App Army Assemble: Elderand - "Is this Lovecraft-inspired Metroidvania a must-play?"

We ask the App Army

App Army Assemble: Elderand - "Is this Lovecraft-inspired Metroidvania a must-play?"

Elderand is Lovecraft-inspired Metroidvania that was recently released for iOS and Android. It sees you battling through hordes of Eldritch horrors using the numerous weapons and abilities at your disposal. Fearing the old gods as we do, we sent our App Army into Elderand to fight these Lovecraftian nightmares in our stead.

Here's what they thought:

Robert Maines

I have to admit I found the touch controls for this game to be so clunky I switched to my iPad and connected my PS4 controller. Anyway, Elderand is an arcade adventure where you guide your hero through a fantasy land picking up weapons, killing monsters and solving simple puzzles like shoving a box off a cliff to reach other areas. The graphics are retro-looking with pixelated graphics that are well-animated and colourful.
If you don’t have a controller then don’t bother getting this game as the touch controls are too complicated and make playing the game a chore.

However, if you do have a controller then this game rocks. It is however quite difficult on the normal setting but you can set the difficulty to easy. This game also deserves a bigger screen, I found it much more fun to play and the text easier to read on my iPad. No AppleTV version sadly so would have to use screen mirroring to play it on a bigger screen. Anyway a thumbs up from me and will playing this one for a while.

Pierpaolo Morgante

Elderand is a beautifully crafted game similar to Castlevania – Symphony of the Night. As in other games in the same genre, you level up by fighting enemies, while collecting coins and different items that you need to become more and more powerful.

I found the difficulty of the game to be balanced overall, and while I only played it for a couple of hours before writing this review, I honestly cannot wait to go back and finish playing it. I died a couple of times, and I found the game to be rather ‘forgiving’, which is a plus in my opinion. Overall, I found the game enjoyable and never frustrating. I enjoyed the graphics, which are well-crafted and definitely set the tone for the whole game.

My only critique comes from the awkwardness of the on-screen controls, which feel a little too crowded. It is easy to move the characters but getting a good rhythm with the actions (attack, secondary weapons, and so on) takes a little bit of time to get used to. Given the other reviews that have been posted, using a controller solves this issue. Overall, I definitely recommend Elderand to all fans of Metroidvania games. You won’t be disappointed.

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Mark Abukoff

I’m kind of a hard sell on games like this because after a while they all seem to blend together. So I approached this with a bit of skepticism. Opening it up, I saw (and ignored) where it recommended playing with a controller. And yeah it was right. I found the touchscreen controls awkward. And there were a lot of them. Great to have all of those options to open up, but in a fast and furious game, you don’t want to have to deal with all of those buttons.

So I played with my Backbone controller and that completely solved the problem. But it’s also worth noting (as has been pointed out) that people aren’t necessarily going to have a controller with them on the go. I don’t take mine. So a mobile game really needs to be pretty optimized for touchscreen control, and while I really like this game, I feel that it could do with improvements in that area.

Other than that, the art is appealing, the levels and terrain and some of the characters you meet are interesting. I liked the variety of monsters and bosses too. The story is pretty standard stuff for a game like this- but that doesn’t detract from it, it just doesn’t make it stand out. The text seemed very small and had me pretty much ignoring it.

I liked the music and the fact that when you die (I didn’t die too often, but I played on “easy”), you respawn pretty much in the same place. If that’s good enough for Diablo Immortal, it’s good enough for this. Really I liked this game and I think it’s worth keeping and playing some more. I recommend it to fans of the genre. But I’m also hoping to see some updates to make it a smoother mobile experience.

Michael Purdy

When you first start up the game, it tells you that the game is best played with a controller. That is very good advice! I found the game very hard to control on my iPhone 14 Pro. I tried an on-screen d-pad first, and that was unplayable for me. On-screen analogue controls worked better, but it doesn’t control as well as Dead Cells, for example. Decided to swap to my iPad Air 5 and connected a PS4 controller. That was much better.

The game has a pixel art style that is a lot like the aforementioned Dead Cells. I liked some of the enemy designs, but some of them remind me of enemies in Castlevania or Metroid. I think that’s my issue with the game. It plays well (with a controller) but the story doesn’t leave an impression and the gameplay reminds me of other games. It’s not a bad game. I have enjoyed my time with it. But I think it lacks an identity.

Matt ARen

Story: Blah Blah mercenary, blah blah evil madness. Who cares, it’s classic platform action time!

