When I first purchased my PS3 way back in 2008, one of the first games I picked up was a little RPG title called Folklore. The name reminded me of Microsoft’s Fable, and coupled with high praise from reviewers I thought it would be the perfect way to break in my new console. I started her up, played through a long opening, and soon became distracted by the other games I had procured with my console: the incredible adventures of Nathan Drake in Uncharted, Solid Snake’s harrowing conclusion in Metal Gear Solid 4, and the stunning action of Heavenly Sword. Needless to say, the game has sat on my shelf practically since that moment, taunting me for never being able to journey past the game’s slow opening hours. As part of my New Year’s resolution, I felt it was high time to put this baby to sleep.
Developed by: Game Republic
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
In Folklore, players take control of one of two characters: Ellen, a young girl with a mysterious past, and Keats, a reporter for an occult magazine. Both of the characters have traveled to the quaint Irish village of Doolin after receiving a haunting message from a dead woman. Doolin has a history with the dead, as legends say that within the village lies a means of venturing into the Netherworld where the souls of the deceased now live. Shortly after arriving in Doolin, Ellen and Keats become involved in a local murder mystery, and it’s up to the dup to solve this eerie whodunit by traversing into the Netherworld and communicating with lost souls.
It’s an intriguing story that is fitting for this fantastical adventure. The game’s visuals give off a whimsical horror appearance, with some characters appearing as if they have been ripped right out of a Tim Burton production. The environments are fun to explore as well, with each circle of the Netherworld becoming darker and more varied. One area for example is reminiscent of a fantasy World War I setting, while another endless corridors of an ancient castle.
Players control Ellen and Keats individually across seven chapters (and a prologue) with each character’s side having a unique perspective on the story. The duo interact with the citizens of Doolin in the real world to uncover the murder mystery, but it’s when venturing into the Netherworld that gameplay shifts primarily to using folks. Folks are the creatures that players encounter in the Neatherworld, and they can be battled and captured. Collecting folks is essential to the game, it’s with their abilities that players do combat. Capturing folks is much like Nintendo’s Pokemon: players must first use an element, such as fire or ice, that a folk is weak to, and then once it is near defeat tap a button to absorb their power. All battles are done in real time, with the folks’ abilities assigned to one of the four face buttons on the controller. This makes battles quick and intense, and more exciting than typical RPGs.
Capturing folks is sometimes done via a small mini game. All of these are done using the gyro feature of the PS3 controller. While most folks are collected with the tap of a button and the flick of the controller upwards, others require a little more precision. For instance, some folks require you to jerk the controller u at a certain moment, while others make you swing it to a rhythm to weaken the folks further. These moments add an extra layer of strategy to your battling. Traditional folks can easily be absorbed in the midst of battle, while the others require more time and usually cannot be safely captured until all other enemies are defeated. Players must choose wisely when to attempt these captures or risk being hit from behind.
Folklore may say that it’s an RPG, but I would say it’s an action-adventure game with mild RPG elements. Yes, there are experience points that level up your character, but leveling up only increases the character’s health. Folks can increase the power of their abilities, but for them to level up they do not require experience. Instead, each folk has a check list of things they must do in order to strengthen their abilities, such as defeating a certain number of creatures, or collecting items. All battles are done in real time, and there are no random encounters. There aren’t even items such as healing potions that can be used during or outside of battle. While the game is heavily focused on story, this is more accustomed to adventure games than RPGs, as these segments unfold with little to no player input.
Choosing to play as either Ellen or Keats isn’t simply window dressing. Each character’s storyline puts them at a unique perspective, and in order to unlock the final two chapters, players must complete all previous ones with both characters. Ellen and Keats also have unique abilities that are meant to differentiate one from the other. Keats can transform into a beast to unleash even more powerful attacks, while Ellen can dawn different outfits at save points that give her stat boosts. The folks that the characters collect also do different types of damage, and in some instances certain folks can only be acquired by one character. If collecting folks is similar to Pokemon, then both the Ellen and Keats storylines are accustomed to the dual Pokemon titles that typically release together. Players will journey through the same areas, live out the same story, but there are some unique creatures to be found on both sides.
While Ellen and Keats are made to be different, there isn’t enough there to make their storylines all that diverse. As stated before, both characters journey through the same areas in the same chapters, and battle the same creatures save for a minor few. Folk abilities are different, but not drastically enough that the characters play different. By the end of the game, both Ellen and Keats will have the same abilities, just linked to different folks. This becomes a chore to memorize, especially when players are constantly switching perspectives. The boss monsters encountered at the end of the chapters are also the same, although in some of the cases the battles go somewhat different for both protagonists. Still, other battles are essentially the same with very minor tweaks, making the fights monotonous.
The feeling of déjà vu doesn’t end there with Folklore. Except for the prologue and one other chapter, each section of the game plays out essentially the same: players begin in Doolin, uncover a clue that sends them to the Netherworld; then, they battle creatures for a few screens before reaching a mini-boss, followed by a save-point; afterwards, players travel through a few more screens before fighting yet another mini-boss (in most cases it’s the same boss as earlier), followed by a final save point; players must then fight through the last screens filled with minor enemies to battle the boss monster. Rinse and repeat for all other chapters.
Some of the music for the game are quite beautiful, setting the mystifying theme in a glorious way. The main theme’s somber piano for instance paints a foreboding and mysterious picture right from the outset. Most other soundpieces in the game are much more forgettable. The music in most of the realms for example are rarely more than fitting sound effects set as the backdrop to a dull melody. Most folks make little to no sound, robbing them of the rich personality that their appearance hints at. Folklore is widely inconsistent when voice acting should be used. Most cutscenes are shown in the style of a picture book, fitting the folktale theme, with no sound whatsoever. Sparingly, a full motion cutscene will occur in which some characters will speak and others will not. It’s jarring, especially during the instances in which the game cuts back and forth between such scenes. I would have favored no voice acting to be used at all rather than this mismatch of design.
Overall, Folklore is an entertaining game with an intriguing mystery and engaging action gameplay. Collecting and training the various folks can be addictive, especially for completionists. There are also numerous DLC options on the Playstation store, offering new quests to undertake, realms to explore, outfits to obtain, and folks to capture and train. I didn’t try any of these out however, thus I cannot comment on their quality. What I can say is the base game of Folklore should engage most RPG fans for the better part of 20 hours, perhaps double that for those that want everything the title has to offer.
3.5 / 5 Stars