Earthlock: Festival of Magic caught my attention quite early on for a few key reasons, art style and gameplay, joined by the fact that currently any type of turn based RPG seems to be absent from the Xbox One. With “Child of Light” being the only other game that jumps out which has any similarities to turn based combat. Seeing this was also coming free on Games with Gold it seemed like it was too good of an opportunity to miss.
Earthlock primarily follows the protagonist Amon a desert scavenger that lives in a world known as Umbra, a world that stopped spinning due to events which have taken placed thousands of years prior to where the story begins. As you progress through the game you gain companions which join Amon on his quest after he locates a strange relic from his most recent scavenger run, on which he is accompanied by his Uncle. As this relic is taken back to the town, he comes into contact with what seems to be a scholar who would like to learn more about this relic. This takes Amon onto the beginning of his quest to find the truth.
This leads onto the gameplay, which I personally believe has gone back to the roots of what made this genre so attractive to begin with. The character movement when traversing any area is smooth and fluid, also having consistency with interactive objects, whether these are characters around the world, stores or tools to overcome the puzzles that are plotted throughout the game. The way in which a player draws the enemy into combat gives a player control over the amount of enemies they wish to face in battle while keeping the feeling that you can sneak up on the enemies to gain the upper hand. Leading onto the combat itself. The mechanics in the combat system are fantastic, the layout is straight forward and transparent with the turn clock being visible in a similar style to that of “Final Fantasy X” so the player has visibility on how the decisions made effect the characters turn placement and regularity.
When attacking an enemy the player can study the type of damage each attack does before executing the best considered move as it states different effects and weapons are more vulnerable to some enemies than others. The different stances available also brings more to the table in terms of strategy as a stance swap can use a turn but still be greatly beneficial in certain scenarios making it a key part to any players game plan. The only issue with this was a player would need to remember that last chosen stance for each character as these do not switch back automatically before the next battle begins. With all of this to consider the icing on the cake for me was the skill system. The player has full freedom of how they want to build each character, but can also “buddy” with another of the party so that two characters can complement each other with attacks and styles during combat, which is a very clever and refreshing way of being a game in this genre, again reminding me of the skill system in “Final Fantasy X” which is still my favourite to date.
The graphics are stunning. The style of the game reminds me of a mixture between “Last Remnant” for the architecture and “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” for the colour and vibrancy of Umbra. The way the world looked as I traversed from one area to another, whether it be in a town or out on the larger map into different regions, I always found myself sitting in admiration. Even the opening cut scene has me sitting in awe at the way the different layers were used to overlap one another to perform an animation in a digital watercolour styled introduction. Very similar to the way that “Magic the Gathering” operate the cut scenes within their digital games. The only part that let me down was how basic the epilogue felt when telling the history of the world to the player.
The sound compliments the art style brilliantly and held a type of sophistication from a design aspect. I found the music to be very soothing and an enjoyable part of the whole experience while exploring Umbra with Amon and his companions. I did however find the music becoming a bit repetitive towards the later part of my play through but amongst all the other wonders of the game, I found it to not be greatly recognisable. The game also uses no audio for the characters, but rather text for each interaction for the player to follow and read. Although I do not find this to be a problem, the simplicity of the interactions, with times making an encounter with a character to be unrewarding, I feel voice acting may have brought these scenarios to life a little bit more, adding a context and encouraging interaction.
Replayability is definitely something that is brought to the table after playing through Earthlock thanks to the combat system and story elements. Even though I felt it to be simplistic, there is enough going on that makes you want to enjoy the story again. The buddy system encourages at least a second play through as you can try different “buddies” together, levelling the characters in a different style to make all combat experiences different, irradiating the need for repetition/
For me Earthlock: Festival of Magic was enjoyable with some very exciting features. The way the graphics and sound, combined with the gameplay, link together, generates a successfully enjoyable and fun experience with some revived mechanics and entertaining plot. With only a small amount of issues with little aspects of this game, I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys any RPG in the regions of similarity with “Final Fantasy”, “Last Remnant”, “Dragon Quest” and “Ni No Kuni”. You would not regret the decision to take part in the experience “Earthlock” has to offer.
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