The Relic: First Guardian – This New Soulslike is Looking Stunning

This new soulslike is better than its trailer suggests

Posted By | On 28th, May. 2024

The Relic: First Guardian – This New Soulslike is Looking Stunning

Despite its appearance as just another in a long line of Dark Souls clones, there’s quite a lot to be excited for with The Relic: First Guardian. For one, the parry-heavy combat seems to be leaning more toward Sekiro than some of the more open-ended build toyboxes. Yet, The Relic structures such a streamlined combat approach within an open world akin to Elden Ring. Because of this and more,  The Relic: First Guardian may just be the Sekiro/Elden Ring baby you hoped for.

First, let’s talk combat. The official gameplay doesn’t do the game justice. Other in-engine demonstrations of this title don’t hit you over the head with the agonizing slow-mo aftereffect from the main trailer. The combat as shown in the Japanese gameplay presentation is very fast-paced and smooth, with quick dodges and strikes. There are virtually no frame dips in either trailer, so we’re hoping that optimization remains excellent at launch. This is a fast-paced game, so don’t let the official gameplay trailer fool you; the visual after-effects don’t represent the real motion and pace of the gameplay, thankfully.

The combat itself is rather simple, with stamina breaking and parrying being the core element. Each enemy has a health bar sitting on top of a stamina bar. Player UI features a diamond-shaped skill layout on the lower right, and your typical health/stamina/magic on the lower left. I do hope the final version pretties up the meters to be less generic, but it’s an otherwise simple and winning formula that works well here. Breaking an enemy’s stamina staggers them and seemingly triples your damage to their health bar. Likewise, intelligent enemies can counter your attacks and even parry you, as seen with the assassin dagger enemies. This heavy emphasis on stamina-breaking has me excited that The Relic will channel much of what made Sekiro so great. But as we’ll see, there’s more than just Sekiro influence throughout The Relic’s design.

parrying bosses in the relic

Dragon’s Dogma 2 fans, eat your heart out. The Relic features a number of environmental tools to take down enemies, ranging from breakable cliff-face boulders to fire-prone surfaces. It’ll be fun using the surrounding terrain as another strategic tool in your arsenal to defeat foes. Environmental manipulation doesn’t just end with combat encounters either. At one point in the presentation, the player lobbed a fireball at a breakable cement wall to continue adventuring forward. There’s a clear glyph on the wall to indicate that it’s interactable, so it’s not hard to miss like many other soulslikes.

In addition to dynamic environments, there are also dynamic enemy encounters within the open world. When you’re out adventuring, random bandits and rogues can ambush you, and more often than not you’ll find them fighting each other. It’s nice the semi-open world of The Relic isn’t static like the majority of games in the Soulslike genre, freshening up the experience with dynamic scenarios that change each time you play. Elden Ring features dynamic environment mobs with its roaming caravans, but there’s still a lot of room to spice up world encounters further, and it looks like The Relic is tapping into that.

My favorite moments from the gameplay footage show the player character hanging back watching some enemies duke it out. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the dynamic fighting, a giant troll breaks through a rock wall, demanding it be dealt with. Not only is this a cool dynamic moment, but the rock wall the troll emerges from looks like it’s fully explorable. What’s more, this giant troll is an actual boss fight in the gameplay demonstration, complete with its own health/stamina bars and dramatic music.

environmental damage

The troll boss fight here showcases some of the best examples of environmental dynamism yet. As the boss swings with its giant hammer, trees that you previously passed by get bulldozed. Furthermore, you and your opponents can cast flames on these trees to cause fires. Note, that this is not just a closed-off boss arena, but a seemingly open zone that you can revisit. It may be possible for locations to completely deforest due to dynamic bosses/enemies. Anyway, later in the fight, there’s an old wagon that gets obliterated by the troll, igniting an explosion that catches the boss on fire for a time. I imagine that leading the boss toward some of these explosive wagons will be a key strategy in this situation. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not these environmental objects respawn on a timer, or are permanently gone as a result of this emergent boss encounter.

leaping down cliffs

At various points throughout the Japanese gameplay trailer, the player is shown leaping from high cliff faces. There’s even a dungeon with multiple floors, with the player jumping down off the highest floor to the lower level. Hopefully, there’s a dedicated jump button and it’s not merely context-sensitive. Either way, it’s a relief there’s some maneuverability in addition to the fact we know The Relic doesn’t limit you to run-jumping like Dark Souls 1 and Lords of the Fallen (please, let there be a dedicated jump button!)

The Relic features five weapon types each with their own unique skills. Universal skills also exist, and we assume some will be rewards from bosses and quests. Interesting enough, there are no character levels in The Relic. Rather than getting bogged down by a host of superficial parameters, attention can be focused on upgrading weapons, skills, and various runes. In this way, The Relic has more in common with streamlined soulslikes than the labyrinth of parameters within Elden Ring. Despite its open world, The Relic seems to be honing in on skill-based action rather than a sandbox of build options and methods to cheese the game. If The Relic manages to execute this balance of open world exploration with tight skill-based combat, it could be one of the better souls clones out there.

The art style is particularly noteworthy for its gritty sharpness. I’m particularly fond of some of the incredibly rich lighting. Holding torches reveals a highly advanced dynamic lighting system that manages to show the meticulous detail of cawls and scarves brilliantly. It’s obvious there’s some serious ray tracing going on in the gameplay trailer as well as artificial sharpening, but it looks impressive nonetheless. It’s not just fidelity that’s excellent here though, every stitch and stain feels organic to the world. It feels properly lived in with little environmental doodads sprinkled throughout.

different biomes in the relic

The Relic relies on color tint just a tad too much in spots. But at least it’s not all the same glowing green shade throughout, as seen by the golden prairies later in the trailer. The trailer emphasizes many different biomes each with their own vibe, so I’m assuming the overwhelming screen time the green marsh gets is due to how early it appears in the game. The thatch huts and far-off mountaintops within the golden-hued region are a nice touch. It’s still unknown whether The Relic utilizes a full day/night cycle, but there is dynamic lighting that changes environmental visuals of previously visited locales.

talking to villagers

In case the art style didn’t get across the bleak pall hanging over the setting well enough, certain enemies wail with agonizing screams, adding just that extra ounce of dread. The voice acting is strong in these cases, with shrill and despairing screams haunting the landscape and compelling you to end their suffering. The quest NPCs likewise possess some pretty strong voice acting, which assuages us that this game’s presentation isn’t quite as sloppy as the official gameplay trailer might have suggested. And yes, that gameplay trailer is narrated with an AI voice, a sharp contrast to all the quality voices we’ve heard in-game so far.

The Relic: First Guardian is a promising soulslike mixing the Elden Ring and Sekiro formulas and adding its own unique ambiance on top. I don’t blame gamers for getting soulslike fatigue, but this looks like one to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of the trendy genre.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization. 


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