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A Glorious Classic JRPG
Earthlock: Festival of Magic from Snowcastle Games is an absolute nostalgic joy to play. Feeling at once both reverential for classic 16-bit JRPGs and novel due to its western stylized setting and systems, Earthlock is a grand start to an RPG trilogy, and well worth the meager price of admission. Read on for our full review.
By William Murphy on September 30, 2016

A Glorious Classic JRPG - Earthlock: Festival of Magic Review
Score

8
Great

Pros
 Excellent art style
 Great battle & talent system
 Great price
 Solid story
Cons
 Can be grindy at times
 Dialog can be stilted

Earthlock: Festival of Magic from Snowcastle Games is an absolute nostalgic joy to play. Feeling at once both reverential for classic 16-bit JRPGs and novel due to its western stylized setting and systems, Earthlock is a grand start to an RPG trilogy, and well worth the meager price of admission. Read on for our full review.

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In development for nearly five years, and successfully kickstarted by Snowcastle a few years back, Earthlock: Festival of Magic is one of three planned chapters of the Earthlock trilogy. You, as Amon, journey across the planet of Umbra which stopped spinning thousands of cycles ago. Now, one side is perpetually hot and sun-ridden while the other is dark and cold. Amon stumbles upon a relic and an unlikely companion, which leads him on an adventure where the mysteries of Umbra will be revealed.

Earthlock launched on Xbox One a bit ago, and came out this week on PC. It’s fully supportive of the mouse and keyboard, but works really well with a plug in controller as well. I mean, it’s not hard to switch menus, move around the map and interact with objects in the environment on either. The controller feels more natural, but that could be because I’ve spent so many years playing these games on the NES and up.

Combat is fairly standard turn-based stuff, with the added caveat that your party of four can be organized in pairs, working off each other and building their skills together. Additionally, each character has two stances which drastically alter their roles in the party. The main character, Amon, can shift from a gun-wielding damage dealer, to a thief who steals supplies from enemies. Each of the characters has a way to change their role mid-fight and it really helps strategize for each battle.

It can be annoying, going through dungeons, when you re-enter rooms they repopulate with enemies. The thing is, the combat is fun and briskly paced enough that it’s sometimes welcome if you’re looking for a fight or need to level up your characters a bit more for a tough fight.  While I would have appreciated some more pizazz added to the combat animations and effects, the shorter animations mean the battles flow well.

Building up your characters with the Talent Tables and the cards you collect and craft are great too. In fact, your home base island is a real shining star of the game. You can grow plants, make potions, buy gear, and so on. Different features unlock as you progress through the game, and I really hope its expanded upon in the second and third games of the Earthlock trilogy.

I will say that Earthlock’s difficulty curve is just about right too. Most battles are simple “trash” fights aimed at leveling you up. But as soon as the first main boss in the Swamp you’ll find out that the combat can be really trying but not punishing. The story’s solid, the characters are likeable, and the pacing is just right. There are some parts that can drag if you run into too many battles making the game feel grindy, but overall Earthlock sits up there with some of the best JRPGs I’ve played in recent years.

If you like the gameplay of the 90s titles that made Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, and more household names, but always wanted something with a more western aesthetic you’ll find plenty to love in Earthlock: Festival of Magic. For $30, available right now on both Steam and XB1 (with PS4 to come as well), you can’t go wrong here. We’re anxiously awaiting the next installment already and Snowcastle Games have likely carved themselves a nice little niche with Earthlock.


GAMEPLAY – 9 | Earthlock is a fantastic throwback to the JRPGs of the 90s. Its turn-based content is brusquely paced, strategic, and also novel with the stances and pairing mechanics. You get your own home island you can farm and build up, and each of the game’s core six companions can be customized with talents to change how they play fundamentally.  It all comes together exquisitely for JRPG fans, but with a western veneer.

VISUALS AND SOUND – 7 | The visuals of Earthlock are passable. They’re benefited by great art direction, but since the game was slated to come the Wii U as well, I suspect the overall look was limited intentionally. It looks good, but could easily run on a last generation console. Not a knock, just the truth. The sound effects and overall atmospheric score are top notch though.

POLISH – 9 | The care and attention to detail by Snowcastle Games shows in Earthlock. It’s a lovingly crafted world and one that I can’t wait to see from. I ran into very few bugs, even as early as the beta phases as a backer.

LONGEVITY – 7 | There are at least $30 hours of gameplay to be had here, more if you take your time and do all the side activities. That said, you won’t likely stick around for a second playthrough as it’ll be largely the same experience.

VALUE – 8 | For $30, you get at least 30 hours of gameplay, likely closer to 40 or 50 if you’re an explorer and like side quests as I do. I backed the game for $15 to get my copy, which is plainly a steal.


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