Earlier in the week, our writer Affie Lockhart got his hands on the Wii U version thanks to the kind guys at SnowCastle Games and after reading his review, I had to get my hands on the PS4 version to see what it was all about. I’m so greatful to the team at SnowCastle Games who had no problems in sending me a review code as I really love this game.
So, who are SnowCastle Games I hear you ask?
They were founded in Oslo in 2009 and released their first title Hogworld: Gnart’s Adventure, which claimed a spot on the App Store Best of 2011 List. The team wanted to create games that they loved and would be happy to play. Earthlock: Festival of Magic is the result of a collective development process by the whole team. Inspired by nostalgic JRPGs, Snowcastle brought their own style into household name game genre.
I am presuming that a major favourite of the team were the early Final Fantasy games which seem to have a strong influence on the game, which I will get to a little later.
So lets move on to the reason you are reading this article (hopefully), the game..
What starts as a simple quest for desert scavenger Amon, develops into a journey where several unlikely heroes join to save Umbra, a beautiful but harsh world that mysteriously stopped spinning thousands of cycles ago.
Explore the world of Umbra and face myriads of monsters in exhilarating turn-based combat. Kiting lets you strategically take on as many enemies as you like. The more enemies, the more experience gained.
Mix up your strategy to beat your enemies using two different stances per character, and build your characters’ battle bond to unleash powerful abilities or unique perks.
Customize each character’s progression with the Talent Table. Find new Talent Tiles in the world or craft your own. Grow plants and gather ingredients to craft ammo and items. All this on your idyllic home island.
Within 5 minutes of starting this game I had fallen in love with it. It was so reminiscent of when I first played Final Fantasy VII. What I mean by that is both the style of the story and art work, but also the turn based fighting system which has been used within the game. Apparently SnowCastle played about with numerous types of combat mechanics and systems whilst the game was in development, all of which have made a brilliant turn based mechanic which allows for instantaneous combat and also being able to stack up moves.
The artwork that has been used is rather basic in places, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. The developers could have spent a long time making the backdrops feature with amazing detail, but instead concentrated on the game at hand. They succeeded with the actual game play that you don’t really notice the backdrops as such and when you do, you can forgive them for their simplistic style as it blends so well.
The story starts by introducing us to Ivory, a young protagonist who, with the aid of her Stormdog Taika are about to set out on an adventure across the world of Umbra. Of course, incorporated in to the storyline is your training as to how the fight system works, but doesnt feel like you are being treated like an idiot as most games seem to do. The combat controls are very easy to pick up, and before long I was able to go into fights and instinctively know my way around the controls without really having to think about what I was doing.
As the game progresses we are introduced to various other charcters which become playable and we learn further commands with the Talent Board which can be used to develop the various characters, which are unlocked by levelling up.
We are treated to a lot of conversations within the game, which (for me) does start to become a little irritating, however they can be skipped by the simple press of a button. They are all designed to help you out, but the game didnt take much getting used to for me as I have always loved this style of game and played so many in the past. They do also give a background to the heavily mentioned war and the after effects of a planetary disaster which caused its axis to stop spinning.
The PS4 version does seem to have quite a few loading screens as you progress, but they are not that long of a wait and do not take away from the game in any way. I am, of course comparing this to the Wii U version with regards to loading times and its not quite as long, but as with the Wii U, we are treated to some fantastic artwork rather than a black background with a spinning wheel in a corner of a screen.
What I did like within the game which most probably wouldn’t realise is within the fight mechanics. It has been designed so that there is only 2 button menu’s for fighting controls rather than being bogged down in various layers of commands that you can use. It makes for an easy method of queuing up you moves and was something that was implemented within the Final Fantasy games. All of the moves which you can use can be fully customised before you enter battle and you can easily assign your favourite moves to the buttons of your choice.
In summary, I love this game and will be playing it for a long time to come. It’s easy to get to grips with and very entertaining with a wonderful story to add to the fun. Weather it will go down as an all time classic like Final Fantasy (I know I keep comparing, sorry) remained to be seen, but if SnowCastle Games stick with this idea moving forward, they will have a string of hit games under their belts to be proud of.
Easily a 9/10 from me as it is everything I wanted in a game and more.
*Please note, AIR Entertainment were kindly given a code for review purposes only and this in no way has swayed my feelings