Evoland Review. OLE!
Developer: Shiro Games
As gamers, we sometimes wish to experience the games of yesteryear. We want to relive the games of our childhood, or finally get around to playing that critically acclaimed title which everyone and their mother has heard about. There is a certain thrill in going back and seeing for yourself just how far gaming has come in the past decades. The changes in gameplay, visual style, and the way we are told these stories. With Evoland, one can experience 20 years of RPG evolution within just a few hours, getting a small taste of some of the most significant titles to ever hit the genre, games like The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy and Diablo.
Evoland is not a game which sets out to innovate the genre in terms of gameplay, and freely parodies this fact. The main purpose here is to take the player through a short, entertaining adventure filled with countless references to legendary RPGs, their creators, and other revered fantasy series.
Players will take control of the blond-haired, green-clothed Clink. He, along with his companion Kaeris, must set out to save Kaeris' hometown from the evil of Zephyros, a powerful foe who has come to power in light of the Mana Tree's weakening state. Before they can rid the world of his evil presence, however, they must acquire a number of powerful items which will allow them to access the Black Citadel, the home of Zephyros. The first of these powerful items is a sword which resides in the Mines of Noria. Players will have to fight through this Zelda-esque dungeon, dodging traps and completing puzzles along the way, until they finally reach the boss room. After successfully fighting off Shadow Clink, players will come across a chest holding the sword that they have been looking for, the sword of the great hero Claud. Players then set out for Kaeris' hometown on Aogai to meet her Uncle Sid and learn more about their upcoming adventure. The first part of the story does a fantastic job of setting the fun, entertaining tone for the rest of the game, giving the players a test to see just how many references to other works that they can spot.
As one moves through this relatively linear world, they will come across a number of chests which can hold collectibles such as cards, for a game very much like Tetra Master from Final Fantasy IX, and stars which are simply collectibles. The main purpose of these chests are the evolutions which they hold inside. Upon opening such a chest, the world will change in some way. It may add music to the game or enhance the graphical quality from a 8 bit to 16 bit, or even change the way that the game is played in some way. All of the chests which are required to complete the game can be found relatively easy in relation to one's path, but there are some (including the ones which hold cards and stars) which are found off the path to your next objective. These chests hold evolutions such as ambient lighting or a mini map, things which aren't necessarily required to complete the game.
The most significant of the changes to come from the chests, of course, is the change in combat, and any mechanics related to it. Most of these different styles are found relatively early in the game, as are most evolutions, and will change the way combat is handled depending on where you are in the world. When making one's way through a dungeon or a forest, they will experience combat similar to The Legend of Zelda. While moving across the overworld, players will run into random encounters (which seem to intentionally occur every couple of seconds, parodying their annoyance) which lead to a turn-based style very similar in look and feel to Final Fantasy. Later in the game, when passing through a large graveyard, players will encounter hordes of skeletons and spiders, the health interface changing to take on the iconic orb from Diablo.
How well are these styles pulled off? None are pulled off in a manner which would earn them praise if they were put into their own games, being much too simplistic. However, as stated earlier, Evoland is not meant to be a complex title. Its goal is to emulate the feel of these styles, not match their complexities or incorporate their subtleties. When looked at from this point of view, Evoland achieves its goal with flying colors.
Considering that three different combat styles are meshed together into one game, one would assume that it wouldn't work too well. The contrary is true, however, because Evoland pulls it off beautifully. The shifts in style do not occur too often, and when they do occur they are by no means obnoxious. In fact, Evoland uses these shifts in style, both graphically and gameplay wise, as a gameplay mechanic in and of itself which helps players reach certain areas which would otherwise be inaccessible.
Throughout the game, players will sometimes come across large floating blue crystals. When struck, these crystals change the players perception from 2D to 3D or vice-versa. This allows the player to pass objects, like a small tree in 3D which is a mere shrub in 2D, which would otherwise block one's progress. Some of these obstacles require burning, which can only be achieved in 2D through the lighting of torches in a specific pattern or angle. These small, simple puzzles do a fine job of breaking up the monotony of trekking through a small area, killing enemies until the player reaches their objective.
Gameplay is not everything in a game which tries to take the player on a journey through the 20 years of RPG's. While there is much to be desired in the graphic style, it's certainly not done badly. The various stages of graphical evolution are spot on, as are the shifts in style of music from chiptune to something more modern. Fortunately, as with all things in Evoland, the lack of originality (outside of the overall concept of the game) can be glazed over due to its interpretation.
The concept of Evoland is as original as can be. It takes players through the evolution of the RPG genre from the early days of the NES, to the leaps made by the original PlayStation. While it does not offer much that is new, and the gameplay is almost devoid of depth, though it's still fun. It is an enjoyable experience seeing the world change before you, revisiting areas which were once in 2D but are now in 3D. The countless references add to the enjoyment and doesn't reach the point of obnoxiousness. It is well worth your time.