Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:   Nocturnal Works

Released:  February 2013

PC Requirements:   see review




by gremlin

The review below is based on the original Eleusis version 1.0.

What is it?

Like a 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 Eleusis.

Today, 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?

The 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.

The game 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.

Notable Features

I'm not 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.

There 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?


This 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.

Having said that, I feel I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel there to find something as subtle as that to question.

There is 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!


Have I 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.

I'd love 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 Eleusis.

Grade: B+

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

(I used a home-built 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium (SP1) PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with on-mother-board, built-in sound card)

The game can be purchased as download from Eleusis game site.


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