Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Game 68: The Eidolon

Name:The Eidolon
Developer:Lucasfilm Games (AKA Lucasarts)
Time: 1 hour

Before Star Wars: X-Wing, before Monkey Island, even before Maniac Mansion, there was The Eidolon. Released as the second installment of a revolutionary 3D graphics engine, first used on Rescue on Fractalus*. The Eidolon is set in an alternate dimension, where I pilot an advanced steampunk machine, The Eidolon, that I found in a cave. Its not a deep story, but it is a story. The real interesting bits I'll talk about when I get to Rescue, a year or two from now, but suffice to say that Lucasarts started off because Lucas himself thought games would be a good idea, hence why their earliest output doesn't consist of movie licenses. As an aside, I keep wanting to call this The Eidolan...to the point I didn't even realize it wasn't called that.

When I first booted up the game I was struck by just how gorgeous this looks for 1985. I'm overselling it, but this barely looks like a Commodore 64 game. I kind of want to see what something like this would look like on a modern PC. The controls, which I had to find the manual to understand, require me to use the joystick to move and shoot, the space key to collect fireballs, and the number keys to select them. In short, this game really feels like a C64 FPS, the ones we all know and love. Naturally, this doesn't keep on giving.
Eventually it turns into the other proto-FPS games, one that requires you to use your noggin more than your reflexes. The monsters are explained in the manual. Some of them are not exactly hostile, because they don't chase you, but they can kill you. But the weird thing here is that all characters just stand around, frozen until you get close enough. This is explained in the manual that the enemies feed off the energy in the Eidolon. There are also constant streams of fireballs floating around on later levels. these hurt you.
Rounding out the roster are guardian creatures that requires a gem to awaken, they're tougher than the other enemies. I assume there's a unique one for each level. I couldn't get past the third level boss, or rather I quite easily gave up on him. I tried taking him out with a nearly full energy tank by firing all 4 kinds of fireballs at him, but that did nothing. I could have just missed that I was supposed to get past him by non-violence, but that would be giving this game too much credit.
The GUI, despite taking up half the screen, wasn't of much use. Its useful knowing which gems you have and your energy but the rest of it is of nominal usefulness. The compass doesn't always work well, sometimes sending you into a wall. The C-H meter, which I assume is a Cold-Hot meter, isn't more useful than the compass. I legitimately have no idea what the numbers do and the four things in the corner of the compass are which fireballs you can use.
Now the big problem here is basically the central concept to this game. Enemies feed off your machine's energy. Shooting drains your machine's energy. Getting hit by fireballs drains your ships energy. Energy does not replenish between levels, which would be good if that didn't screw you over. I notice that there's just enough energy on a level to get the gems and the end guardian, if you have a full supply. I'm not an expert on this game by any means, so I could be missing out on some exploits. You have infinite lives, I think, and you continue at the current level, but that's annoying in my opinion and I hate it.

You have four different types of fireballs. One is a regular attack and the other three are gimmicks. I never really had any use for those outside of the bosses. 1/10

While there is an attempt at variety, they can mostly be boiled down to just shooting at them. 1/10

None, since technically everything kills you.

Endless grey hallways aren't my thing, as I've said in the past, and no matter how impressive the tech behind it is, its still endless grey hallways. 1/10

Player Agency:
A little slow moving around, but I chalk that up to technical issues. Also, if an enemy is behind you, you're going to take a bit of damage. 4/10


It manages to put forth a very slight other-worldly vibe. 1/10

The technology here is very impressive, which wowed me quite a bit. The wall graphics were really cool. It isn't enough to carry an entire game though. The enemy graphics are simple. They exist and I don't really have anything good to say about them. 2/10

While its clever that the story required you to think about it, it doesn't really affect the gameplay, and to be honest I didn't really care. 0/10

The music here was really disappointing, a vaguely otherworldly, but not that much above a PC Speaker soundtrack. Otherwise sounds were typical Atari-style sounds. 1/10

That's 11. Which is the same as Castle Wolfenstein. Which seems to be the range that really old games that were really cool, but ultimately unappealing to me fall in. But what did others think?

Firstly, I saw that there was a longplay. I think I chose wisely in giving up when I did. In addition to not understanding that I can steal the energy from the guardian dragon's attack, which I blame on the manual, two of the very last levels are dark. I stand by the opinion that you should give this a shot, but actually beating it? Screw that. There aren't any video reviews or anything on the subject. This is one of those games I could beat, but I just don't care to.

Most English reviews were very positive, especially praising the graphics. The ones that weren't don't really put into words why they didn't like it. The only others were German reviews, most of which seem to take a measured take on it, but I don't speak German and I don't honestly think this game is worth translating reviews for.

*Which I don't have as a FPS game, so it'll be a while.

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