As the name suggests, “Eldritch” takes the Deep Ones and Shoggoths of H. P. Lovecraft and plops them in the chunky, cubic voxelated dungeons of the modern roguelike. Armed with a dagger, a revolver, and a handful of spells and incantations, it’s the player’s job to survive without getting his consciousness boiled down to goo by some incomprehensible horror.
What I like about the game’s announcement trailer (below) is how it mixes and matches the cosmic terror of the Lovecraft characters with “Minecraft”’s goofy aesthetic. So-called weird fiction is often sardonic, but there’s a lightheartedness to “Eldritch” that’s balanced by creepy audio direction and tense stealth gameplay.
“Eldritch” is the first game by Minor Key, which currently consists of the Brothers Pittman: David is a former programmer at 2K, responsible for the AI in “BioShock 2″ and “The Bureau: XCOM Declassified” and J. Kyle made his bones at Gearbox on the “Borderlands” series. The game’s official site explicitly lists Looking Glass Studio’s old immersive sims as sources of inspiration.
I don’t want to explore Looking Glass’ history and influence here, but suffice to say that its tendrils are widespread. So, given David Pittman’s work on the “BioShock” series, it’s not surprising that he’d name-drop “Thief” as a touchstone, or that shades of “Ultima Underworld” might color “Eldritch”’s non-linear, randomly generated dungeon-crawling.
In theory, “Eldritch” should allow for any number of approaches as players complete its quests and plumb its depths. Non-violence? Stealth? Unabashed spell-slinging and blood-letting? Knock your self out.
While “Eldritch” is in open beta, I haven’t played it yet. Talk from the Twitter water-cooler suggests, however, that it sports sliding runs and mantle-jumping mechanics (again, “Thief”-like), and I’ve seen more than a few people make favorable “Dishonored” comparisons.
Those are big shoes to fill! To see how “Eldritch” fares, you’ll need a Windows PC and $15. Pre-ordering the game gives you instant access to the beta, and the game will be officially released on October 21. Should the game’s Greenlight campaign succeed, your purchase or pre-order is also good for a Steam key.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter