One Step From Eden is an odd game. Just looking at it, it has a very similar look to the old Mega Man Battle Network series on the Game Boy Advance, a criminally overlooked series itself. While One Step From Eden certainly has the same visual flair and action, opposing grid-based battle fields where players hurl abilities at their foes, it is certainly more than a clone of a pre-existing work. Rather, One Step From Eden is an intriguing exercise of action and strategy that is jam packed with surprises at every turn.
Notably, a lot of those surprises come from the extremely limited guidance the game provides. There is a fairly light tutorial, but it really is the broad strokes. The vast majority of One Step From Eden is up to the player to discover, which, while enjoyable, can feel extraordinarily daunting right out of the gate. I do enjoy this sort of thing, as things open up it can leave the player absolutely spellbound, imagining just how deep the whole thing goes. In fact, upon unlocking my first alternate starting load-out one change was so dramatic that it made me completely rethink how I had been playing the game up to that point, and made me a better player even when using the previous starting gear.
So, what actually goes on is this: play will start with the player character moving around one half of a four by eight grid building up mana to cast spells from a randomized deck to defeat enemies, or save hostages, on the other half. After all the baddies have been dealt with, the player with receive a new spell to add to their deck, occasionally the player will level up and take on an additional ability here. Then they’ll need to decide what route they are taking through this area in a way not dissimilar to the way players moved to new systems in the old indie darling FTL. Once that route has been navigated through, shopping at stores, resting and camps, fighting more monsters, etc, the player will face off against a random boss. The boss will then do a nasty murder on the player, at least the first few times. If the player can deal with the boss then they’ll move to a new area and do the whole dance over again. When run inevitably end, player’s experience points will fo toward unlocking new spells and abilities that they may have access to in future runs.
The whole thing is deceptively difficult and will take time to master. It starts out as beating your head against a brick wall, but slowly gives way to that tough but fair attitude prevalent in the various Dark Souls inspired situations out there, or, more appropriately, Dead Cells. So, you’ll still be banging your head against the wall, but it’s a wall you understand a bit better now so you know the less egregious spots to slam your face into. So, you know… get good, etc.
Visually, there is a great deal of very nice pixel artwork here with fluid animations all around. It looks nice and is a nice homage to those Battle Network roots, but I am getting a little tired of that whole pixely look. I have a lot of nostalgia for the art style, but I can’t help but be a little bored of it at this point and wonder if something more unique or distinctive could make things even better. Equally, the music is fine but nothing really stands out throughout the whole affair.
I am, however, disappointed by the lack of story here. I love some good narrative hooks and One Step From Eden just doesn’t even want to give me a taste of why any of this is going down. I understand that that’s not what this is about. One Step From Eden is about controlling the battlefield and building a deck that synergizes with your particular play style. It’s about overcoming adversity through mastery, but I can’t help but want to see some motivation from someone here of there.
Honestly, my complaints are minor, though. The music, the graphics, ever the storytelling are just little things that could have taken this already great game and made it something absolutely phenomenal. I adore One Step From Eden, but wish it could realize even more of its magnificent potential.