Rating : 6/10
Earthlock: Festival of Magic really is an old-school JRPG in a lot of ways. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how you like your games. It brings modern concepts to the gameplay and makes the game more accessible, while also retaining some flaws of the genre.
The game oozes originality. So many of the character designs are memorable, even if the characters themselves aren’t. New enemies are always interesting, both in their combat styles and their looks.
The game is wrapped in a beautiful aesthetic style. The visuals are probably my favourite part of the entire game. Everything just looks so lovingly hand-crafted, right down to the books lining a bookshelf in the background of a house. The music is also terrific. It’s classic JRPG stuff, full of beautiful piano tunes that had me keeping the volume turned up so I could enjoy it to it’s fullest.
Earthlock’s world is beautiful, and it’s creators obviously put in a lot of work to make it look as nice as it does. It’s too bad, then, that there is so little interactivity with the environment. There’s nothing to be looted except for the occasional chest, and there isn’t much information about the world itself to be found. There are no side quests, and most NPCs feel like filler.
For a turn based combat system to stand out today, it needs to do something new. So, it’s a good thing Earthlock has a couple of unique mechanics, even though they’re not game-changing. Characters that fight together in your party will develop Bonds together that make them more effective, adding a bit of a strategic element when picking your party layout. Beyond that, the battles are the regular turn-based affairs. The other interesting gameplay element is the upgrade system. Leveling up doesn’t take you down a set path of abilities for each character, instead letting you choose different ways you want to upgrade a character. While this isn’t a new thing in games as a whole, it’s rarely implemented as well in other JRPGs as it is here.
Defeating bosses is no easy task, especially since to reach them you have to fight through plenty of regular enemies that chip away at your health and supplies. Save statues are placed near the beginnings of areas, meaning that if you die, you need to fight all the way to the boss again. After breezing through the game’s first hours with nary a thought about my party’s strength, I came upon a boss that wrecked my team in very few turns. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the boss, not even close. So, I began a long, tedious grind-a-thon. It’s something I don’t mind doing, but might put some people off, and it would have been prudent of the developers to add different difficulty levels to cater to both casual gamers and those who like the challenge. Bottom line is, if you don’t enjoy grinding, Earthlock may not be for you.
There are light puzzle elements to be found in the world. For example, to reach certain places you may need to switch to a small character in your party, or to get to a chest you many need to find the right order in which to press switches. It’s simple stuff, definitely not the kind of puzzling that’s going to hurt your head.
With all of the grinding I did and all of the farming that isn’t necessarily required, but I liked to do, my game took roughly 20 hours. If you enjoy the grind, then you’ll definitely have lots of time to enjoy it here.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic shows that the JRPGs aren’t games of a bygone era. It’s got it’s issues, but it’s still a fun game if you’re a fan of the genre. Hopefully, the developers will have the funds and resources in the future to deliver a more fleshed out experience, but for now, this game is just fine.