Sound: Rarely does this make much difference to me, but I really enjoyed the changing background music for each area. The effects for weapons and items are pretty good too.

Graphics: Solid for the aesthetic they’re going for. I appreciate that all of the weapons are graphically distinct, and the monsters look pretty cool.

Gameplay: They suggest a controller for a better experience, and I agree. Playing with the touch controls can be a bit difficult, and the small buttons onscreen will lead to some incorrect commands. Otherwise, the gameplay is great, solid platform action as you joyfully hack away at the denizens of the dark.

Overall: The only real issue here is the onscreen controls, which can complicate the gameplay. Otherwise, this is a great title, gets “do buy” from me.

Eduard Pandele

When I see a mobile game telling me to whip up my controller, I know I'll have a bad time. Why? Well, because I don't have a controller and I don't want to buy one to play games on the bus Elderand is a PC game masquerading as a mobile game. The touch controls are awful, to the point that the interface fills a third of the screen (no, really - there are FIFTEEN buttons in the interface, and you'll be regularly using TWELVE of them).

The tutorials telling you to press certain buttons actually cover said buttons, so you can't even tell what to press. Some of the button icons shown during the tutorials don't look like the actual buttons you're supposed to press. And, obviously, there are locations in the game where new and mysterious icons pop up, not looking AT ALL like the buttons you're supposed to press there, either. The fonts are microscopic (I struggled to read some of the text even on my tablet - I presume players need eagle eyes if they try to play on a phone).

And... that's about the extent of my grievings with the game. Everything else is fine - the animations are nice, the art is sometimes gorgeous, your hero is reasonably nimble, the levels are sprawling both horizontally and vertically and make some nice mazes, the enemies are dumb if you pick easy difficulty and reasonably evil if you pick the hard difficulty, the feeling of progression is there, with quick level ups and generously scattered new weapons to try and enjoy, overall, this looks and feels like a decent Metroidvania - if a little generic. So, if you have a controller, try this. If not, stay away. Simple.

Chad Jones

Being a fan of metroid-vanias I was excited to review Elderand. First off the graphics were gorgeous and really set the mood as well as the sound/music. The gameplay was fair, I started on the easy setting and at first I was getting used to the world and felt I was unstoppable, but the more I explored the area, it got more challenging as I went deeper into the game.

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I played the first hour of the game using only touch controls. The touch controls were frustrating at times, especially in the higher/trickier platforming and especially when I got to the first boss. They were not as smooth as Dead Cells or Castlevania Symphony of the Night on mobile (which I play regularly on my phone). Fortunately, the game included controller support which helps tremendously. I think the game is well done, I just hope they really polish off those touch controls.

Brian Wigington

I am a sucker for Metroidvanias, so I jumped at the chance to review Elderand. I am writing this little review with the understanding that most gamers know what genre of game this is. At the start, I felt like this was a good helping of Castlevania: SotN with a side of Dead Cells-inspired combat. The levels have a good deal of verticality to them which is great for exploration. I noticed the soundtrack right away and found it to be fitting and makes for a great atmosphere. There are melee weapons like swords, throw weapons like axes, and ranged weapons like bows and many varieties that you will come across.

I was really impressed with the detailed graphics and little things like waterfalls that you notice in the background sometimes. The animations are also quite good with enough frames to convey the clash of combat. I highly recommend Elderand but I do feel that the game's recommendation of using a controller is warranted. There are a lot of virtual buttons to deal with that are much easier to control using an Xbox controller for example. This is a great Metrodvania to play if you are new to the genre or want something challenging without being too stressful overall.

Jc Ga

If you are looking for a good game inspired by the famous Castlevania Symphony Of The Night, you can't go wrong with Elderand. As in any Metroidvania you have to unlock powers allowing you to access new areas, you slay many enemies to earn some xp, money and items, you come across bosses and you pick up a whole collection of weapons, armour and various rings, possibly with magical effects. The game is very understanding when you die (maybe even too much!) by letting you start again at the beginning of the room where you died.

Technically the game is beautiful on mobile, and the not-too-annoying music with its gothic touch is reminiscent of SOTN, and that's for the best. The gameplay is quite satisfactory although the management of secondary weapons could have offered many more possibilities.

The areas can give a feeling of déjà vu but they vary in their graphics, the level design and the different enemies do not give the impression of having invented much new and seem more of a homage to Castlevania SOTN, but many good ideas are taken up, and the rooms in which you meet the cultists renew the surprise. For the pleasure of discovering, the adrenaline of meeting a new boss and the successful atmosphere, I easily recommend Elderand.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.