Gaming Video Games

Earthlock Review – or – A Love Letter to 90s Era JRPGs

Earthlock

Developed by: Snowcastle Games
Published by: Soedesco
Genre(s): Role-playing
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC, Linux OS X (Reviewed on PS4)
Availability: Out now

Synopsis: Desert scavenger Amon soon finds himself in his life’s adventure when he crosses paths with a most peculiar creature back home in Zaber. Join Amon and other heroes in this turn-based fantasy RPG, on a journey across the world of Umbra; a mysterious, beautiful but harsh planet that stopped spinning thousands of cycles ago. With a unique set of customizable characters, all with their own personalities and journeys of self-discovery, you will scavenge, explore and fight your way from the everlasting day-side and into the darkness of perpetual night. To save Umbra you must unlock its secrets, expose the shadows, and defeat a growing evil.

From my time with Earthlock, and I have put in some considerable time with the game, I think that as a love letter to mid-to-late 90s JRPGs, it is a fine and suitable vessel. It is a stunning and impressive upgrade in quality and visuals, fully taking advantage of the power that modern consoles possess. It does have some flaws, but none that I thought were so glaring that I wouldn’t recommend the game to any JRPG fan out there. Though I would warn them that this is the kind of game that is mainly intended for those who consider themselves the hardest of the hardcore JRPG fans to really appreciate. People like myself; but I do see how others would be quickly turned off to the game. To my dismay, the weakest point of this game is the story presented in Earthlock – and that is a shame because I feel it did need that extra slice to fully make the game a memorable one.

The problem with the story of Earthlock is simply that it is rather forgettable. It has some fun characters to explore, and an impressive and visually stunning world to explore, but the story, seen through completion, just doesn’t have the same weight as the other high points of the game; but to someone like me, story is essentially key to me enjoying the game more than I normally would a game with a weaker story. The game can be as visually beautiful as can be, and this game is, but ultimately, I rather didn’t quite care for the overall arch that the game presents. It had the potential to be a truly great, if not at least engaging story, as the player follows Amon in the path of the hero that is set before him, but it just… I don’t know, it doesn’t follow through with what it started out with.

Still, I did have fun with Earthlock because, on a deep level as a gamer and an JRPG fan, it is the kind of game that I used to love playing back in the 90s to unwind from a day at college or at work. Games like Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy IX, Valkyrie Profile, and Suikoden II… these were the games that I really enjoyed playing in those days and Earthlock has a lot of qualities that those games contained that had me interested in the game. The dungeon/world exploration, the fluid turn-based combat, and, to a lesser degree, the all-too-common hero’s journey that we follow along in the game. It was a great bit of nostalgia, exploring the world of Umbra, that brought a lot of positive memories back to the forefront of my mind. And that is where Earthlock works the best – as a vehicle for that nostalgia for hardcore JRPG fans like myself. And that is the charm of the game. For all its faults and lack of compelling story, Earthlock is a love letter of the purest form for fans of this type of game.

So, while I cannot recommend Earthlock to all gamers out there, though I would suggest giving it a try just to see what kind of games some of us older gamers are always reminiscing about – but I would definitely say that if you are a fan of JRPGs the way others like myself are, and I do mean fans, then Earthlock has to be on your radar to play. It’s well worth the hours put into the game, it’s well worth the grind, and it’s worth sitting through the story, just to feel that nostalgia one more time.

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