I love me a good JRPG, and I know I’m not alone when I say that the Xbox One is desperately in need of more. To say that a great deal of the Xbox community are massively looking forward to the acclaimed ‘Blue Dragon’ coming to Backward Compatibility, is nothing but a pure underlining of that very notion. Which is why I was hugely excited to learn that Earthlock: Festival of Magic was coming to Xbox One, furthermore, it’s free for the entire month of September 2016, so if you haven’t already, be sure to go online right now and grab it. The game centers around Amon, a scavenger who lives in the world of Umbra, a world that seized spinning thousands of years ago. Before long our less than fortunate protagonist discovers an ancient artifact and shortly after that, his Uncle is kidnapped, and if you want him back you’re going to need to give up the goods. It’s about as straight forward as you would expect from a game of this standing, but that’s not to say that the story isn’t worth your time, because it most definitely is. Much like the more dominant of JRPG’s, Earthlock drip feeds the plot to you over the course of the game, steadily becoming more tense and intriguing as you venture through.
Along the way, you’ll come across several companions that will aid you on your quest. Throughout the story you’ll begin to heavily rely on your newfound allies, and together, you’ll battle a massive variety of enemies on bosses throughout the experience. Combat is turn based, meaning that you’ll hit the enemy and then they’ll hit you and so on and so forth. It’s quite a relaxed yet energetic foray, to say the least. The inclusion of a stance system adds a nice layer of tactics to the mix. There’s a total of two stances for each character, this will offer up a couple of unique abilities across the board. Our main man for example, can stab the opponent with his trusty dagger or shoot from afar, dependent on which stance you choose to utilize. Another great addition is the bond system. This will enable you to group together two characters to work towards filling up a super meter, and once filled, the characters can use a third stance that will buff their strengths and skills. It really is a well thought out pair of functions that go hand in hand to present you with an easy to understand system that is both effective and unique. As a fan of the genre, this is easily one of my favorite aspects.
My only problem with the game is that you can often become lost, or clueless as to where you should be going next. You really have to pay close attention to every bit of dialogue that pops up, as for the most part, these are your only hints for progressing. Mercifully there’s well placed teleportation portals all over the joint, and your main environments are not overly spaced out. This isn’t something that poses a big problem, but it was notable enough for me to want to mention it here. With that to the side, the actual pacing of the game is top notch. It’s not too dissimilar to the likes of the classic Final Fantasy titles. Enemy strength gradually climbs as you progress, there’s still plenty of places to go to put in that proverbial practice, and the difficulty curve is far from overly generous. It felt just right to me, especially when you get to the challenging sections that brick-wall you at all the right times. There’s nothing worse than playing a JRPG that forces you to take on impossible odds, or in contrast, a far too easy journey. Earthlock was neither, and as a result, is certainly a game that you can respect on more than one front. To say that it’s free right now, it’s an absolute steal.
Visually the game adopts a very distinctive design. Sure, it might not be breaking any graphical barriers, but it’s far from cheap or poorly crafted. It’s often quite a vibrant trek, and as alluded to above, there’s a brilliant amount of variety to sink into. Not just for the enemies that you will come across, but for the locations too. I was more than satisfied with what I was witnessing. It never became dull, boring, or repetitive. It all just looks magnificent throughout. This is the definition of why Kickstarter is such a helpful domain for developers, and unlike the money grabbing Might No. 9, you can see that the effort has been put in. It’s important to understand that there’s no voice overs in this game, and just like a traditional JRPG, you’ll be reading text boxes for the entirety of play. I don’t know about you, but I prefer this to voice casting. It allows you to craft your own imaginative accents and expressions, something I miss from the good old days of Golden Sun, Final Fantasy and more. I did find it a little odd that there was no on screen world map to fall back onto, which nowadays, is typically a given or even a standard. Either way, there’s no denying that this is a worthy entry.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is without a doubt, the definition of a black horse. Little was known about this game prior to release, and then out of almost nowhere, it smashed it’s way to availability and brought with it a compelling adventure that will stay with you long after completion. If you don’t pick this up while it is free, you’re looking to spend about $30 / £20, and even then, it will be worth every bit of cash you invest. It’s stunning, captivating, plays on its own strengths and despite not giving you many hints as to where you should be heading, it is utterly entertaining. Fans of JRPG should most certainly be adding this to the download queue.
This review was conducted using the Xbox One version of the game. We understand that each version (if not exclusive) may vary across platforms.
- Near flawless design, with a good plot.
- Fantastic combat system that works well.
- Visually superb with no repetitiveness.
- Lasts about ten hours altogether.
- Lack of progressive assistance.