Developer & Publisher: Snowcastle Games
Snowcastle Games (Digital)
Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U
Release date: Xbox One: September 1, 2016 / PC/Mac: September 27, 2016 / TBA
By: Mitchell Cole
Earthlock is an adventure RPG inspired by the classic 3D RPGs of the late 90’s, with a fresh take on turn based combat and character progression. Enter a beatiful world haunted by its fateful past and join a party of unlikely heroes on their journey to rescue Amon’s uncle from an ancient cult and uncover the secret of Earthlock. What starts as a simple quest for desert scavenger Amon soon sprawls into a journey where several unlikely heroes join to save Umbra, a beautiful but harsh world that mysteriously stopped spinning thousands of cycles ago.
A New IP is Born!
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is what a Kickstarter-funded game is meant to be. After years in development, Snowcastle Games delivered a quality RPG title to rival popular RPG games today. As a fan of RPG games but one who does play them as often as I used to, Festival of Magic offered a variety of adventure, missions, & whimsical humor that reminded me so much of old school Squaresoft games. NOT SquareEnix but Square-SOFT! (How many of you remember that name?!)
The game will play as a non-linear, RPG with turn-based battles. In combat, characters fight in pairs – a “warrior” and a “protector”. The warrior uses consumable items such as ammunition, while the protector can perform spells like healing and shields. When the characters are damaged by enemies, they accumulate support points, which can be used to activate other moves. Pairing different combinations of characters unlocks different moves and tactics, greatly affecting the flow of battle.
Festival of Goodness
There’s a lot to be said with this game in terms of goods delivered. Utilizing the popular Unity engine, Snowcastle Games crafted a beautiful throw-back to old RPG favorites while updating the feel with crisp, clean graphics that handles quite a lot of action on-screen at times. Character & enemy details on good while the backgrounds, towns, battlegrounds, and overworld shine with nostalgic goodness. I am a throwback fan at times and enjoyed the simple turn-based tactics that many game developers have turned away from recently. Add the benefit of ‘companion sets’ to explore, each player grows in accordance to their picked partner in battle. Switch up your battle order and watch as each character learns new moves reflective of the pair you have chosen. 4 characters’ battle on-screen so players ultimately have 2 ‘companion sets’ to build each battle. This adds a creative level of depth to an otherwise smaller-scaled game.
Other positives include a fun farming mission that ultimately provides all your needed ammo. Say goodbye to your traditional shops in towns. Instead, plant your garden, water your precious commodities, then farm the required ingredients to craft needed ammo for character weapons. This game is small. Initially, a gamer could finish the game within 30 hours conceivably but after near 50 hours myself, I can attest there is just enough added in-game fun to extend the hours beyond 30 hours. For the price of the game, the quality & quantity ratio is very good.
Take Notes for Part 2
Not all is perfect in the game, which was sad to see but no completely unexpected for a first game from a new developer. The one biggest area of flaw in Earthlock: Festival of Magic is the audio. The music and sounds are beautiful. Love the sounds but why did it get a negative in my review then? This game was reviewed on the Xbox One version and suffered horrendous audio issues that constantly repeated a broken track over, and over, AND over. After patches and promises of fixing the issue, to date each playthrough results in the audio becoming stuck and sounding like a broken record. This is a serious issue that must be addressed for the supposed Chapter 2, or any game for that matter. This ruined a large part of the classic feel when a gamer must mute the audio to avoid a repetitive dirge of music.
As mentioned in the positive section of the review, the game is a much smaller game masked as a larger game. The world of Umbra is confined to one continent with limited access to a second continent. Beyond that, there is little to explore that is not scripted in the storyline of the game. (Fighting Ghosts named after backers was fun but the final reward was a horrible let down.) A last parting personal complaint/request to the developers, would be to place more of a significance on runes/magical items than a confusing attribute card-system that is never fully explained and never really feels like it belonged in this game.
Meet the Characters
Awesome Game Hampered By Audio Issues – (Your Genre; Your Choice)
I love this game. I am a big fan of Snowcastle Games after their Kickstarter efforts and the games development. Aside from some technical issues with the audio, this game hits the near perfect debut. I am a backer of this game. This is not a biased review as I have backed dozens of games and played a few that my money has gone to. This is the first game that delivered on its promise to its backers and feels like the company and IP have a future in the gaming world. I have high hopes for a sequel as the original Kickstarter promised this to be only Chapter 1 of a 3-part series. If that is the case, this initial IP for Snowcastle Games is primed to grow larger and show more of the mysterious world of Umbra.