When discussing the most influential RPGs from around the world, in all their various forms, itâ€™s fairly obvious which titles have driven the genre forward. Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Diablo are often mentioned when discussing the best RPGs of all time. Itâ€™s no surprise, then, that an indie developer has used the aforementioned titles to create a videogame homage, and that the resulting game is essentially a love letter to the industry.
Evoland explores something that no game has really ventured into before: the evolution of gaming. The game starts with a green and black Game Boy-inspired Zelda clone, where the only thing you can do is move right towards a chest. Upon touching the chest, you unlock the ability to move left - towards another chest. In the next couple of chests, you unlock the ability to move in 4 directions and thus the game officially starts.
You see, in almost every chest scattered throughout Evoland is another step towards changing the way the game either plays, looks, or sounds; maybe one chest unlocks HD textures for the new 3D view youâ€™ve recently unlocked, or maybe it houses the ability to fight monsters in dungeons. Needless to say, it becomes rather addictive to see what RPG trope the developer has hidden away in the chests that lie ahead. What continues to be the best part of the title also becomes the most messy and essentially thoughtless part of Evoland.
What starts off as an amazing concept is quickly shown to have poor execution, as the progression of the game art and gameplay style changes for no reason other than to change. Thereâ€™s no reward for beating one of the few dungeons, thereâ€™s no section of the world that stays as a top-down 2D Zelda clone, and, apart from one moment in the game, thereâ€™s no jumping between styles to solve puzzles (and that one part works amazingly well.)
Lasting just shy of three hours also means the game progresses rather quickly and the majority of the changes you evolve through are over within minutes, before the next change takes place. Itâ€™s a great idea that never really hits home and - despite its best efforts - simply shows that itâ€™s more of an interactive homage than a videogame created to entertain.
Thereâ€™s a card-based mini-game, thereâ€™s an overworld with random Final Fantasy style battles, and there are characters and enemies that bear an uncanny resemblance (either by look or by name) to those you will know from some of the developer's favourite games, but Evoland never really hits any highs of its own.
Despite the messy execution, there are moments of true beauty hidden inside Evoland (unlocking HD pre-rendered backgrounds being one) and there will be moments when youâ€™re legitimately impressed with the next evolution, but thereâ€™s nothing in this game that makes it worth the $US10 asking price. That may sound harsh, but there was so much lost potential here and itâ€™s all over so quickly that, even at 3 hours, it felt like I was playing it just to get to the end.
If there are any publishers with some decent cash to throw about, aim it in Shiro Gamesâ€™ direction and let them make the game they so clearly wanted, but failed, to make.