When I was younger, I was guilty of only playing RPGs that had ‘Final Fantasy’ in the title. I know, I know, it was a naïve attitude to have and it also meant I missed out on playing a ton of classics until a long time after their initial release. It’s something I’ve rectified with age though and now I find myself trying to play as many RPGs as I can of all shapes and sizes.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is the latest I’ve had the pleasure of playing, with its recent release on the Nintendo Switch proving the perfect opportunity to give Snowcastle Games’ RPG a spin. In fairness, it’s delivered everything I expected of it: it’s a charmingly entertaining RPG experience that embraces the old-school side of the genre.
Following a fairly formulaic approach as far as RPGs are concerned, Earthlock: Festival of Magic sees you leading a group of ragtag heroes together as they look to save the world from an impending evil. What’s that evil, I hear you ask? An old civilization that was previously wiped out, of course. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that and the story certainly goes through some twists and turns along the way, but you get the idea.
It’s a decent little tale and one that’s strengthened by its unique cast of characters, each of which not only look distinct but have their own personalities that are clearly conveyed throughout each situation you find yourself in during the game. Again, the cast could admittedly be a little cliché as far as old-school RPG hallmarks are concerned, but they’re all presented in a charming way that’ll make you form a small bond with them.
The only real flaw to be found in the narrative was the fact that the script could be a little sketchy at times, though that could be down to the fact that it’s a Norwegian studio behind the game and maybe that something was lost in translation. Sure, it might not be the case, but it’d be a fair reason for the moments in the game where the text just didn’t seem… well… right.
On the gameplay side of things, Earthlock: Festival of Magic feels like an old-school RPG but with a couple of modern twists thrown in. For example, you’ll explore a classic overworld, investigate towns, tackle dangerous dungeons and take part in turn-based battles. However, you’ll also be able to switch control between six different characters that each have their own unique overworld abilities, partake in gardening to gather ingredients for crafting, and will even have an island base of operations where you’re able to craft new items or equipment. Whilst the latter might not necessarily be features unique to the genre, it shows that Earthlock: Festival of Magic doesn’t just rely on old-school ideas.
The battle system itself will feel a little familiar though. It’s a turn based system akin to that found in Final Fantasy X – there’s a little meter on the side that shows the order of turns that characters will take and how often. The attacks and abilities of characters will feel familiar too, with traditional physical attacks, magic attacks and defensive manoeuvres on offer for each character, who also have their own specific roles to play in combat.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic does do something unique with its ‘stances’, though. Each character has two stances which they can switch between, with each stance offering something different. One character might have one stance that focuses on physical attacks and another which focuses on drawing in enemy attacks for example, whilst another might have one that focuses on ranged attacks and another that focuses on up-close melee attacks. Each stance is effective based upon the enemy you’re facing off against, and learning when best to switch between them is often the key to victory in the game. It certainly adds a bit of a unique twist to battling and keeps players thinking – especially when facing off against the game’s tougher enemies.
The way in which MP is utilised is unique too, with characters given squares of energy that are replenished at the start of each battle or when resting during combat. Each character’s abilities consume a specific amount of energy to use, so balancing their usage along with resting is vital if you want to keep unleashing a constant onslaught of attacks upon your enemies or keep on healing your team. It’s a neat little system, though I will admit that it could be a little annoying being forced to rest multiple times in battle just to pull off certain attacks – I guess I’ve just been used to having a lot more MP on offer in RPGs…
Overall, it’s an enjoyable battle system, though it did have a few flaws that stood out along the way. Some of the enemies often felt like damage sponges, with battles not being prolonged thanks to a challenge but instead because there were so many enemies with so much health. Boss battles were guilty of being formulaic too, with player’s not having the freedom to try and approach these bigger encounters with their own tactics but instead being forced to play the way the game wants them to. It’s something we’ve seen in RPGs in the past, but not on such a regular basis. Neither of these flaws stop Earthlock: Festival of Magic from being fun, but they were noticeable during my twelve-hours or so with the game.
As you win battles, your characters will earn talent points which can then be used to level-up their skills on the Talent Board. With the Talent Board, you’re given the freedom to tailor your character’s stats and abilities exactly how you please, with the player able to place specific tiles down that’ll affect particular stats or unlock specific abilities for characters. It’s a very flexible system and one that you’re able to tinker with all through the game, though the fact that Earthlock: Festival of Magic is a lot smaller in length than traditional RPGs did mean that there wasn’t as much depth to it – don’t go expecting Sphere Grid levels of customisation…
One thing I have to mention is Earthlock: Festival of Magic’s visuals, which are vibrant and full of charm throughout. I loved exploring the game world, meeting all of its unique characters and fighting all of its deadly foes, with the visuals behind them all proving to be top notch from start to end. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t hit the level of graphics seen in modern RPGs such as Final Fantasy XV, but Earthlock: Festival of Magic has a very attractive old-school style that was a pleasure on the eyes throughout.
Developer: Snowcastle Games
Publisher: Snowcastle Games
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC