In my opinion, there’s currently no other video game in existence similar to the premise and essence of Evoland, an indie adventure RPG by Shiro Games. As the name suggests, the game is a history book of the sorts, showcasing the evolution of the RPG genre. The game starts as humble, pixelated and in “black-and-white”, but as you progress, you unlock more features to enhance the game’s various aspects such as graphics and music and gameplay methods. In effect, the game “evolves” before your very eyes.
The controls are simple really: just the direction buttons and an “action” button. Before I wrote this review, the game only uses a keyboard, which is a big letdown. If you’re going to maximize the cash-in on nostalgia, aside from using 8 to 64-bit graphics, the next thing you may want is a controller to complete a more legitimate experience. Thankfully, as I write this review controllers are now supported.
Unfortunately, what starts off as a seemingly innovative and unique gameplay immediately falls downhill in terms of implementation. The evolutionary “upgrades” come in so fast in a blink of an eye, you can’t get to fully immerse yourself with the nostalgic elements that the game sells itself upon in the 1st place. To make matters worse, the game is terribly short (clocked in at around 4 hours to completion). It would have been better if the entire thing is separated into acts/chapters with each succeeding act getting eventual evolutionary gimmicks. There is also no New Game+, and there is very little incentive to restart or complete the game to 100%, except for completists and achievement whores. On my 1st run of the game I already reached 86% completion, and that’s a lot. There are virtually no perks, nothing to look forward to. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Achievements mean little to me and I got other games to play, so after the end credits finished rolling, I uninstalled it.
There is a fine line between being a homage from being a ripoff. Evoland irritatingly blurs that distinction. So much that you can’t get yourself to take it seriously (if at all). The game not only suffers from poor execution, but is also arid-dry on creativity. Everything from character names, to design and color are basically copycats of the original copyrighted material with cheap “modifications” such as extra letters on names, hairstyle changes, added/removed accessories, bra stitching pattern, you name it. Some characters were even so unflattering, they kept their names from the original people they were based on, it’s so corny to the point that they look like they’re out of ideas.
The gameplay gives you the opportunity to try each variation within the RPG genre: you get to play both turn-based and active time battle systems, then later on when the game evolves into an ARPG, it becomes a less-polished Diablo 3. Although experiencing all these different types of gameplays within a single game isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was ill-conceived: gameplays change depending on the area. One cave is a Zelda-type dungeon, then as you exit to the world map it reeks of Final Fantasy (encounters and battle systems) while another cave feels like Diablo 3. It’s all over the place with no coordination or consistency.
Due to these inconsistencies, items and equipment are virtually almost moot, because you don’t get to utilize them in all areas. For instance, the Diablo 3 dungeon has health orbs and equipment, but no item usages. The Zelda dungeon has heart drops, but no items and equipment. Nothing is ironed out or planned, and you have to force yourself to adjust from one gameplay type to another within seconds of leaving/entering an area.
Setting all the complaints aside, Evoland is good for a few things. For one, they successfully capture the atmosphere of each era of video game in the timeline. The Final Fantasy 7 era comes to mind, where the end-game heavily borrows most of its ambiance. The feeling when playing, brought about by a cunning mix of graphics and music brings about a sensible experience.
For all its worth, Evoland looked good on paper but just not as nice as it shows itself to be. It’s a video game primordial soup, but that’s all there is to it. For its price of $10, it’s not worth it to me. Best wait for it to go on sale on Steam or wait for someone to gift it to you. Such a shame because I had high expectations since the trailer came out and the finished product just didn’t cut it. Should they make a sequel to this game, I hope they consider feedback from players. This game as it is needs a lot of work, and I’m having a hard time recommending it to anyone, even to a casual gamer.