Earthlock is a “new” indie game from Norwegian developer Snowcastle Games. I use the term new loosely because technically Earthlock came out in late 2016/early 2017 as a Kickstarter funded project called Earthlock: Festival of Magic. This new version has replaced the original on all digital stores, as it is essentially just a “remastered” version of the original. I will give Snowcastle some major credit for taking the criticisms the original game received and spending a year actually fixing them.
Now before you go thinking this is just a cheap way to cash in on the same game, it isn’t. Every owner of the original will receive this updated Earthlock, the only downside is you cannot use your old save file. For me, that wasn’t an issue, as I missed Festival of Magic, so Earthlock was all new for me. So did they get it right this time? Read on and see what I thought.
Earthlock is an RPG game in the style of late 1990’s games by Square and others. An animated style of graphics, players travers an overworld and can fight or avoid monsters scattered about. Once in combat, the typical turn based system of picking a spell or attack then a target commences. Up to four characters can be on your team at a time and each have special skills or “bonds” they gain by being paired up. An extensive perks system allows players to customize each character to fit a play style they prefer, be it damage dealing, healing/support, or tanking.
Each character also has two different combat stances, for example, one hero can perform bladed melee attacks and steal items in his thief stance, or fire his potato gun from range at flying monsters in another. My first complaint is that changing stances requires that character to pass a turn. I found later you can change your stance from the character menu between battles, but that becomes a constant game of watching for your next encounter to see if you will want to be ranged or not. Not a deal breaker, but irritating nonetheless. Beyond just distance advantages, some enemies will be strong or weak to certain elements or types of attacks. Standard stuff. I was very impressed with the level of combat strategy in Earthlock.
Combat is easy to pick up and feels natural to anyone who grew up on this style of RPG. The addition of a fast forward button to speed things up was most welcome, I just wish I could leave it on and not have to toggle it every battle. Combat does tend to get rather difficult if you have not taken the time to “grind” or level up a bit in each area. Earthlock goes from being easy, to very hard in the drop of a hat and if you are not prepared, you will be forced to burn lots of health potions or reload from a previous save and go kill more mobs before coming back to that particular encounter. There is no mana, but skills and spells use up action blocks, so be sure to use those heal skills before the battle ends or intentionally get in a battle to heal up before a boss battle. Use it or lose it. It’s that or use up lots of potions between fights.
The story in Earthlock is not the most original, but it feels classic in some ways. In the past an event occurred that forced the planet to stop spinning. This forced one half in burning sun, the other in perpetual cold and darkness. The world the player encounters is what arrose afterwards on the ruins of old. Our heros are a mixed bag of characters who are brought together for various reasons and eventually put toward the same goal, save the world of course. Earthlock has the typical evil empire, the rapscallion protagonist and, thankfully combat ready, General’s daughter/princess type. Along with the adorable suit wearing hogbunny, Gnart, these characters grow on you, but don’t expect Final Fantasy level storytelling here. While enjoyable, the plot and characters are little cheesy, but this didn’t break Earthlock like some indie RPG.
Earthlock looks very good for the retail price. The character, enemy, and especially the boss designs are very well done. Seeing as it aims to emulate games from almost 20 years ago, it does a spot on a job. I was particularly happy with the ability to rotate the overworld camera. Quests are easy to follow and there are all kinds of fun little side quests to do. There is a decent crafting system in place, but my favorite part was planting and tending to my garden at the home base. It reminded me of the mini game in World of Warcraft on Pandaria where you would have a little farm for resources. The plants level up and provide more and more materials if you keep them watered. Be sure to take time for it and never want for potions and ammo again. The music is definitely one of the highlights of Earthlock. Fitting and symphonic, I was actually shocked with the level of quality. It’s an amazing soundtrack.
Even at over 20 hours of gameplay, Earthlock isn’t particularly long for an RPG, but at the low price, it is definitely worth it. If you are not a fan of grinding to level and spending time customizing your team, you probably won’t enjoy it as much as I did. It isn’t without its flaws but from what I can tell, it definitely isn’t plagued by some of the problems the original release had. Really, if you call yourself a fan of classic role playing games like Final Fantasy 9 or Breath of Fire III, you shouldn’t miss Earthlock.