By Ben Barrett on April 3rd, 2014 at 8:00 am.
On the PC, we’re well supplied with nostalgia bait and fond memory ruiners. Not a day goes by without a Kickstarter or Greenlight campaign for another slice of the past or up-to-date take on a “classic.” However, the itch I find myself unable to scratch most often is for JRPGs. While a little effort to keep Steam stocked has been made by mega-corp of the genre Square Enix in recent years, it’s hardly as common as I’d wish. Timely over the horizon comes Earthlock: Festival of Magic, seeking its $150,000 fortune. Along with expected tropes, there’s a fine selection of systems that tickled my fancy in the demo, which you can read my impressions of and feast your eyes on a trailer for post-jump.
There’s two main mechanics that I found most interesting. First, a harvesting system for planting crops that grow into ammo for the various characters. These are plentiful and vital for doing anything above mediocre damage in the turn-based combat. There’s an odd trend recently in quite literal farming in games, but I’m not especially opposed to it so long as the mini-game is enjoyable and the rewards worth the time. Here it’s basic but quick, providing elementally-charged ammo (of expected flavours) after a few minutes. This is located in what seemed to be the hub area of the game, and was easily accessed via teleporters in later areas. Limiting usage of powerful attacks without forcing hoarding like this is a good solution to the problem of repetitive combat that plagues this sort of game.
More original was the party set up. I began with four characters, however they were arranged in pairs rather than solo. Each time a turn came up, I could use only one of the pair – spellcaster or more direct damage dealer. The support characters could only use spells for which they had built up SP, which is stored between battles but increases slower than it could be spammed. It’s an intriguing take on party balance which keeps character individuality while maintaining the ability to customise. As with everything in the demo, it’s at an early stage but the potential for a complex system is there and I want to see where it goes.
Overall it was smart, fast and did just enough new to keep me interested while still appealing to my younger, Playstation self. You can try the reasonably lengthy demo for yourself from the Kickstarter page and, if you’re as taken with it as I am, help them out.