Lost Eidolons Review
At PAX West earlier this year, I had the chance to try out Lost Eidolons from Ocean Drive Studio - a tactical RPG that I had only a passing knowledge of at the time. I came away from the demo experience eagerly waiting for the title's full release, and now that time has finally arrived. After spending time with Eden and his crew, I can say that while not everything lands, Lost Eidolons still is an impressive first showing that tactical RPG fans should keep on their radar.
Lost Eidolons drops you right into the action with little exposition as the main protagonist, Eden is forced to retreat from a seemingly dire situation before being taken to where the story properly begins. As Eden, a young mercenary who falls into a rebellion after a botched prison escape, plots to overthrow the cruel and aging emperor. Over the course of 27 chapters, you will see Eden and his friends from the small village of Lonetta take up arms, evolving from a small local mercenary group into a powerful army with Eden at its head.
Much of the story in Lost Eidolons is told through conversations, often fully voiced, between the characters on a 3D-rendered backdrop with the occasional rendered cinematic sprinkled in. The voice acting is rather well done with some voice actors coming off better than others, but overall still overall better than you may expect for a first outing from an indie studio. What is unfortunate, however, is the lack of emotion that the characters model exhibit during these exchanges, with none of the passion that is present in the voiced delivery being reflected by the model, which instead retains the same expressionless facade no matter the situation. The 3D models, in general, look surprisingly well-detailed and far better than I remember from my time with the demo, which causes the overly stoic faces to stand out even more so, which unfortunately takes away a lot from the more impactful moments during the game.
Outside of cutscenes, your time spent with Lost Eidolons will be split between exploring your camp while interacting with your army and in tactical grid-based combat. In camp, you will take direct control of Eden as you move around improving your rapport and relationships with your companions, restocking your supplies various merchants, or picking up side quests to take on. I really found myself enjoying these segments between combat encounters, where I could just learn more about the world through talking with the character can and examining the numerous random notes scattered around.
While Fire Emblem Three Houses had something similar where you could explore the school grounds, I often found it to be more of a hassle there, as it was just too much. In Lost Eidolons, I felt this component was much more manageable. This was only magnified more by the fast travel system that let you quickly jump straight to any interactable NPC on the map, complete with icons that indicated if there was something of importance for them to tell you. Much of the camp side of things is also totally optional, so if you want to simply skip the next part of the game, you can, simply opting to just speak with the individuals that progress the story instead.
When I spoke with Ocean Drive Studio at PAX, they made it clear that the difficulty of Lost Eidolons is more challenging than you may typically expect, even in the normal difficulty setting. Luckily though, if you are more interested in the story, or want to forgo unit permadeath, you can also choose a Story mode from the game's menu.
Combat is where I think Lost Eidolon really shines, and it is by far what I enjoyed most about my time with the game. At a quick glance, Lost Eidolons is your traditional grid-based strategy RPG in a similar style to a Fire Emblem but if you look a little deeper, you will quickly discover that there are numerous systems in play for you to take advantage of and build your characters around. There are two main types of enemies you will encounter in battle, monsters and humans, with each needing to be dealt with in somewhat different ways.
When dealing with human foes, Lost Eidolons incorporates a weapon weakness system. Each of the game's physical weapons (axes, swords, bows, spears) is better against a specific type of armor, with swords being strong against leather armor, axes against plate/heavy armor, and bows or spears being good against the cloth armor that magic users wear.
Magic damage does a set amount of damage regardless of the armor being worn by the individual taking the damage; what does impact magic damage are environmental effects they may be afflicted with. As an example, a wet enemy, from walking through a puddle on a map, will take less damage from fire attacks, but lightning damage will spread to adjacent water tiles around them for a free AOE attack. It’s a nifty feature that the Divinity Original Sin player in me was instantly excited by to attempt to exploit in fights. It made magic stand out and be more meaningful than just circumventing armor resistances, giving good strategic reasons to bring your glass-cannon mages into combat.
Fighting various ferocious monsters such as manticores and hellhounds requires a different approach that requires you to build into your individual characters a certain amount of flexibility. Monsters here hit harder and have a lot more health to them than humans do, and they take up multiple tiles on the map. Since monsters don’t wear armor, they instead have special weak points that are susceptible to particular weapon types that rotate and change position each time the creature is attacked. Each time in a round that these weak points are hit, you will be doing increasingly higher damage, allowing you to easily deal hundreds of points of damage as your forces improve.
This weak point system also encourages you to outfit your army with flexibility in mind by smartly taking advantage of the secondary weapon system. Every unit that you have using a weapon can also assign a secondary weapon, from any of the options, to swap between at any given time. On your turn, one of the options your units have is to swap weapons freely, meaning you can swap and still attack, or move, whatever you’d like. I loved having the ability to make my heavy close-range fighters have access to bows if they ever needed, or had to play the long-range game. I also really appreciated that the developers have meaningfully incorporated a strategic element to help deal with these strong monster encounters.
After some time, even the best-looking animations can start to get dull to sit through, and luckily Lost Eidolons includes a number of quality-of-life features in the settings that can alleviate this issue. Similar to most SRPGs of this similar style, Lost Eidolons includes an option to skip combat animations. Should you wish to, you can skip enemy turns in their entirety too, letting the computer-controlled foes simply make their moves in the blink of an eye, and the player simply receives notifications of any level-ups or deaths before giving you control to act again. After having the option to toggle this, it will be hard going back to games where it isn’t available, and having it just a quick trip to the settings menu away to toggle at any time made it even better.
Lost Eidolons leans heavier into traditional RPG elements than many of its other strategy RPG peers which will appeal to more hardcore fans of the genre, sich as in-depth equipment options, 10 classes each with special unlockable skills, and more. When it comes to your classes, I really appreciate that Lost Eidolons doesn’t lock a character to a specific class-path, instead allowing any character to be any class (with an exception to the special class unique to Eden in the late game) as long as a character meets the prerequisites gear mastery levels. Increasing these levels is done by having the type equipped and then using the character.
When it comes to gear, characters have a number of different slots that help you to tailor your characters to your preferred style, outside of their weapons and armor, including accessory and even mount slots. Each piece of gear comes in color-coded rarities that will be familiar to many RPG players, with rarer variants granting bonus abilities and other benefits to the person it’s equipped to. It felt much more similar to other traditional western RPGs and even ARPGs than what you would contend with in a game such as Fire Emblem.
In my preview from PAX West, I described Lost Eidolons as “if Dragon Age and Fire Emblem had a child” and after sinking a lot more time into it, I still stand by that remark. It’s an impressive first foray for indie Ocean Drive Studio that has resulted in a title that will speak to SRPG fans and intrigue those who are more allured by more gear and stat-forward RPGs. While it may not land all the time with too many loading screens, a weaker narrative, and character models lacking emotion, thanks to the richness of its mechanics and solid tactical experience, the experience is still one that will appeal to tactical diehards.