Have you ever thought, one day, of playing a role-playing game with a markedly Japanese style, but developed by Norwegians? If so, Snowcastle Games has made your dream come true; after a rather demanding Kickstarter campaign last year, premiered for the Xbox One Games With Gold service, it has finally landed on our consoles Earthlock: Festival of Magic. Only at the end of January the title was released on PlayStation 4, strong of average positive opinions behind it, let's not waste any more time and start playing.
The magic festival
From the very beginning we can observe how Earthlock: Festival of Magic seems to be a gigantic tribute to the tradition of role-playing games, all of this is recognizable both in the narrative and in the gameplay, but let's go in order.
The plot features a young airplane pilot eager to demonstrate her skills to her father and a boy who, together with his uncle, delights in the search for precious treasures; it is precisely the discovery of a priceless relic that starts the events, as well as the intersection of the destinies of the two protagonists and their companions in an attempt to save uncle Benjo from his kidnappers, trying to prevent the end of the game world by Umbra. Although the story does not stand out for its originality, the events are told in a pleasant and smooth way with carefully written dialogues.
In general we can see how Snowcastle Games was inspired by the JRPG tradition of the 80s-90s period, starting from the types embodied by the protagonists up to the settings and turn-based gameplay it really seems to be in front of a very pleasant nostalgia operation! Younger players may be puzzled by all this, older fans will find their match.
Pad in hand
Regarding the gameplay, the base is the classic turn-based one as already mentioned, but there are some important news: first of all the enemies will be perfectly visible on the screen, approaching the latter a timer will start within which to attract us as many enemies as possible to fight, in case we manage to press X in time to start the fight we will have the possibility to attack first. As already explained, the fights are turn-based, but the most interesting aspect is the possibility of using a turn to change the character's posture and, consequently, change the set of skills at our disposal; for example, in a pose we will be able to take advantage of close combat abilities while changing position we will be effective from a distance, all this contributes to making both casual and boss battles more varied.
The second novelty is the Talent table through which we will be able to obtain upgrades and skills for our party, unlike what happens in other role-playing games, the unlocking of upgrades will not be bound to a strict succession, but we ourselves will have to "create" the best path to reach the desired power-ups.
No major innovation to report on the dungeon front, interesting the possibility of changing characters at any time in order to overcome various obstacles, but the design of the maps appears very banal and some locations can be too linear and boring; to break the rhythm there is the possibility of participating in a tournament in which we will have to face level opponents always growing and especially towards the end it will be necessary to adequately strengthen our character.
In terms of longevity Earthlock: Festival of Magic is not lost in useless chat, a 15-20 hours will be more than enough to end the adventure.
Unity remains a question mark
Technically speaking, there is a painful premise to be made: if on Xbox One and PC the visual impact, while not amazing, is very pleasant and the graphics engine proceeds at a fixed 60 FPS, while on PlayStation 4 the story is very different; Unity is known to be hostile to the architecture of the Sony home console, the result is the presence of inexplicable slowdowns and a dancing framerate that oscillates between 15 and 25 FPS to touch 60 only in rare moments in dungeons or during the exploration, not the height of enjoyment. For the rest, the polygonal models of characters and structures are rather simplistic, one could certainly have done better.
On the sound front, any kind of dubbing in pure JRPG style of the 90s is totally absent, the soundtrack and environmental effects are discreet.
To advise Earthlock: Festival of Magic is complex, the good quality of the game is not disputed, but especially younger players may have to compromise to appreciate a product, which really seems to come from the Golden Age of Japanese roles, choices such as the absence of dubbing or the classic Turn-based gameplay might put off novices.
Snowcastle's goal is basically centered, although Earthlock is not a masterpiece it gives the player a pleasant and very fun experience; In my opinion, however, it is better to wait for a price drop since the 30 Euros requested may seem too much.