When Earthlock: Festival of Magic first released, many were instantly hooked by its smooth and satisfying gameplay, decent character growth and solid world design. I myself thoroughly enjoyed the game and dare say that it was one of the best RPG games of the year. So much so that I was shocked to learn that developer Snow Castle almost immediately began work on its “should have been” edition, now fittingly titled Earthlock. This new and improved version isn’t something that could have been achieved via a patch to FoM, simply due to its extensive overhaul. Though, with that in mind, it’s worth pointing out that owners of FoM can grab this new version for free.
What’s new? There’s a wide range of new and exciting additions. First and foremost, the story has been given a great deal of extra depth. This is further bolstered by improved animation, improved cutscenes, new scenes and new characters. Now, I cant go into too much depth as far as the improvements go as it would run the risk of dishing out plot points or ruining some very cool surprises. What I can say, on the other hand, is that these changes are by no means subtle. Earthlock has been adapted into something that practically surpasses the meaning of definitive edition and it’s all the better for it. Earthlock isn’t just for newcomers, it’s for returning fans too, arguably more so for the latter than the former.
Earthlock takes place in Umbra, a once prosperous world that has since fallen victim to an event that’s preventing the world from rotating, otherwise known as the Deadly Halt. As you can imagine, the world’s inhabitants have been forced to seek safety in the wake of this devastating condition. Despite the premise, Earthlock’s Umbra is stunning and diverse throughout. You would be forgiven for believing that the story sets itself up as a post-apocalyptic serving and although that’s true on paper, the execution delivers something that’s far removed from your average run-of-the-mill doom and gloom theme. On the contrary, Umbra, even in its weakest state, is intriguing to behold from beginning to end.
The story is largely focused on desert scavenging Amon and his trek to save his Uncle, complimented by several other intertwining character stories that collectively beef up the overarching plot. This leads to a journey and conclusion that’s not only well written, but well worth your time and attention too. Earthlock doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the nitty gritty, in fact it’s ability to captivate its players from the get-go (and maintain that) is one of its strongest aspects. What I especially favor here is that, despite that there’s a sequel on the cards, Earthlock doesn’t leave any threads wide open and ties itself up quite nicely. That not only goes for the main plot, but for almost each and every one of the endearing characters within.
Mercifully the gameplay largely remains the same, save the addition of deeper crafting opportunities, mini games and added side quests. Battles play out via turn-based combat in which each character has a total of two stances to utilize. These can basically be swapped at any time, giving you swift access to a broad pool of abilities. Amon, for instance, can choose between a close-ranged thief build or a long-ranged archer build, with diverse offerings for each stance to soak up. This comes in handy when taking on specific foes, as altering your stance to suit your enemy’s weakness can often yield powerful results. Characters can also form bonds on the fly, which grants them access to a range of special outputs.
On top of this, the option to use passive abilities remains in place and additional talents can indeed be acquired by filling out the all important talent chart. As aforementioned, outside of combat there’s a lot more choice on offer. The world is now meatier and better refined in comparison to FoM, with added scavenger opportunities, treasures to locate, monsters to capture and much more. This not only removes the original’s grind, but also lends the game its diversity as far as the gameplay is concerned. Crafting can largely be achieved through the use of planting seeds, to which you can then use your materials to build your desired item. This first makes an appearance early on in the game when you’re taken to a location known as Plumpet Island.
Plumpet Island serves itself as a secret location, a place where players can go to harvest said plants. There’s a light and intuitive level-up system that’s dedicated to this aspect of the game, granting players more rewards per-harvest, the higher in rank you climb. Each playable character also comes with some useful aids when playing in the overworld, such as Amon being able to rummage through scrap to farm resources. Characters can be swapped on the move through the simply flick of a button, granting you instant access to their unique abilities whenever you need them. It’s a simplistic system, yes, but one that encourages exploration and engagement nevertheless, constantly rewarding you in return for your curiosities.
It has to be said that Earthlock has a great deal of franchise potential. Although there’s a few questions that go unanswered, Earthlock houses a fairly fascinating lore-rich universe that’s screaming to be further explored. I quite enjoyed the character growth throughout, held together by conversations that make it easy to bond with each of them. Touching up on the visuals, this gets another thumbs up from me. Earthlock’s distinct and well designed locations vary tremendously, taking players to new interesting locations at every turn. The same can also be said about the wonderful soundtrack. There’s a few locations that don’t quite stand out as well developed as others, but in the grand scheme of things this is easy to overlook. When all is said and done, Earthlock offers up a well rounded RPG experience that should certainly please fans of the genre.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic was a solid, colorful and well rounded RPG. Earthlock not only defines the adventure, but further emphasizes how wonderful and endearing its world is. Earthlock has all the markings of franchise potential; memorable characters, fluid combat, interesting mechanics and above all else, a story that’s alluring and thoroughly well written.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.