The game’s story takes place in the world of Umbra, where a cataclysmic event occurs that stops the planet from spinning. This leaves part of the world scorched by constant sunlight, part of it perpetually cold due to lack of sunlight, and a patch of livable land in between. The incident ends up burying much of the past advanced civilization, but humanity survives and society begins anew in the habitable part of the planet. The story follows the adventurer Amon, who, among his usual activities of scavenging ruins, gets entangled in a much larger conflict with the ruling Suvian Empire.
The game is inspired by early Square Japanese role-playing games, though Snowcastle wanted to subvert common genre character stereotypes. Development for the game started as early as 2011, with a pre-alpha build trailer being released in May 2013.The game was originally just known by its subtitle, Festival of Magic.
In November 2013, the game was placed on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter with the aim of securing $250,000 in funding. However, Snowcastle later pulled from the platform, due to it getting lost in the crowd during the holiday season. A fresh Kickstarter campaign was launched in March 2014 with a lowered goal of $150,000. This second campaign was successful, raising $178,000 in April 2014.The game was released on Xbox One and PC back last September and has just been released on PS4 and will be coming to the Wii U soon.
As I mentioned earlier this game is very much a love letter to the classic RPG’s from the 90s and for an old school gamer like myself it was a pleasant reprieve and change of pace to play something that just felt so familiar to me again. It feels like playing a better-looking version of FF7-FF10 back in the PS2 days, which is awesome, but lets break this down to the core important things.
Graphics: While nothing here is ground-breaking or ultra-realistic everything looks great. Vibrant colors are used when appropriate in contact to some of the more muted landscapes as you traverse through the story. Character design is well done also, each character has a unique look and movement style to their own. No “copy cats” or reusing resources on other characters other than NPC which is expected.
Music: The game in my opinion has an excellent soundtrack that adds to the experience without being overbearing. Sometimes games can overuse cinematic music elements, this game does not it subtly adds to the atmosphere and tale with each unique area having a soundtrack to fit that realm.
Gameplay: This is where the game shines for me, it harkens back to the old turn based combat I used to love so much, while it doesn’t always work in modern day gaming, I enjoyed Earthlock. Instead of having meters fill up to let you know when your character was getting ready to make their move there is a string of icons to the right of the screen showing who is coming up next whether it’s you or the enemy which allows the players to strategize as to what needs to be done next. (should I heal now or can I make it until the next round, etc) The leveling up system allows players to customize the characters to how they want to play, focus on close or long range combat, is defense more important than attack, etc. The game does require some old-school grinding at points though in order to be a high enough level to tackle some of the bosses otherwise you will die, a lot. The only thing i didn’t care for in the gameplay was the ability to help your enemies, for instance there was a few times while using my healer when trying to select the right person to heal I would accidentally heal my enemy, I know it’s dumb it’s my fault but just something that annoyed me. However if you heal a ghost enemy it does a large amount of damage, and if you hit a stunned ally it’ll snap them out of it so it is utilized as part of the gameplay.
Story: Ok, with every good game there has to be some flaws, and for me the story is where it lacked the most. The intro and beginning seemed to shape up things nicely but it never comes quite together in my 11 hr journey. Some of the characters are begging to have more time in the spotlight and it just doesn’t happen unfortunately. There also is a lack of side-questing which in most RPGs would help backfill lore and background info for those interested, in Earthlock it just doesn’t have that aspect (but it can be expected with an indie game, so I’m not that mad about it) It almost feels as if the studio had much bigger plans for it but had to trim it down to get the title out. So overall I had a great time, and look forward to their next project!