Earthlock: Festival of Magic is a western approach to the JRPG genre, it has shades of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy combined into one.
First of all, Earthlock’s graphical style is absolutely gorgeous. The distinguishing style of colorful visuals and fairy tale atmosphere make this release really stand out from the crowd. Even when playing on lower resolutions the game still looks stunning. It was only until I checked the options menu after about an hour of playing that I found out I was only 720p graphics - the game supports 4K @ 60 fps. The soundtrack is blissful too; each scene has it’s own theme and catchy score. No voice acting but this is to be expected from this genre, it would have been nice but not a huge miss given that there isn’t a huge amount of dialogue throughout the story.
The turn-based combat takes the style of Final Fantasy as you have a party full of characters which will have defined abilities; you are able to delve deep into character talent trees to give them an even more specialized role but the overall class is outlined, to begin with. The talent skill system is one of the most interesting ways of presenting the mechanic in a while. The talent screen has a handful of skills and passive abilities, and in between those are blank squares which can be chosen to increase your stat points. Whilst you are on your travels you will loot stat increasing items, which need to be used on the talent screen. But they do need to be shared with your whole party, and not just pumping up one of your characters and ignoring the rest.
When you are not in combat, you can choose between playing as one of two main character’s, you can swap and change whenever you want, giving the player the choice of who plays the main protagonist. Random encounters on the traveling scenes are quite obviously shown with enemies wandering around, which can be taken as a positive or negative mechanic. Most people will enjoy the hidden factor of running into mobs, whilst others may enjoy being able to avoid fights if they choose to do so.
Earthlock does take a few hours to get fully into the swing of things. Like many RPGs, the first part of the game is a long tutorial system explaining all of the game’s mechanics and letting you put them into reality, as well as introducing you to the main characters of the plot. After the initial entrance to the game, you will soon find yourself with a challenging combat system, and a nonlinear path to explore. The main story of the game can be completed in about thirteen hours, but the game offers plenty of extras such as finding extra loot in caves and dungeons which can double the amount of time you can spend with Earthlock. Give the non-linear style gameplay on offer, I can see there being an element of replayability for some people who really take a fancy to the combat system, but the overall plot of the story will no differ huge amounts and most will get the most satisfaction out of their first playthrough, to be honest.
It is very much recommended to play Earthlock with a controller, whilst it is perfectly playable with the keyboard, you do feel as if you have a handicap. It’s not a huge issue as the combat is turn-based but playing with a controller feel so much better than having to fiddle around looking for the right button to press.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is quite possibly one of the better JRPG style games I have played. The simple and clear tutorial system does a good job of explaining the game’s mechanics whilst not dragging on too long. The challenging combat system will give even the hardened turn-based veterans something to chew on. Finally, the gorgeous art style is the icing on the cake of an overall fantastic RPG experience. This is a perfect start to life for the Norwegian-based developer, Snowcastle Games.