Review: Evoland (PC)

Genre: RPG/Adventure
Publisher: Shiro Games
Developer: Shiro Games
Release: 04/04/13

Evoland is a little indie title that chronicles the evolution of the Japanese RPG genre from the monochrome days of the Gameboy to the high resolution days of today.  To call it a game is slightly misleading, as the game is more of an experience of how games have advanced in the last 25 years.  Evoland‘s beginning is rather odd to begin with.  Unlike games like 3D Dot Game Heroes or Half Minute Hero, which provide a full gaming experience in the guise of a retro themed game, Evoland merely provides us with an incredibly short trip that plays strongly to nostalgia.

The prologue starts off with a introduction about our hero, who is bored because of how peaceful things are.  Then evil pops up, and you are off on a new adventure to restore the land from whatever the problem is.  You now start the game off in an interesting tutorial by just opening chests that slowly add new elements, like sound effects, open range areas to explore, the ability to attack and color by opening evolution chests.

The further you explore Evoland and open more chests, the more you begin to unlock even more features.  You can start to gather collectible stars that are spread throughout the game as well as cards that can be used to play an card game similar to Final Fantasy VIII‘s Triple Triad.  You unlock new gameplay modes inspired by several famous RPG’s of the past two decades like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy, Zelda, and even Diablo. You also collect a small handful of items like bombs, a bow and arrow set, potions, phoenix downs and faster DVD players.  The items each have their specific uses, which are primarily for solving the small puzzles you come across in each dungeon you enter.  The unique items, like the faster DVD players, are there for humor, as they show how games are more enjoyable with a hardware upgrade.

Evoland‘s gameplay evolution showcases a few selective styles from many popular adventure and traditional Japanese RPG’s.  The gameplay elements mostly consist of exploration, minor puzzle solving and combat.  The combat is split into two segments, turn based random encounters and hack ‘n slash.  The evolution of the turn based combat is mostly shown through the graphical capabilities of the times.  Starting off, it’s just still sprites, then we get animated ones, and then we go fully 3D.  You have a 2 character party with the basic attack, run, spells and item selections.  The combat experience is severely limiting, as we do not see any growth in our two characters, aside from a stat upgrade.  No new spells or abilities are gained with each level up.

The hack ‘n slash combat showcases mostly what was popular during those eras.  The early 2D monochrome to 16 bit era graphics combat is akin to Secret of Mana, while the later 3D segments show areas of influence from Diablo and Zelda.  The combat here is rather lackluster as well.  You have only a few enemies you encounter, and all are easily killed in one to two swipes.  The Diablo-esque portion of the game is the only place I have found myself taking damage, as the character gets rushed down by hordes of giant spiders.  There, the life points are converted to a health bubble with hit points that slowly drain as an enemy rams into you.

Overall the game’s combat is very underwhelming.  While trying to give us an experience for a decent nostalgia trip, one can’t help but feel overpowered the entire game.  Actually, at the very end of the game, there is a minor bit of grinding required for a small segment, but nonetheless, I felt that I was in complete control and in no danger whatsoever.  The only time I felt a true challenge was during the final boss encounter at the very end.

The world of Evoland is surprisingly large for a small game, with lots of various terrain to explore.  The world is split between an overworld and area levels.  Both lands also see various evolutions as you progress through the game.  The area levels are essentially mazes or dungeons with some hidden chests throughout that contain the stars, hidden cards, and various game evolution chests.  The levels are interestingly designed to make it feel like you’ve done this before.  The few dungeons within Evoland actually provide some mental stimulation surprisingly, which is mostly remembering which floor panels will open up so you don’t fall to your doom.

Evoland, however, falls in unfavorable light because it’s unfortunately an incredibly short game.  I was able to beat it without any major backtracking for hidden treasure chests in a little over 2 hours.  This hurts a bit, as Evoland started to become very enjoyable near the end.  The ability to backtrack to find all the missed treasure chests could add maybe an extra hour of gameplay, but after that, there’s nothing else.  Ultimately, Evoland fails by having no replay value whatsoever.  There isn’t even an option to adjust the difficulty setting.

Short Attention Span Summary:

As mentioned, Evoland is more of an experience than a game.  With that being said, it’s hard to want to open your wallet purchase this game, even if it’s $10 on Steam or GOG.  The concept of playing through the history of RPG’s as a whole is a novel concept, but sadly, adds no depth or value to the game.  There’s no character driven development or gameplay growth aside from what the developers give you.  It was nice to also see all the gameplay mechanic changes along the way, as well, but again, there was very little to it.  On top of that, the whole experience is too short for my tastes.  I was starting to finally find myself really enjoying Evoland, but before I knew it, it ended.  I unfortunately would have to recommend passing on Evoland.



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