The Xbox brand doesn’t seem to be able to break into the elusive Japanese market, earlier in the year some reports were staring that less than 100 had been sold in a week! In a country with 127m that is pretty low. It seems strange then that Earthlock, a Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) was not only released this week, but released straight to Games With Gold, making it free to anyone with an Xbox Live Gold subscription until the 15th September.
Earthlock, like We Happy Few received funding via a successful Kickstarter campaign (Earthlock managed to raise over $175,000), and whilst currently available on Xbox One and PC there are plans in play for Wii U, PS4 and Linux. The team behind the game (Snowcastle Games) have been pro-active in keeping their backers updated via the kickstarter blog.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic
Earthlocks story line follows a tried and tested method, you play as Amon, a scavenger living on Umbra, a world with a harsh environment that stopped spinning thousands of years ago. Amon comes across an artifact that unbeknown to him is immensely valuable, to the extent that this uncle is kidnapped and held, awaiting a trade of said artifact.
Amon sets out on a quest to rescue his uncle and on his journey is joined by a group of unlikely hero’s (cue Final Fantasy 7 style). The game is going against the grain today and uses a turn based system but with a couple of nice upgrades, one of these is stance. Stance allows the player to use 2 varying types of attacks and utilities, this is explained very early on in the game in a tutorial like section of game play. When you start to build your team up you can pair up 2 of your team and create a bond between them, this builds up a shared meter, which when full allows a third stance which gives your character stronger attacks to inflict more damage.
The game is full of delicate touches that will leave you with a natural affinity towards Earthlock, one of these is how you gain ammunition for the weapons, if we take Amon as an example, he uses a musket, the ammo for this weapon is potatoes and you can grow and harvest your own, elemental damage can be added using a crafting system. It’s little things like this that had us coming back to the game.
Earthlock uses the unity game engine to admirable effect, it’s got the typical JRPG styling down to a tee, with subtle touches of Max and The Brotherhood it’s a very eye pleasing combination. The only thing that we miss is an on-screen map or an objective indicator, whilst it’s fun exploring sometimes and the areas are huge, sometimes it’s a little frustrating not knowing where to go when we just want to get
We noticed quite early on there is no voice acting in the game, it didn’t really matter too much, all conversations in-game occurred via pop up speech bubbles, it actually made a nice change, and I’m guessing it made this easier to take into other non-english speaking markets. Audio wise there is underlying soft tone music playing throughout, whilst it doesn’t employ the dramatic scores associated with some of its much larger competition, we do have to remember this isn’t a huge multi million pound project.
Snowcastle originally anticipated around 8 hours of game play at conception, however over the last 2 years that has slowly evolved into around 30 hours, we’ve played approximately 6-7 hours
We love turn based RPGs and while this one isn’t breaking any new ground, it does its job very well indeed. Graphically it will not leave you in awe, however when you consider the budget involved this is exceeding far beyond our expectations. If you’re an Xbox player there is absolutely no reason not to pick this up, it really is a rough diamond.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic (4.5 / 5)