Final Fantasy X has been reincarnated….almost.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic invokes feelings of Final Fantasy X without the soul and attachment of Final Fantasy storytelling. The similarities in gameplay are quite astonishing and I love it. Here’s the wild thing….the combat in Earthlock might even be more strategic.
Combat is the shining star in Earthlock. No enemy is the same, every battle, even what we would consider throw away battles in other JRPGs are not the same here in Earthlock. Each battle needs to be examined. What element types are we facing, what party is active, what stance are they in, what party bond perks are active? Strategy!
There are a few different strategic battle systems that we can talk about here:
Stances – Stances allow the character to choose from a different set of abilities. Essentially changing their roll in combat.
Bonds – Each character can be paired with any other. Completing battles together will earn them bond xp and raise their bond level over time. As your bond level goes up you gain perks specific to each character. You can pair any character with any other at any time.
Party – You can only have 4 active party members at one time. How will you set your party up?
Attributes – these skills are specific to each character. Some do different elemental damage and can vary in how many ability points they cost. You generate one bar per turn.
To give a better example of how deep and rich the combat experience in this game is, take a look at this:
Now at this point I have to make a choice. My party is all dead. I know I can’t take another hit, so I can’t drink a health potion, it won’t heal me enough. Do I resurrect another party member? Well if I do that I’ll get stuck in a resurrect then death cycle where each person I revive is just killed the next turn. This Boss was a tank, do I strike and hope it lands and she dies? All or nothing. I strike….it was just enough to kill her. The strategy to get to that final decision was constant. Every move I had to choose carefully and at the right time. Wild.
Enough about combat. Let’s talk about how you get around the world.
There is a larger world map with enemies spotted around that will attack you if you get too close. I found avoiding these were best as regular battles don’t give that much exp points. So I use the world map to search out sprites and get to new areas.
Once you reach a town or dungeon it pretty straight forward. There is an occasional path that splits off with a treasure chest at the end, but it’s never a big secret. Each area is well themed with colors, enemies and music that match the overall tone. The visuals aren’t groundbreaking, but they are quite pleasant. A little on the bland side but nothing that put me off. All the enemies are unique and visually pleasing.
Besides the combat, my favorite part of the game is your home base. You have a garden where you plant seeds, water them to grow, harvest them then make potions and ammo out of the harvested material. You don’t really need to grind out money, all you need to do is spend some time in your garden and craft the items you need. Your plants will level up providing more material and they can also evolve and produce more seeds for you to plant.
You can take a rest in your house to restore you parties HP which is a great way to save potions for battle.
Earlier I mention searching for sprites. Each of the games major regions have a themed sprite creature that you can capture and bring back to your island. That sprite will in turn provide crafting material for crafting attribute cards. These can be used while leveling up your characters to give the special one-off attributes like “Fire Master: Increase fire attacks by %15. Increase Defense against ice attacks by %30 “. Pretty cool.
The story gets better as it goes on, but with no voice acting and no prior knowledge to the lore of this world it was hard to get into.
The single downfall of the game is its pacing. Sometimes you have these long dungeon runs with no save points in between that turn into boss battle after boss battle. It doesn’t produce too many issues, it’s just a small bothersome at times.
It took me almost 30 hours to complete the story and I enjoyed the game thoroughly. This is one of those times where an indie game just does things right. If you’re a JRPG fan this is a must buy. It’s on the PSN store now.