Forums Game Chat Earthlock – this Kickstarted RPG turned out pretty mediocre

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    Earthlock is an RPG with turn-based combat, by the small indie studio Snowcastle Games. Snowcastle Games raised money to create Earthlock through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

    Earthlock is on Steam, the Playstation 4, and the Nintendo Switch for the base price of $30, and is occasionally (once or twice a year) sold at a deep discount. I bought my digital PS4 copy for $5.98 during a PS4 sale; at the moment of this writing the Switch version is on sale.

    The PS4 version had a bonus digital comic of Earthlock characters included free with purchase. Steam sells three different Earthlock digital comics separately, as well as the digital soundtrack, or the whole package of comics, soundtrack and game as a “Collector’s Edition”. The digital comic I read was fairly short, and the game’s music was forgettable.

    I don’t recommend purchasing the digital comics, digital soundtrack, or collector’s version for their own sake. Only buy them if you like the game so much that you want to give the developers some extra financial support.

    Earthlock’s 3D graphics for exploration, puzzles, and battles are a highlight; they’re smoothly animated by indie game standards. None of the dungeons or puzzles are especially complicated; I thought they were an enjoyable change of pace from enemy encounters.

    Battles in Earthlock are not random. The player sees enemies on screen and may be able to evade them. The turn-based battle system is pretty standard. There is a modest amount of strategic options, and at least one storyline boss will crush the party if the player doesn’t use the tools at their disposal. Level grinding is always an option but generally not needed.

    Earthlock has a few other features to spice up its gameplay. While it’s not an open-world game, there are wilderness regions to explore on the way to various dungeons. There are sidequests and optional bosses, a home base to build up, and a garden to grow useful materials.

    A fourth wall-breaking feature is the “Fallen Hero” enemies – ghosts of slain heroes – each of which was named after a Kickstarter backer who paid for the privilege. I particularly remember an encounter with “Jasper the Unfriendly Ghost”.

    All of this makes for a solid, reasonably enjoyable gameplay package. What really drags Earthlock down to the dregs of mediocrity is its uninspiring story and forgettable characters. The setting is the world of Umbra, which stopped rotating in a catastrophe that devastated its population and left the survivors huddled on the livable land between the light and shadow halves of the planet.

    While the story does sort of go somewhere and do something – our heroes get mixed up in excavating ancient technology and fight against a deadly threat to Umbra’s survivors – it’s just not that compelling, and the characters have very little opportunity to exhibit their personalities. There’s a rouge-ish young man, a plucky young woman who would fit the “rebellious princess” trope except that she’s from a high-ranking military family instead of royalty, a large cat-creature, a timid “hogbunny” scholar (he appears to be more hog than bunny), and a warrior-woman who gets even less time devoted to her character, motivations, and storyline than the others, which is to say, almost none.

    Earthlock isn’t quite “part one” of an episodic RPG series… but it comes as close as it can without falling into that classification. While the story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything suspenseful, there is a strong sense of “To be continued”. The entire game is fairly short, and can easily be finished in 20 hours or less. Getting all the trophies on the PS4 version adds some extra playtime.

    Snowcastle Games is working on Earthlock 2, which is intended to be a direct sequel to Earthlock and an open-world action RPG. Their most recent update on Steam (dated February 2022) stated that Earthlock 2 was delayed and would not be finished in 2022, although they did affirm their commitment to completing the game.

    I can loosely recommend Earthlock for its RPG-variety gameplay (turn-based combat, puzzles, & gardening), but not at full price. It’s not worth $30. If you have interest, then get it when it’s on sale for an 80% discount, on your platform of choice.

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