Eitr combines Souls-style combat with the ultra-dark isometric dungeons of the original Diablo. Not sold? The world is Norse-inspired, with a nameless, shieldmaiden protagonist who's birth was tampered with by Loki, causing all light to be drained from the world in the process. Not sold? There's a new trailer below, showing lots of in-game stuff, and I've had some hands-on time with a preview build and will tell you about it below.
Combat is careful. It's about positioning yourself at the right distance away from the enemy, learning attack patterns to effectively counter them, and carefully monitoring your stamina. If you don't, death is quickly dealt by all but the most basic enemies. Rotting rats run at you with unpredictable movements but have low health, making charging them down an effective strategy. The undead shamble along with shields and spears, and blocking and counterattacking are the best methods to avoid being struck by a deadly combo. The 2D plane makes combat simpler than the Souls games, but also removes some of the frustrations implicit in navigating a 3D space. Even at this early stage, it feels great.
Saving locations being fireplaces is another obvious reference, though with most systems currently unimplemented, whether this will stretch beyond an aesthetic choice is unclear. Death flashes up a roulette wheel with a selection of negative effects including XP loss, before respawning you at the last fireplace visited. How crippling that will be isn't obvious, again due to the pre-alpha state of the game, but it's an indication that classic, extreme difficulty is the design goal.
What I most loved was the look of the dungeon I was in. It's a grim place filled with blood and death, bright spots only serving to contrast with the rest. Tables lined with golden plates are sat next to long-dead corpses splattered against the wall. Right up to the cleaver-wielding boss being named 'Gertha the Mad Butcher' the initial areas of the first Diablo are clearly brought to mind.
Eitr is also its own game, of course. The mythology is a part of that, magic being another. My favourite part of the demo was the 'Snowflake Guard' it gave access to. This is a timed block that operates sort of like a parry, but also freezes the opponent in place. It quickly became obvious that learning to time this properly was superior to holding block, which often still let damage through. It added a pair of new considerations, first in learning new timings for each enemy attack to ensure I was defending in time, and secondly in how to then perform a maximum damage combo.
The two-man squad of Eneme Entertainment, comprising artist and game designer David Wright and coder Tobi Harper, have only been working on the game since August. They've been documenting the entire thing in quite a lot of detail over on the TIGSource forums. I'm already excited for what I assume will be a 2015 release and think they've got a shot at something special if they continue along this path.