Developer(s): Snowcastle Games
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Reviewed On: PS4
Release Date(s): March 8, 2018
In a world lacking a brave new RPG that harkens back to the old days of the genre, Earthlock stands out. Reminiscent of the old school PS2 RPG look and feel, purists will love this game. Packed with nostalgia and polish, Earthlock is a ton of fun and demands that you keep coming back for more.
You play the role of Amon Barros, a scavenger who, along with his uncle, makes his living finding trinkets in the wild then selling them. But after a particularly nasty dungeon expedition, Benjo falls ill and needs more medicine. He tasks Amon with selling their latest take; a mysterious glowing artifact. Though he takes it to a trusted friend, a High Owl named Gnart interrupts and offers Amon far more than the friend could, but requires that Amon help him find a girl named Olia first. Thus, Amon sets off on an adventure that he only dreamed of before.
Earthlock has an almost cartoony look to it, but it feels like you’re playing a polished PS2 game. The movement, overworld, writing, everything has that slight edge to it that really made me feel like I was 15 again, staying up way too late playing the best new RPG on the market. Earthlock has a very interesting combat system that requires more strategy than simply mashing X (or whatever facsimile your system of choice has) until the battle is over.
All enemies have a type and a weakness. So by playing around with the Talent Board (an immensely clever way of levelling up your character), you can unlock different talents, as well as improve your characters. Additionally, by partaking in the agriculture aspect of the game, you can unlock different ammo types, giving you even more choices against different enemy types. There’s a lot of little things done well in the game design that really made me want to keep playing.
Now, that’s not to say that the game doesn’t fall down a little bit in the game design and writing areas. There is very little hand-holding. The game does have tutorials you can read back on, but new elements aren’t explained unless you go to the tutorial yourself and read it. Then you have to find an opportunity to try that stuff out. Apart from the combat tutorial, I found myself having to remember to try stuff.
Earthlock also suffers from some bad writing, in terms of relationships and structure. The characters get along too well all the time. The only real friction is between Olia and Oman/Gnart, but it’s framed as more of an educational thing than actual friction. There’s also not a lot of tension when Ive joins the party. Given the circumstances by which they find her, I was expecting there to be more of a fight. The structure of the story also made me feel like I was just following quest markers at the beginning. There are no real stakes defined early on and there’s a lot of game to play before it really opens up and things get real.
However, I couldn’t find much wrong with the game design. One problem was in the fixed camera perspective, especially in the desert section. You can’t move the camera unless you’re in the overworld, so seeing if you missed a chest or something is difficult. So as not to spoil too much, the desert section caused me a lot of anguish because of the camera. Additionally, the difficulty seemed to ratchet up really high after the desert section, so there was some grinding to be done.
But there’s lots to praise in the game design as well. The Talent Board, as I mentioned earlier, along with the Bond ability. This is a great feature that lets two members of the party work together to unlock more powerful attacks, as well as buffs that the two of them get. The buffs get better as the bond grows stronger, which is a nice touch in such a character driven game.
I wouldn’t hesitate to pick this game up if you’re a fan of RPG’s. Earthlock takes some risks, but it comes out relatively unscathed and is sure to entertain you with a really good story and characters at its core.