The turn-based battle. The tragic death of the hero’s companion. Loading times. If you’ve ever wondered where all these strange parts of modern RPGs come from, Evoland is your answer. From a chest, of course.
It’s best to think of Evoland as a game you’re not playing as any sort of narrative adventure or even really for fun. It’s a kind of interactive museum, taking you through the different stages of RPG gameplay (as well as some of the more silly aspects of storytelling). Beginning in the days of monochrome action games in which you died of a single hit and gameplay consisted of wandering around walking into things, and progressing to a modern top-down action-RPG that strongly resembles Diablo III, you’re bound to find something to be nostalgic for if you’ve been a fan of any JRPGs in the past 25 years.
Still, to enable its variety it has to sacrifice quite a bit of depth. The latter stages, where gameplay could conceivably be quite advanced, focus on fetch-quests and building up only three character stats. Similarly, the early stages (and the later 2D stages at the point where time-travel becomes possible) struggle for lack of versatility in equipment and puzzles. There’s one segment that stood out involving a sort of maze centred around lighting torches with a bow, but for the most part the puzzles boil down to ‘go here and kill everything’ or ‘go here and collect X number of things’. It’s all well and good having a tribute to action-adventure games through history, but the point should be to exhibit the best of them, not the worst parts.
Of course, for a small game the graphics are perfectly lovely, and I really appreciated the inclusion of some of the oft-forgotten aspects of games like these – the ridiculously low resolution of mid-90s 3D textures, the pre-rendered town backgrounds, the odd camera effects and movements when opening chests. It even goes so far as to include rarely commented upon aspects like the introduction of dynamic lighting and free character movement and for that it deserves praise.
The big problem with Evoland is it’s so bloody insubstantial. It doesn’t linger for any length of time on any of the eras it explores and as a result feels like quite the whistlestop tour without having any real standout moments. There are other problems too, like a really frustrating control system, random battles that are far too frequent and an utter lack of any indication as to what you should be doing at times. All this means that it’s hard to really recommend, even for £6.99. If you’re interested in the development of RPGs and action-adventures, you can buy many of the games this takes inspiration from – The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Diablo – even cheaper and have a much more fun time. Otherwise, simply watch the game on YouTube and save yourself much time, frustration and money. 5/10.
See? This game is so utterly bland and so wastes its very interesting potential that I’m left a couple of hundred words short of my target and will have to resort to writing filler. Oh joy. Well, while we’re here, I may as well add something to the news update about that Nintendo Direct that I posted on Wednesday.
As you’re probably well aware, Earthbound is one of my favourite games – not least for its contemporaneity of style (and my god, what else could inspire such fancy-pants language?) but also for its brilliant humour, excellent English translation and wonderfully inventive gameplay. Instead of the pointless fetch-questing and angst of other RPGs, Earthbound sends you from a mountaintop meteor strike through two deserts, a zombie-infested town and even into the past.
It’s never before been released in Europe (and I’ve only played it by less than legitimate means) but this year, you lucky Europeans and Australians will finally be able to buy a copy. You know how much it costs for this wonderful slice of gaming history on Wii U? £7. Fuck you, Evoland.