are adding Linux support I wouldn’t be too sure on that filtering through to Eidolon, but hey, I’d love to be proven wrong. Hardware-wise this is a fairly medium level game and I expect it to run on most things, bar really old pre-i series era stuff.
In short then; I like this game a lot and I had a very good inkling that I would. If you enjoyed Proteus then I’d highly recommend Eidolon, and if you enjoy the occasional explore-em-up or light survival game then again, I’d highly recommend Eidolon. Currently the game is available on Steam for £11.00 (approx $18.50) and from the Ice Water Games website through a Humble Widget (yay) for £8.90 (approx $15.00).
Eidolon from the Ice Water Games Website:
Eidolon on Steam:

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