review below is based on the original Eleusis version 1.0.
What is it?
lot of things in modern Greece, behind the modern city of Elefsina,
there is a trail of ancient history, architecture and culture. In the
specific case of Elefsina, its past hides under the alternate name of
Elefsina is an industrial center in the Southern part of mainland
Greece; the site of a major oil refinery and so on. Two to four thousand
years ago, it was the home to part of the thriving Greek civilization
and specifically the area of the country that hosted the cults of
Demeter (Goddess of the harvest) and her daughter, Persephone - the one
with Hermes, Hades, and the pomegranate, if you know the myth.
Surrounding their stories, the Ancient Greeks built the Eleusinian
Mysteries; a cycle of loss, searching and ascent (a recurring pattern in
story-telling down the millennia), and now an indie team from Greece,
called Nocturnal Works, have brought us a very slick adventure game
inspired by the cult of Eleusis.
Is there a plot?
Eleusis, the game, is not actually set in
Ancient Greece, but in and around a modern Greek village. The game
begins with you driving at night to visit your mother in rural Greece.
However, your journey is interrupted on a backwoods road, and you have
to find another way to get home. The entire game takes place in one
night, as far as I can tell, and you have to deal with an abducted
woman, wolves in the night, hooded shadows, twisted paths through the
undergrowth, high cliff-edge paths, and lots of locked doors.
How do you play?
story of Eleusis is presented in a very detailed, professional
looking 3D world, in which you have very free movement. The W, A, S and
D keys are used for movement, with the mouse also controlling direction.
You can use Shift to run (I had to hold it down almost throughout the
game as the walk was so slow), Ctrl to crouch, I to get your inventory,
F your flashlight (when you have batteries for it), L your lamp (once
it's available), J your journal, and M your map (again, once it's
available). You left click to interact with objects. Many objects are
moveable in a given location, but not all objects have any actual use to
you. This meant that whilst the world has a lot of interactivity, which
is a good thing, it took me a little time to realize that not everything
that moves is useful. In fact, if you click on an object and it moves,
and doesn't vanish into your inventory, then it's either a door,
or just part of the scenery.
involves a great deal of exploration of the area around the village, but
you're not thrown into a completely open environment from the get-go.
There are locked doors that gradually open up more and more parts of the
world as the story progresses (and you find the keys, of course). Most
of the puzzles are inventory based; there are a couple of sequences
where timing matters but they are not especially difficult.
sure if this is a coincidence or not, but Eleusis and another
last game I reviewed in January (The Five Cores) were both
written using the Unreal Development Kit (or UDK). Without wanting to
appear to be promoting the UDK, this toolkit brings the sort of
professional tools that are used by the mainstream triple-A game
producers of games like Bioshock, the Mass Effect series, and
Dishonoured (which all use version 3 of the Unreal Engine) to the
independent sphere of game development. If you're a good game
designer/developer, the result is a vibrant, detailed and lifelike 3D
world that brings indie game development to a world with much stronger
production values. Of course, all the gloss and wonder of a full 3D game
engine cannot hide a dreadful game. It's possible to produce games that
you wouldn't want to give more than a cursory glance with the UDK, just
as it's possible to produce really engaging games without it. All the
same, it is becoming harder to distinguish indie from pro game
development just by looking at the graphics.
isn't a great deal of music in Eleusis, but there is a very rich
ambient soundtrack of night sounds and sounds resulting from your
interactions with the world: footsteps, undergrowth, doors, locks,
books, and all manner of other effects. The whole effect is to create an
atmosphere of caution and reticence about being caught somewhere you
perhaps ought not to be. Well, you are sneaking around people's homes
and their village in the dead of the night... where's the social/moral
quandary in that?
game goes all-out on the "make a spooky atmosphere" axis. Eleusis
is dark (maybe I cheated by increasing the brightness in the Options,
but I just couldn't see what I was doing without it), the music is
sparse, and your footsteps just sound so loud in the dark. You rarely
see anyone, except for in the distance and in the shadows, and there are
wolves in the woods at night! The one place where I felt the game fell
down on this score was in not making use of the fact you're wandering
around with a torch or a lantern and there doesn't appear to be any
penalty (such as being caught like a burglar in someone's house, or
being spotted hanging around a graveyard late at night; never a
suspicion-free course of action) for leaving the lights on all the time.
said that, I feel I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel there to find
something as subtle as that to question.
one other thing that can be frustrating – though it only caught me out
once – and that's the lack of an option to save your game when you
want to. The game auto-saves at significant points, but if you've been
wandering around wondering what to do next, that could easily be 20
minutes ago or more!
given the impression yet that I'm impressed with what an indie team can
do with the UDK? If not, let me be explicit: there are professional
games development teams that don't come close to what Nocturnal
Works have achieved. The village and its surroundings make sense (in
geographic and domestic terms), you can walk or run almost anywhere in
the environment, there's lots to play with, and I only got physically
stuck when I went seriously off-piste (so to speak) in an attempt to
shorten a long walk. And that's where I have my only real reservation
about Eleusis: the enormous amount of undirected wandering around
I had to do. Full disclosure time: if I hadn't had access to a
walkthrough (not that I had to use it all the time), the game could
easily have taken twice as long, and been exponentially more frustrating
as a result.
to have been able to grade Eleusis more highly, but I can't in
all honesty do that because of the "where do I go now" problem, and the
infrequent automatic saves. Thank goodness for the left Shift key on my
keyboard for making it possible to run, instead of walking slowly around
What do you need to play it?
OS: Windows XP, Vista, or 7
Processor: Intel Core2 Duo (i5/i7 or
AMD equivalent recommended), AMD Athlon64 x2, or better
Memory: 2GB RAM (4GB recommended)
Graphics: NVidia GeForce 9600GT, ATI
Radeon 4670HD or equivalent. NVidia GeForce GTX 280, ATI Radeon 4870
or better is recommended.
DirectX®: 9 (11 recommended)
Hard Drive: 2 GB HD space
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
a home-built 64-bit Windows 7
Home Premium (SP1) PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with
on-mother-board, built-in sound card)
can be purchased as download from
Eleusis game site.
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