When I ask myself if I enjoy some new game I downloaded or if I’m just playing it to pass the time, I always come back to the same question: Am I paying attention to what I’m doing or am I playing on automatic? Many times I have found that I just spent the last half hour smashing buttons without really enjoying what I am doing, like a robot tasked with clearing the game. This is the reason I enjoy dying in games so much, because I get invested in trying to beat whoever just beat me! Even if it is just to show dominance to the imaginary audience I talk to as I play.
Rumours from Elsewhere is an action-adventure game developed as their debut by Notte Studio Games that managed to grab my attention the moment I realized that I wasn’t going to beat its Demo by swinging my sword like a madman. Much like Volgarr and Dark Souls –from which the team takes obvious inspiration- this beautifully rendered 3D side-scroller rewards sharp skills and a good amount of thinking on how to engage its enemies.
While it is still only a Demo, its first level is plenty big – and filled with enough types of dangers, enemies and treasure – so we can learn a lot about what this promising game will be like in a year once it is released. So grab your best sword and decide what your greatest desire is, because we are going to adventure into the world of Rumours from Elsewhere for a chance to making your wish come true.
Today we are skipping the story since Rumours from Elsewhere shows its premise through items found inside the game much like games such as Destiny and Dark Souls, so given that this is just a Demo we only have what we get in the synopsis, which reads:
“Anyone who dares to enter the door of Elsewhere, hero or fiend alike, faces the opportunity to earn their greatest desire but at the cost of perilous adventure against ferocious creatures and otherworldly monsters.”
When starting a new game in Rumours from Elsewhere you have the opportunity to choose a character with four unique abilities that can be used infinite times, with the caveat of waiting some time in-between each use of the same ability; these characters also have different characteristics, such as Vitality, Strength, Agility, and Luck. In the case of this Demo we get to choose the Highwayman, a sort of jack-of-all-trades with a basic 10 in all his statuses, a feat that earns the Highwayman the title of the “Mario” character. Once we have chosen, the game starts right away on a dessert, near what seems to be old Arabian towers, temples, and catacombs filled with enemies the player must vanquish to advance that range from snakes, rats, mercenaries, living-skeletons, to golems and shadowy demons.
Every creature in the game is capable of killing your character in a couple of strikes, so you must keep moving and take the initiative when it comes to fighting these foes; taking advantage of every ability to stun, damage and keep the threats at bay. Luckily, with some skill, it is possible to take advantage of tiny frames of invincibility obtained while performing special attacks such as the spin-to-win tornado of blades that is the Highwayman’s Final Move.
Throughout the ruins you will find water fountains and chests –in different places every new game – the former can be used to refill a water flask that allows health to be regained and the latter contain better weapons or useful artifacts to help in the journey. The game also presents a sort of time-limit or an incentive for exploration in the form of an un-killable shadow that will kill you with one touch and appears after you spend too much time in one area.
One of the main selling points of Rumours from Elsewhere is its difficulty, even going so far as to warn in its Steam synopsis that gamers should “Prepare to Die”. It certainly can be a hard game to pick up for casual gamers, especially since you start without water a.k.a. the games main healing item. However, the grade of difficulty for Rumours from Elsewhere is not found in cheap gimmicks nor in giving you disadvantages, it rests in its simplicity: the player character lacks any way to meaningfully evade or block enemy attacks, so you must rely on your own abilities and wits to move the character out of danger and into attack range.
The difficulty of Rumours from Elsewhere is also present in the scarcity and unreliability of healing items, every hit counts a great deal a gets you farther away from completing the level and closer to reaching that dreaded message of “You Died” at the end of every new attempt. Finally, the end of the Demo seems to indicate that we can expect to fight giant monsters at the end of each level as a sort of Boss Fight, and judging by looks of it its not going to be an easy fight.
Graphics and Audio
Rumours from Elsewhere is played to the tune of its Arabic and Turkish themes; everything from the clothes, carpets, architecture and music, to the style of swords, the use of “Turkish eye” imagery as well as the characters themselves speak of a clear inspiration in the middle east. The game presents two highly contrasted art styles: the first is found in the menus of the game, it is a bit crude and unenticing -almost like it was hand drawn- while the other is used inside the game itself and presents a dramatic improvement, with beautiful, simple, polygonal art that is no doubt helped by the Unreal Engine used in its production.
One of the things that shines the brightest amidst the sands of Rumours from Elsewhere is its world design. The developers at Notte Studio Games have created a big map ready to be explored and –avoiding the usual failings of big maps- have filled it with a plethora of enemies and loot ready to be slain and plundered.
This level that players can explore in the Demo presents different zones, all connected in a natural fashion, each one as detailed as they are unique. Lighting, color and the illusion of depth are used to great effect to set the various tones of every scenario, as well as to make the movement of certain objects feel more real. The selection of enemies for all the areas of the map is almost pitch perfect, giving each zone a different feel and style of combat, and also making sure that while manageable, careless players will get overwhelmed by the enemies.
In contrast to its visual art, the audio of the game is certainly lacking as it is mostly a simple Arabic-sounding theme that accompanies the player throughout the whole level, with some sound effects -that sound appropriate in its best moments and generic the rest of the time- added into the mix.
Rumours from Elsewhere has the makings of a game that will keep me playing for a long time as I die trying to defeat its challenges. I look forward towards fighting that Giant Scorpion that is promised once you collect all three treasures and cross the door, and beating more levels that are as well-crafted and challenging as the one found in this Demo; perhaps next time with the possibility of configuring my own key bindings on the PC. I will definitely keep my eyes open for the day when its full version is available, with hopes that the rest of the game is a good continuation of the game we have, with a few polished edges.