One Step From Eden Review — One Giant Leap for Rogue-Kind
Editor's note: As of 04/03, Patch 1.2 has made the early levels more user-friendly, and added more user interaction into the later world's. Though we feel this change ameliorates some of our initial concerns, it does not change our final score.
One Step From Eden is a deck-building, action/rogue-like that deserves far wider acclaim that it's currently receiving, but it could also do with some polishing of its rougher edges.
I’ve been following the game since its Kickstarter and even interviewed the game's developer, Thomas Moon Kang, last year. His enthusiasm was infectious, and it’s great to see the finished product live up to the hype and receive backing from Humble Bundle.
There isn’t much of a story behind One Step From Eden, but when you consider this fantastic title was developed almost completely by one person, this is very easily forgiven.
One Step From Eden Review — One Giant Leap for Rogue-Kind
In One Step From Eden, you're put into grid-based combat encounters that mimic Megaman Battle Network’s combat — an early 2000’s game that not many have played, but tactical RPG fans remember fondly.
To simplify it as much as possible, you’ll fight enemies on symmetrical 4x4 grids while launching skillshots and avoiding wave after wave of incoming attacks. Skills are drawn from a deck of cards in a set pattern, though you can shuffle at any time to reset your hand if you don’t like the two spells available to you.
It’s chaotic, and it’s hectic, but boy, is it fun.
Thankfully, the progression structure is very familiar by comparison. It follows the tried-and-true routine that Slay the Spire and many other deck-building rogue-likes use; you select one of three paths towards a boss and fight enemies, find treasures, and stop to shop along the way.
After each battle, you pick new cards for your deck, and you can find powerful Artifacts that provide additional combat buffs and effects. Pacts from the shopkeeper also offer a tantalizing risk-reward factor that will balance your run on a knife’s edge.
Another common feature of the genre that One Step From Eden employs is upgrading cards, but its spin on them is far more interesting. Here, you have to choose between three different versions of an upgraded card, all of which are randomized between runs, which are comprised of six to eight randomized worlds — depending on which routes you take — steadily increasing in difficulty and capped with momentous boss battles.
These fights are intricate affairs that require not only a mastery of your own deck, but force you to learn the rhythm of the boss’ attacks in order to succeed — quite literally, in the case of the musically-themed Violette, whose attacks sync up with the background music.
Bosses can also be spared once you’ve defeated them — rewarding the player with a chunk of health and an ally to assist in later battles — or mercilessly cut down to receive some powerful items.
Which option is best will often depend on your remaining health after the battle, but the option to choose adds an additional layer of autonomy to help each run feel unique and special.
There’s also a universal leveling system, allowing you to unlock more spells and alternate costumes as your proficiency increases, though it’s a shame there are no permanent upgrades to ease the difficulty.
The game features local co-op, though you share your deck, available spells, and health pool with the second player, so you’d better hope your companion is up to the challenge that One Step From Eden provides. It would have been nice to see some customization options for the co-op so you can let younger players tag along, or craft synergistic decks to sweep your way through Eden, but that’s not to say the mode isn’t worth exploring with a friend.
One Step From Eden’s blend of genres is unique and exciting, but it won’t suit everyone.
Its frantic bullet-hell design makes it brutally difficult — especially in the later worlds — while the deck-building also requires strategic thought throughout. This combination may push some players away, but it’s bound to be the perfect addiction for others.
An Easy mode would go a long way towards broadening the accessibility of this fantastic rogue-like, so hopefully, we’ll see something in a future patch or mod.
One of the biggest issues with One Step From Eden is it’s lack of clarity, however. There are lots of secrets and unlockables that the game doesn’t explain to you, and though there is some enjoyment from the “trial and error” progression, a more robust tutorial system and glossary are sorely needed.
What I will say for anyone on the fence, however, is that the game looks more intimidating than it actually is. The first 2-3 worlds soon become fairly routine, and you’ll learn and improve from there.
You’ll definitely need to spend a good few hours with the game to get the most out of it, and probably look up some guides along the way, but when everything starts to click and you’re able to craft the perfect deck, One Step From Eden really shines.
One Step From Eden Review — The Bottom Line
- Gameplay is fast, frantic, fun, and will test you to your limits
- Tonnes of replay value between 9 playable characters and hundreds of spells
- Pixel-art aesthetic and synth music compliment each other nicely
- Difficulty ramps up extremely hard, with no Easy option to ease players in
- Clarity improvements needed in some areas
Like most roguelites, One Step From Eden is brimming with replay value but can easily be played in short stints, too; each run takes 30-60 minutes to complete — or, more often, 5-10 minutes to lose. There are multiple “endings” as well, and achievements for special-tactics runs, so there’s plenty to keep you coming back.
There’s still lots that I haven’t touched on such as the thumping synth soundtrack, a local PvP mode, and the cheeky pop culture references sprinkled throughout, but that’s just testament to how much content is packed into this $20 gem.
Seriously, though, with card flavor text like “It’s free heal estate”, how can you not give One Step From Eden your attention?
Between nine playable characters, hundreds of spell cards and items, and Steam Workshop support, this is a title you don’t want to pass up.
[Note: A copy of One Step From Eden was provided by Humble Bundle for the purpose of this review.]