Earthlock PC Review with Stream
Easy to play but hard to master
Too simplistic art style
Too many tropes
Japanese Role Playing Games are a staple in the gaming industry, and while many would say they are not in their heyday, many gamers grew up on this genre with big names like Chrono Trigger or all of the “Final” Fantasies. Snowcastle Games is now trying to rekindle that feeling with their latest release Earthlock. While this could be compared to their earlier release of this game called Earthlock: Festival of Magic it does turn out to be a different beast altogether.
While Festival of Magic was released earlier, there seems to be a more definite shift toward the feel of a JRPG, such as the addition of overworld collectibles, more sidequests, and building on the story from before. The normal signs are there for a JRPG like a larger cast to build your team, unique characters, and turn based combat. However, this is where things get really interesting, as Earthlock takes a very different approach to the combat. Normally in other RPGs, each character is really purpose built to be one thing, like a healer, black mage, knight, so much so that that has become the term by which many are defined. But now each character in Earthlock is essentially at least two different characters at least when combat is concerned due to a mechanic called “stances”. They are modes in which your character will stay until told differently that allow them a new grouping of moves that radically change the way you approach your battle. A good example is my thief can be in his thief stance when trying to steal things, but if I want him to be more aggressive, I can change it so that he attacks with a gun, giving him far more combat capabilities. On paper it doesn’t seem like much, but when calculating how best to take on a boss it’s literally night and day and can lead to a totally different experience.
The experience and atmosphere built for the player seem to be of prime importance here, as the unique art style and story do more to world build than I have seen in a lot of games in modern times. For example, this is a Shark-Man called Uncle Benjo which seems ridiculous, but I’ll be damned if I don’t want to know more about him after playing with him in part of the tutorial. It’s a good bit of environment work that lets you into their world so easily and promises the escapist fantasy that we all secretly want from a video game. The art style isn’t bad to look at, but it does seem to lack a bit of definition as there isn’t a big use of outlines so it seems to blend a bit too much, mostly in respect to the avatar, so it can be hard to see what you are doing exactly from the camera zoomed away.
While I can understand wanting to re-create the nostalgic games of the past with a modern twist, I do feel that Earthlock does lean too heavily on its influences. It’s so much like any other famous JRPG that’s it’s easy to play, but that also means that it doesn’t stand out as much as it should. The art style is simplistic so it appeals to a larger audience, but it also doesn’t astound me with new landscapes or environments so they become forgettable. It does try to ease the transition into escapism, but once they have you there, it’s just too similar to many other games. The change up of the combat system, along with better thought out bosses that require more strategy is a definite plus, but not enough to rise above the rest. It’s a nice adventure JRPG with fun characters, and even though it doesn’t shine like a diamond, it glows like a comfy campfire, so it’s worth checking out.