I have been following Earthlock: Festival of Magic since it was on Kickstarter back in March 2014. JRPGs have always caught my attention and SnowCastle Games’ Earthlock was no different. The world of Umbra is colorful and filled with a unique cast of characters, all working together to provide a unique experience that only Earthlock: Festival of Magic can conjure up.
In the world of Umbra the planet no longer spins and so humanity has had to grow and adapt. Part of the world is scorched by direct sunlight while another part of the world is frozen and cold due to the lack of sunlight. The story of Earthlock: Festival of Magic puts you in the shoes of Amon, a young adventurer who gets drawn into a larger conflict with the Suvian Empire. What starts as a mission to rescue Amon’s uncle from a bloodthirsty ancient cult soon turns into a much larger journey.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is a deep sort of experience. It seems like a regular JRPG on the surface, but there are unique elements in the gameplay and combat that set it apart. For example, combat plays out in pairs of characters. Each character has multiple stances; some have ranged and melee combat stances, others may have healing/support stances as well as combat ones. Each character has different skills for each role, so it is up to you to figure out which character combination for each pair suits you best.
Setting up your pairs also allows you to utilize the bond mechanic. The more two characters fight as a pair, the stronger their bond. This allows you to unlock exclusive bond talents that increase both characters’ capabilities. Additionally, bonded pairs can use super abilities, which work as powerful combined attacks with devastating effects.
Different attacks have different damage types as well, from crushing and piercing to elemental effects. Different characters can use different elements and damage types. Balancing your party well is the key to any successful adventure. Ranged weapons also take ammo, so you should be careful that you have enough ammo before you go adventuring.
As your characters level, you can invest points into the Talent board. The Talent board has stat talents, ability talents, and perks. The talent board allows you to specialize your characters and their abilities in any number of ways based on how you put in these points and based on your play-style. You can unlock perk talents by killing bosses or fulfilling certain requirements in game.
Exploring dungeons in Earthlock: Festival of Magic is reminiscent of dungeons in the Tales series (particularly Tales of Symphonia) because of the integration of puzzles into exploration. Using your Amri attractor you can condense down energy to power machinery for puzzles. Other environmental puzzles involve creating bridges, navigating through hidden pathways, and other interesting twists on standard exploration.
After a certain point in the story, you gain access to Plumpet isle. Plumpet Isle becomes your own personal island, where you can grow crafting materials. You can also rest, buy items, and utilize other facilities on the isle. The Isle acts as a personal base, which can be accessed by warping from any save point as long as you have the required item. Farming becomes rather important as you go, particularly to craft the ammo for Amon’s gun, ranged ammo, and healing items. You can also use various materials to craft talents for your talent board. As you progress you get new seeds and recipes so you can craft more useful items.
Frogboy is a merchant that not only gives you the opportunity to buy items and ingredients but also can give you quests that enable you to grow and shape Plumpet Isle.
Progression is largely based on fighting enemies and building bonds. You gain more XP by fighting more enemies at once, or by fulfilling conditions for bonus modifiers. A few bonus modifiers in Earthlock: Festival of Magic are not taking damage in battle, not having any characters die, or utilizing weaknesses.
Combat in Earthlock: Festival of Magic is challenging, and a little imbalanced in terms of difficulty. There are times where I have accidentally bitten off way more than I could chew, fighting enemies that were way too strong for me without even realizing it. Despite that, I think that Earthlock exemplifies the early days of JRPG’s, where you were given a clue as to where to go and what to do; but it is up to you to grind and be sure you are prepared for what you find when you arrive at your destination. My only other complaint is that there is no voice acting, though this reinforces the “Classic JRPG” theme.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is difficult. However, it is also wonderful, fun, and every bit as polished and charming as AAA developed JRPG’s. I can’t help but keep going back to comparing it to games like the Tales series, due to the mixture of strategy, puzzles, and polished yet challenging combat. Overall I think Earthlock: Festival of Magic is a must-buy for RPG fans. The mechanics are strange, quirky, and interesting (not to mention different than what most RPG fans are used to) but Earthlock: Festival of Magic is worth every hour you will spend farming, crafting, fighting, and unraveling the tale within the game.
A Playstation 4 Review Code for Earthlock: Festival of Magic was provided by SnowCastle Games for the Purpose of this Review