Hands-on with Enotria: The Last Song, the Italian Soulslike

By Jason Fanelli, Contributor

Over the last decade or so, the success of Dark Souls has birthed countless imitators from developers worldwide, trying to capture the essence of what makes FromSoftware’s games so good.

Jyamma Games is the latest developer to try its hand, putting its faith into an unfamiliar setting with Enotria: The Last Song, which mixes the Souls formula with Italian folklore and culture to create a striking experience. I took on a few of Enotria: The Last Song's bosses in a hands-on session at Summer Game Fest, and what I played was molto bene.

All the world's a stage

Enotria is set in the fictional continent of the same name, which has been cursed by the Canovaccio, an "eternal play" where everyone behaves as if they are actors on a stage. Playing as the Maskless One, I must defeat the Authors—malevolent beings who created the Canovaccio—and those who serve them in order to free Enotria from its theater-themed prison.

The influence of the source material is readily apparent. An early form of theater—known as commedia dell'arte—began in Italy in the 16th century. The format was heavy on masks, as it used them to convey emotions, intent, personality, and more. In Enotria: The Last Song, different masks represent different loadouts for my character, and I can change them on the fly in the middle of a fight.

Executive Producer Andrea Beneduci, who guided me through the demo, said that Italian culture is not usually analyzed in a medium like video games. His team wanted to "explore our feelings, our places, our culture, and our history, so that is why the world we are building is based on Italian culture and folklore."

While I didn't get to explore much of Enotria: The Last Song’s world, one thing becomes abundantly clear: everything is so bright in this game. The trend in Soulslikes is for everything to be dark and dreary, but the sun shines bright over this world and the environment pops with color no matter where you look, from the posters on the walls to the bosses you fight.

A Soulslike with some sunlight is a welcome change, and I hope the rest of Enotria is as inviting as the bit I saw in the demo—even if we all know where that invitation will lead.

The play's the thing

During the demo, I focused on Agility and the ability to cause malano—or poison—damage over time with enough successful strikes. My character had access to two weapons in this build, a one-handed single sword and a massive two-handed blade, and both were imbued with this malano energy. Once I settled on a build, it was time to face the first boss: Curtis, Prince Of Laughter.
Enotria The Last Song 1
Curtis was slightly larger than my character, and he entered the battlefield by destroying a piece of furniture in front of him, which caused a plume of opaque smoke that served as a bit of cover for him to ambush me with. I fought valiantly, trying my best to parry his attacks and strike with the malicious malano, but Curtis proved too much in my first encounter.

The next few minutes resembled two actors in the throes of rehearsing a big scene. I would re-enter the room and initiate the fight, Curtis would break his desk, we'd dance around the room taking swipes at one another, and then Curtis would eventually take me down. Rinse and repeat for several attempts—this is a Soulslike, after all, so I shouldn't have expected anything less.

Enotria: The Last Song's combat loop is evocative of the Souls games in the best ways, as each swing of the sword requires thought and dedication. One simple mistake could mean my end, and having that knowledge in the back of my mind created an adrenaline rush as Curtis's health whittled down. He was formidable, but I was learning, and my confidence grew with every attempt.

Finally, after a few attempts, the rehearsing led to a breakthrough: Curtis's health bar was half-empty. Unfortunately, he then entered his surprise second phase—as if he were ad-libbing his acting all of a sudden—and down I went.

It took a few more attempts, but eventually (with the knowledge that the second phase was coming) I felled Curtis.
Enotria The Last Song 3
Victory was short lived, however. Curtis was but the first boss—two more nefarious creatures awaited in this demo. Unfortunately, most of my hands-on time was spent learning about and then defeating Curtis, so I only had one or two chances to defeat the second and third bosses.

Alas, I was unsuccessful. Vermiglio, The Red Prior used ranged attacks and energy blasts to make short work of me, while the last boss was a massive slug-like creature who crushed me under his massive body.

I wouldn't call my time with Enotria: The Last Song at Summer Game Fest "successful" per se, considering how many times I had to face Curtis—but that doesn't mean I didn't have a ton of fun playing through it. Enotria's unique setting, coupled with mechanics like the loadout system mentioned above, will make this a game worth checking out even for those with vast Souls experience.

The show will go on—and based on this brief hands-on session, I’ll be looking for a front-row seat.

Enotria: The Last Song launches in the Epic Games Store on September 19.