HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewOne Step From Eden Review

One Step From Eden Review


It’s hard to find a more influential game at the moment than Slay the Spire, at least in indie circles. Even in the past two months, we’ve seen its roguelike, deckbuilding structure in several releases – Ring of Pain, Dicey Dungeons, Fights in Tight Spaces – and those are just the titles that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. All of them are worth playing, so it’s clearly a model that works. And now we can add One Step From Eden to the pack. 

More unusually, there’s another influence here. The Mega Man Battle Network series isn’t a series we often get to invoke, but it’s definitely a big part of One Step From Eden’s gene pool. Try to wrap your head around that one: Mega Man Battle Network’s grid-based, shoot-em-up battles, mixed with the deckbuilding strategy of Slay the Spire. It works, albeit with some complications. 

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The story is so thin and wisp-like that it’s gone before you notice it was there. The world is a hazardous place, but you’re drawn to the rumours of a place called Eden, a safe haven. So, you’re moving from location to location in the hope of finding it. You start as Saffron, but after a few runs you will be acquiring other characters to shepherd to Eden, each with their own abilities. 

The essence of One Step From Eden’s gameplay is simple, but it’s definitely in the ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ camp. You and your opponents are on two halves of the same grid. You are on the left, in your own 4×4 set of squares, and the opponent is in theirs. You have two attacks at any one time, and they are drawn from a ‘deck’ of attacks that you build over the course of your run. Events play out in real-time, so you are lobbing lightning bolts, poison, waves of energy, turrets and all sorts of other effects at your enemy, and they tend to follow the rows or columns of the grid. It’s a shmup, but with a strict grid to follow, and enemies abiding by the same ‘two attack’ rules that you are.

As with Slay the Spire, it’s not only about winning a single battle, but surviving and progressing through a larger war. In each region, there is a map of nodes. You can choose your path through those nodes, and they represent different things. Some are straight battles, others are shops, healing, challenges and bosses. You retain and nurse a persistent health pool as you move from node to node, and you are also building your deck of attacks (and some defences) since, at the end of each battle, you choose from three weapons or three artefacts to bolster your options. At the end of each region, you choose the next region to move to, from a choice of three. It’s all about the rules of three in Slay the Spire roguelikes. 

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While it’s not the most complicated of setups, by golly does it start to get bewildering. It hurts particularly on your first runs, but we’ve been playing for long enough now to know that it’s a persistent problem: it’s not possible to keep on top of which attack you are using at a given time. One Step From Eden does its damnedest to keep you abreast of what attack you have equipped at any time, both on your character and at the bottom of the screen. But these are just icons, and they’re too abstract. Frankly, you are getting new attacks every battle, you get a fresh new deck every run and – most critically – matches are played at such speed that you can’t possibly keep on top of what those icons represent. You might start to memorise a few after the first hours of playing, but it never becomes second nature, and that leads to mistakes. You will unleash an attack that you think targets a row, but it ends up targeting a column, missing the enemy. Worst case scenario is you damage yourself. It’s a cognitive minefield. 

That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable in its own messy way. You start to recognise the most powerful attacks, positioning yourself correctly. One Step From Eden does a good job of highlighting where some attacks will land, so – if you’re not overwhelmed by visual effects and enemies, which isn’t all that often – you can get a good approximation of what might happen if you fire. And just mashing buttons while dodging attacks still has its own kind of glamour. 

But if you want to play optimally, and you want to feel like you’re mastering One Step From Eden, it’s a tougher path. Mashing buttons probably won’t cut it with that kind of player. It also doesn’t help that One Step From Eden is exceptionally difficult, particularly with the spiky bosses, who amp up the challenge considerably from the average mob. To make progress that gets you close to Eden, you really do need to be learning your deck, firing attacks sensibly, and conserving your health. And One Step From Eden really doesn’t help you to get there. The measly XP and item rewards for each run don’t help in this way either. 

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But for all our complaints, we found moments where One Step From Eden clicked. We stockpiled a few attacks and artefacts that synergised with each other, and suddenly we were owning the grid like we had been ported into Tron. We made strong progress, memorised what some of the icons meant, and ended a run with new characters unlocked and plenty of XP gained, making more cards available for the next run. We suspect that there are people who will read this review and consider the incredibly high skill ceiling to be a positive, rather than negative. They will absolutely flourish in One Step From Eden. And we know full well that there have been people pining for a new Mega Man Battle Network game, and this scratches that itch with gusto. 

Make no mistake, One Step From Eden is not easy or welcoming. It manages to weld together shoot-em-ups and deckbuilding in such a way that both audiences are going to struggle to comprehend what’s happening. But invest time in it, pay attention to every attack and its benefits, and you will make the slowest of progress. The clouds clear and One Step From Eden starts to make sense. If you have the time and inclination to get there, this becomes a spiritual successor to the Mega Man Battle Network series.

You can buy One Step From Eden from the Xbox Store

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