Nowadays, RPGs can be quite complex with massive open worlds and intricate systems that take days to learn. Earthlock brings us back to a time when such hogwash was nonexistent so let's find out just how magical this festival is.
Earthlock tells the story of Amon who goes on a journey with his pals. They meet a few unlikely chums along the way including the daughter of a military official named Ive. Together, they discover that they might have what it takes to save the world. It's a simple tale filled with likeable characters. If you played RPGs back in the early 2000s then it should feel right at home as it's reminiscent of something that may have been released on PlayStation 2. That being said, the visuals are lovely with soft colours and subtle textures that make up quite an endearing world. The character designs range from cute to badass with party members such as a half-bunny half-pig and a trusty dog. To provide a suitable sense of atmosphere to this world, a beautiful soundtrack will accompany you on your journey. Overall, Earthlock looks and sounds fantastic and will make any long-time gamer nostalgic for simpler times.
Speaking of simplicity, Earthlock's gameplay is very easy to learn. As expected, your party of up to four members take turns exchanging blows with their enemies in battle. Before commencing combat, you can have foes chase you in order to battle more at once. Doing so results in a drastic experience boost. It's novel concepts like these that set Earthlock apart from similar games. Certain moves in battle use more power than others so it's a good idea to balance them whenever you're in a tough bout. Also, some moves require ammunition so you need to be careful to not use it all. Each member has a couple of stances that they can switch to in order to utilize a different set of moves. For example, a melee fighter may switch to a long-range weapon. Constantly juggling between styles and experimenting with different moves makes combat very satisfying even though it remains undeniably simple at its core.
Upon levelling up, you gain Talent Points that you can use to unlock tiles on a character's grid. However, if you change your mind and want to replace tiles with more ideal ones then you can. It's a very flexible system that allows you to alter your party setup in a surprisingly strategic way. Characters also have relationships between each other and increasing their bonds grants you additional boosts in combat such as enhanced healing items or status immunities. On top of this, whenever two characters' bond meter is full, one of them can unleash a powerful stance that allows them to execute an extraordinary move. As you can see, there are many complexities that add to the stereotypical RPG formula and mastering them is a must if you want to overcome the tough-as-nails bosses.
All of that being said, the core gameplay still remains incredibly simplistic. While playing through, I had to take a break every hour or two because it got to a point where it was just too monotonous to keep playing. Don't get me wrong; this is a solid RPG except for the fact that the gameplay doesn't evolve much from the beginning. Whereas other classic RPGs slowly add systems that keep the gameplay fresh throughout, you'll basically experience everything Earthlock has to offer within the first hour or two.
Earthlock has a couple of other issues, too. First off, there are sections that are so tedious that you'll wish someone else could play them for you. Some areas act like Final Fantasy X's Cloisters of Trials but are far less demanding on your brainpower. One section is a massive desert that you traverse by staying in the shade as long as possible. The thing is; you can't rotate the camera so finding structures to stay underneath is often like throwing darts blindfolded. Finally, the in-game presentation leaves a lot to be desired. During battles, the camera remains stationary which not only makes knowing what you're targeting tricky, it also adds to the tedium of combat by displaying the same thing throughout. Additionally, some menus can literally be composed of just text which is a real eyesore.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is a solid attempt at making retro RPGs fun again. Although it's not as engaging as similar titles from the turn of the century, fans of the genre will enjoy the time that they spend adventuring with Amon and his ragtag group of chums.
- + Simple old-school RPG gameplay with satisfying turn-based battles
- + Lovely visual style and atmospheric music
- + Many twists on the classic RPG formula
- - Basic gameplay setup becomes stale after playing for only a few hours
- - A lot of tedious and unintuitive moments
- - In-game presentation lacks flair