Immersive sims and roguelikes are my two favorite genres of videogames for roughly the same reason: they are inherently about the player’s cleverness moreso than the designer’s. They give the player a shitload of tools, and a shitload of different problems, and then ask the player to go to work. I love Spelunky for many of the same reasons that I love BioShock — I can personally express myself through the way I play, rather than being railroaded onto a single ideal playstyle by linear mission design or a lack of options. I can be surprised by the way mechanics overlap with one another, or feel like a genius when I use those overlaps to succeed.
The genres have their own strengths, of course. Roguelikes force you to learn the mechanics rather than the levels, which means that when you get better at the game you’re actually getting better at the game rather than just unintentionally memorizing enemy placement. Immersive sims have a different, more tactile texture to them — they often require more manual dexterity, and (as their name suggests) they give you that unique charge of being immersed in a moment — of having only one arrow left in your quiver as a suspicious guard rounds a corner, and you can hear his footsteps on the tile you accidentally ran across too loudly, and god this would be less scary if I could just poke my head around the corner and see him, but he’s getting closer closer closer FUCK
Peanut butter and chocolate.
Eldritch combines them.
Because the game worlds are randomized, every experience feels fresh and gives you an opportunity to come into new, bizarre situations. You got past the Lizard Statue Thingies (which basically behave like the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who — if you don’t look directly at them they’ll sneak behind you and do damage) really easily when you had the cloak spell, but how will you deal with them when you’ve only got the magic spell that allows you to create a solid block in the world? You made it past the squiddy-looking bastards when you had a shitload of revolver ammo, but what if you switched that revolver out for a tripwire gun? And watch out, because that shopkeeper you angered ten minutes ago finally caught up to you — quick, dash across the room and do a flying leap onto a parapet, mantling onto it and evading your pursuer at the last second.*
My god, the mobility in this game. Eldritch has every single movement mechanic you’ve ever experienced in a game, and as a result you feel like a hilariously powerful master of parkour. Slide under a thing, then mantle onto another thing, then execute an insane double-jump to climb a ziggurat in one movement, then crouch and hide behind an eldritch monument, then switch out your double-jump for Dishonored’s blink power, then jump into the air to get line-of-sight to the level exit and teleport there with a single well-timed click, then punch the air.
In the time I’ve spent with Eldritch, I’ve already started doing what I always do with my favorite immersive sims: I start playing them like an idiot. I self-enforce weird rules, like “every enemy does instakill damage” or “get through the entire game without killing anyone.” And, like the best immersive sims and roguelikes, the game supports all those playstyles. Want to play Eldritch as a stealth assassin? The enemies have surprisingly robust awareness AI to allow that, and you’ve got all the tools you need to evade capture. Want to play as a berserking gunman? Just grab a revolver and steal as many bullets as you can. Wanna play as a mage, or a stab-happy assassin, or a combination of all of those? Eldritch allows you to, encourages you to, claps its hands giddily and jumps up and down when you do.
The only downside of the game is that it’s currently too easy, but (A) I imagine that’ll be a nice change of pace for those players who put down Spelunky after a couple of minutes, and (B) developer David Pittman has already promised a harder NG+ mode soon.
EDIT: The game shipped with NG+ and it is exactly what I wanted. Incredibly hard, and really forces you to use the game’s stealth systems.
Basically, I’m saying that if you have any interest in either immersive sims or roguelikes, you have effectively no excuse not to buy Eldritch.
*Or do a running slide into a one-block-wide alcove and evade him that way.**
**Or use some dynamite to blow up the ground beneath him so that he falls to his death.***
***Or buy the upgrade for your gun that allows your bullets to carve out the environment, then just shoot your way through a wall.****
****Or fill a corridor with tripwires and lure him into them.*****
*****Or or or or or or or or or or