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Published 18.10.2022 00:00
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Eldrum: Red Tide review

Eldrum: Red Tide is a follow up to the enjoyable text-based rpg Eldrum: Untold. In classic sequel fashion, Red Tide ups the ante on the scope and scale of its adventure, but mostly ends up worse for it. By the end of Red Tide, I was more than ready to put it down.

Reading to reunite

This reading-focused rpg puts you in a fantasy world where your sister has gone mysteriously missing. You and your brother convene to discuss a plan for finding her (or if there is any reason to worry) when suddenly the town where you both serve as soldiers in comes under attack.

This kicks off a long and arduous journey that includes doomsday cults, a slaving cartel, and a mysterious omen in the sky, among other things. Along the way you are constantly given agency in how to complete the quests set before you via dialog and action trees that let you approach situations from different angles, leverage your customized character strengths, and make use of special items you may have found along the way.

Prose in need of personality

As with Untold, Red Tide is really neat in how it manages to create an adventure that feels open and nonlinear despite being constrained to a text adventure. Red Tide opens up avenues even further by having more branching paths, side quests, and many opportunities to make decisions that have long-term consequences throughout the course of your journey.

This expanded world does suffer under Red Tide's text-only format, though. Without any character portraits and perhaps some additional tools for pathfinding or knowing who is in certain locations, it becomes easy to lose track of what you're supposed to be doing and rather difficult to get back on track without good old trial and error.

Saving through the slog

Eldrum: Red Tide's openness also creates a lot of dead ends. Whether it's going into rooms that are rigged to kill you instantly or combat challenges you aren't strong enough to overcome, it's easy to find yourself facing a game over screen. Red Tide has a save system that retains your 30 most recent saves that you can roll back to and try things again. While it's nice that the game provides a system for getting out of sticky situations, it's not an ideal solution, and I honestly would have preferred a narrower adventure with less choice so I could move through the game a little more swiftly.

Speaking of which, Red Tide is also a much bigger game than Untold, taking you to quite a few different open areas with their own quest lines. This multiplies the amount of dead ends or repetitive fights you get into, which balloons the playtime from reloading saves when you fail, to the point that once I reached the final act I was kind of over it. The story had some decent reveals but I spent too much time doing things that felt too similar to what I had been doing since the beginning of the game. Sure, some of my stats got better, but I never really felt a sense of progression or evolution so at a certain point I was just trying to barrel to the end to be done with it, as opposed to being compelled by what I was doing or reading.

The bottom line

I wrote in my review of Untold that this game format succeeds because of its restraint, and I stand by that. Red Tide has lost some of its ability to pull back, making for an experience that feels unweildy as a text-based rpg.

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