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Evoland is an indie game from Shiro Games that was created as part of the Ludum Dare project, with the prototype being created in 30 hours and winning the competition. It’s since been reworked into a full game and was just released on Steam where it is currently £6.29 and Good Old Games.
It’s ostensibly an RPG, but the twist is that you start off in what looks like a Gameboy game, and slowly add features such as the ability to go left and 16 bit music as the game progresses. It’s a novel idea, and certainly impressive at the start, but is it enough to sustain a whole game?
The first half an hour of the game is fairly brilliant. You’re constantly being introduced to new features and types of gameplay, with the game evolving in front of your eyes from something akin to Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy, through A link to the Past and Final Fantasy V, ending up with something that looks a bit more like Final Fantasy VII, with little bits of Diablo thrown in for good measure. Every time you see a chest it’s exciting, you want to add something to the game engine or the mechanics, and each change is accompanied with a little note that’s sometimes a joke.
Sadly this is where the fun ends, as once the game is up to the Final Fantasy battle engine and 3D graphics, it really has nowhere to go. Everything is front-loaded and you end up with a two hour grind to get to the end boss, which might be true to life with RPGs, but it’s not particularly exciting or interesting. There’s a diversion into a Diablo style dungeon with some inventively named loot, but it doesn’t stick with this idea for very long before going back to what you’ve already been doing for a while.
The idea behind the game is clear, but the intended tone is not. At times it plays like a true homage to the development of RPGs, particularly as you get to the graphics and sound upgrades, but at other times it comes across as too cynical and starts trying to make fun of the genre. Neither of these approaches come across well as the game just isn’t fun enough to be a homage. Many of the characters and enemies are basically stolen rather than inspired by, and the game lacks any sense of wonder or intrigue within its own narrative. It just comes across as a collection of ‘hey remember this’ scenes like a particularly irritating episode of Family Guy.
It doesn’t pull of the parody side either unfortunately as many of the jokes fall flat and the game is guilty of many of the flaws it tries to point out. There’s even a piece of text after you get a town portal spell that says ‘Because who would want to do that walk again?’ then not ten minutes later it makes you do a long walk back to the town because the town portal spell is just a one off.
The uneasy mix of humour and drama lead to a confused atmosphere throughout the game and no clear sense of what exactly the game wants you to feel. Are you meant to be frustrated by the random battles? Then why are there so many and why do many of the enemies have just enough hp to stretch each fight out for a turn or two longer than necessary? You get stats and items but it’s not clear if they have any effect whatsoever, the fighting system is painfully shallow and basically boils down to attack or heal for each turn.
There’s some fun to be had, particularly within the first half an hour, but I can’t recommend this as a paid game. Everything after the first act (another two-three hours of gameplay) feels like padding, leading to an unexciting conclusion with no sense of accomplishment once you beat the last boss. They could have taken shots at more games, they could have included mechanics from more modern titles, they could have started further back with Ultima or Rogue, but in the end this just feels like a missed opportunity. A neat idea, but not one to spend your money on.
We were provided a review key for this game and did not pay for it.