Evoland is the newly released RPG created by Shiro Games as a tribute to the history of this long standing genre. It is the successor to Evoland Classic, created by Nicolas Cannasse, which won first place at a Ludum Dare competition. Shiro Games's creation tries to refine the concept in a quaint adventure. Evoland revolves around exploring the evolution and history of RPGs. Veterans of the genre will find themselves in a big nostalgia trip whereas newcomers will be given a crash course in RPG history in a short story game.
The game starts with the hero, later named Clink, in an 8-bit black and white world without the ability to move up, down, or left or attack. You are greeted by a chest to the right. Opening it unlocked the power to move in other directions. This continues throughout the game. The evolution of controls, combat, graphics are unlocked by opening chests scattered throughout the world. Soon after starting the game the black and white map will upgrade to 16-bit graphics with more colour. Music upgrades can be obtained alongside graphical enhancements. Soon the world will march forward to the time of SNES RPGs and beyond.
This method of “unlocking” the evolution in the game is rather creative and fits very well with the theme. No chest ever proved difficult to find and after the first half of the game all the more dramatic evolutions will have already been found, leaving you with the odd graphics update here and there. Every unlock comes with a witty little caption that pokes fun at the sillier aspects of RPGs.
The advertising claims the game plays in the style of both Zelda games and Final Fantasy games, combining moment of both action adventure and turn based battles. However, Evoland also fits in cheeky references to other well known RPGs, including Diablo hack and slash loot grinders. All this means the game has a good amount of variety in the game-play. When travelling the world map you experience random encounters and turn based battles, but upon entering a dungeon you switch to hack ans slash.
The problem with this variety is that no part of the game feel particularly deep or challenging. The hack and slash just involves a single sword attack. The turn based battles come down to having Clink attack and his partner, Kaeris, heal over and over until all the enemies are dead. The game is very short however, so the lacklustre combat does not have time to become too tedious. The enemies ramp up in difficulty quite significantly around half way through, going from bats and octorock knock offs to teleporting enemies and enemies who shield themselves. The variety never expand very far though.
The equipment you obtain is also very basic. You start out with a sword, eventually finding bombs as well as bow and arrows. The bombs are used in typical fashion to blow up cracked parts of wall and rocks and the arrows are used for attacking from a distance. The bow is only capable of attacking in four directions, making it annoying to use when handling enemies which move around a lot. Aside from a few puzzles however these extra weapon will not see much use.
Going through the history of RPGs, Evoland is full of references and nods to old games. The plot of the game never takes itself seriously and is full of common tropes and clichés of the fantasy RPG genre. Heroic knight finds female healer and they go on a journey to save her homeland. The villain is your typical bad guy in leather pants. The game also features references from outside the genre of RPGs, though these do not go down so well. They involve mostly old popular culture references. The little bits of Super Mario that appeared in one section felt awfully out of place where perhaps more topical references could have been made.
As a bit of a side-quest there are stars hidden in chests throughout the game which you can collect to boost your completion rate. A lot of them you will find very easily on your quest, others however will require you to backtrack to earlier parts of the game once you have more equipment. Fortunately, this is completely optional, and the short length of the game means even if you do want to challenge yourself by finding them all it should not drain too much time.
Evoland does feature puzzles as well, most of which are not very hard to figure out. One example is a section of the game which requires you to travel back and forth through time to move through a forest. Aside from this however, most of the puzzles are very simple and anyone familiar with RPGs should have no trouble solving them in a few seconds.
Overall, Evoland is a nice and quick adventure for those who enjoy a little nostalgia trip every now and then. Not really providing a deep or challenging experience it is a fun distraction for a few hours, but only those who are interested in RPGs are likely to find themselves enjoying this title. It is a loving homage to one of the oldest genres of video games. It is full of charm and wit though it may be a bit too simplistic for some people.
Evoland is available for purchase from both Steam for around $6.99 and gog.com for $9.99 (with the addition of the soundtrack and a few other goodies you normally get with a gog purchase).
You can find the developer's website at http://evoland.shirogames.com/