Dark Souls, Elden Ring, Bloodborne, Sekiro, Star Wars Jedi: Surivivor, Blasphemous, Lies of P. There is no shortage of beautifully brutal Souls-likes to entertain even the most diehard gamers until the end of time. I would even argue that Souls-likes have quickly become one of (if not the most) popular video game genres of our current era.
Because of this, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd and have your Souls-like be heard over all the noise. Elden Ring has an immense and detailed open world. Lies of P has a viscerally unique setting and incredible world-building. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor lets you be a Jedi while simultaneously having a mullet and handlebar mustache. The point is that people who play these types of hard-as-nails adventure games are constantly on the lookout for something that sets them apart. It's lucky then, that Jyamma Games' new Souls-like Enotria: The Last Song has several aspects that seemingly give it a leg up above the rest.
I was able to spend a considerable amount of time with the game at the developer's booth while visiting the PAX West 2023 show floor, and I greatly enjoyed my time with it.
Enotria: The Last Song is an action-adventure RPG based on an avenue of the world not seen in gaming since the second Assassin's Creed game – Renaissance Italy. First and foremost, the game is being developed in Unreal Engine 5, and oh boy does it look like it. Gorgeous landscapes expand over vast and colorful seas, with vibrant colors and familiar Mediterranean architecture spanning the land. The Italian countryside is a place of untold beauty, and the vastness and colorful nature of the country's waterfront terrain are captured perfectly through Enotria's UE5-powered landscapes. The way that light is rendered within that engine is phenomenal, and Enotria takes full advantage of it. Bright, sun-lit walkways illuminate the city streets and beaches, with rays of sunshine dancing off of the eccentric and kaleidoscopic outfits of the jester-like enemies that roam the region.
Above all else, the thing that sets Enotria aside from the other Sous-likes I've played is exactly that – the color. While most of Fromsoft's Souls-like outings are excellent in their own right, the doom-and-gloom of their oppressive and gothic surroundings is a staple within the sub-genre and it rarely deviates. Most of the aspirants to From's crown tend to emulate this look, creating dark and devious worlds in which to explore and fight. This is part of what makes these games so special, but it can become difficult to discern what game you're playing, and from what series.
We definitely got a bit of respite through the wonderful Lies of P, but for the most part, blacks, greys, and browns make up the vast amount of color palettes throughout the Souls-like genre. Enotria turns this trend on its head, being genuinely one of the most vibrant 3D adventure games I've played in a long time. Even the costumes that you and your enemies find themselves wearing are gorgeously stylized, based entirely on Renaissance-era Southern Itlay. I found myself at multiple points in the demo just finding a high ledge and enjoying my surroundings, breathing in the colors. As much as I enjoy the gloomy atmosphere of a game like Bloodborne, it's not hard to argue that the genre's niche look can become dull after a few games. Enotria: The Last Song's environments truly do feel like a breath of fresh air, and they're wonderful to behold.
Frankly, that wouldn't mean much if the game wasn't fun to play. I'm happy to report that it tries to innovate in that department as well, and I believe this is achieved successfully. The majority of the combat is going to feel very comfortable to Souls-like veterans. Attacks are slow, with massive animations accompanying them; enemies hit HARD and relentlessly so dodging and parrying are a must; strategic healing and item usage can turn the tide or force a failure, and attack pattern recognition is imperative to winning an encounter. It does all of these things exceptionally well; gameplay is smooth, hitboxes are fair and balanced, and it has just the right amount of devastating difficulty.
What really sets Enotria apart, however, is the game's mask system. During combat (and outside of it), the player will be able to swap what mask they're wearing with the press of a button. Each mask not only changes the aesthetic of the player's character model but has different weaponry and skill sets attached to it as well. While there are 20 masks to collect in total, I was able to play around with 2 during the demo. One mask loadout had weapons that hit hard but were slow, while the other had faster weapons that did significantly less damage.
In addition to the weapons, each mask carries a variety of items. The heavy-hitting mask had grenades, while the faster mask had throwing items to damage enemies from a distance. The base skillset also changes with each mask, accumulating into a branching skill tree that really lets you customize your play experience.
One of the things I always struggle with in Souls-like games is that swapping weapons and playstyles on the fly can be difficult, so being able to see mid-combat if the strategy you're using is suboptimal is next to impossible. Thanks to the masks in Enotria (and the charitable folks at Jyamma team allowing me unlimited turns at the demo) I was actually able to beat the demo's final sub-boss in the time allotted to me. This was a feat applauded by the team present, which made me feel great, but also couldn't have been done if I didn't have the freedom to switch playstyles on the fly and try different strategies without worrying about loading screens and wait times.
Truth be told, I'm not the biggest fan of Souls-likes. I tend to get more frustrated at the challenge than elated at the conquering of it, so in order for a Souls-like to be worth the effort it really has to stand out. This game not only exceeded my expectations but grabbed a hold of me with its gorgeous art style and memorable setting from the moment I saw the trailer. On top of that, the team that was at PAX was incredibly kind and hard-working, and this wonderful game deserves to be recognized.
Enotria: The Last Song is turning out to be one of the Souls-likes to remember, and if you are a fan of the genre, you'll definitely want to keep it on your radar. It is due out sometime in the first half of 2024, and you can see its Steam page here.
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