Eldrador Creatures – Baby’s first turn-based strategy.
I didn’t expect much from Eldrador Creatures when I booted it up. Aesthetically, it looked very similar to something like Skylanders and, considering it’s tied in with the toy company, Schleich, I was expecting something with a similar pay-to-play component, relying on limited gameplay on initial purchase causing a child to incessantly nag their parents for the toys to unlock more of the game and please our capitalist overlords. But, after a few hours of playing, I can confirm that’s not the case and the game is entirely self-contained, with nothing unlockable through toy purchases. With my mind set to rest on that front, it was time to do my job and draw my thoughts on the actual game together into a coherent review and I think it’s safe to say that I was completely blown away. It’s really rather good.
Eldrador Creatures is a very standard turn-based strategy game. It’s basic, with simple controls and a comprehensive tutorial, which considering the target market is mostly kids, is fantastic. It’s tight with nothing extraneous at all. It situates itself as an introduction to turn-based strategies so it’s easy to understand and has no unnecessary complications. In a market full of impenetrable behemoths like XCOM, it’s nice to see an entry-level game like this aimed at kids, as a kind of gateway drug to turn-based strategies. My previous recommendation for this sort of game would’ve been Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle which is equally aimed at kids and brilliant, despite playing like the fever dream of a teenager after writing some questionable fanfiction. But Eldrador Creatures is even more stripped back and pure that that, making it perfect for beginners.
The controls are incredibly easy to pick up and the first few levels do a good job of tutorialising you through them. On your creature’s turn, you can move and do one of two things: attack an enemy creature within range or use your special ability. The special abilities are simple but powerful – things like attacking an enemy on their turn if they enter your range or making a duplicate to draw attacks. The enemies have the same control set, making the game incredibly fair and skill-based. This control scheme is really easy to pick up and play and also allows you to start thinking about strategy and putting your turns together in a way to plan your way through the battle. You’re turn-based strategising before you know it and without the game telling you to, you’re acting like some kind of lava monster Sun Tzu. I can see it making someone new to the genre hungry for more and eager to start dabbling in the dark magic of XCOM.
To help you along your way, every round gives you the opportunity to use a mini creature. These are little bonuses that apply to a creature on the field, giving one of your creatures a buff to its movement speed, attack power, defence, etc or giving a similar debuff to an enemy creature. This is a great way for the game to tip the balance slightly into your favour, giving you a little advantage in a difficult fight. You get these mini creatures at the end of a battle and they’re given out quite generously. You can even replay earlier levels to get more if you’ve run out and you’re struggling with a fight. I didn’t find myself needing to do that (weird flex but okay) but it’s nice that the option is there.
Alongside those mini creatures, at the end of almost every level, one of your existing creatures will get an upgrade to their abilities (something like a passive ability to avoid some incoming damage) or you’ll unlock another creature. The game really throws these upgrades at you which gives you a real sense of achievement and progression. It also keeps your development in line with the difficulty curve of the game and keeps you interested in playing the next level and seeing what your new abilities can do.
If you’ve never played a turn-based strategy before or if you have a spare child lying around that you’d like to introduce to the genre (or, in a thought that is new and terrifying to me, if you’re a child yourself reading this), I cannot recommend Eldrador Creatures enough. The ‘downside’ of the game is that it’s not particularly complex or long, but that’s not the point. For the target audience, I see Eldrador Creatures as a delicious patatas bravas to enjoy as an entrée to your Spanish meal of turn-based strategy games.