The beginning of the month is a great time for gamers, because that’s when you get new freebies for your Xbox and Playstation. Yes, you have to pay for a subscription to get them, and you also get free games mid-month for Xbox, but hey, free’s free, even if you’re paying a subscription. Today’s haul on Playstation would have cost £76 any other month, and I only pay about £6 for my PS Plus subscription (I pay monthly because their quarterly subscription never seems to renew on my account). £6-ish for six games is close enough to free for me. Anyway, today’s PS Plus games aren’t my time-wasters. Not yet anyway – Journey is still downloading. Today’s time-waster is one of September’s freebies on Xbox: Earthlock.
Basics first, what is Earthlock?
What starts as a simple quest for desert scavenger Amon, develops into a journey where several unlikely heroes join to save Umbra, a beautiful but harsh world that mysteriously stopped spinning thousands of cycles ago.
Explore the world of Umbra and face myriads of monsters in exhilarating turn-based combat. Kiting lets you strategically take on as many enemies as you like. The more enemies, the more experience gained.
Mix up your strategy to beat your enemies using two different stances per character, and build your characters’ battle bond to unleash powerful abilities or unique perks.
Customize each character’s progression with the Talent Table. Find new Talent Tiles in the world or craft your own. Grow plants and gather ingredients to craft ammo and items. All this on your idyllic home island.
How does it play?
You remember (or heard about) the hours spent trying to get through the early stages of Final Fantasy games before anything good happened? That.
That’s not to say it’s not worth it. It is; it just takes a long time for things to get going in this style of game. This game ain’t about hoovering plorts, so it’s going to take more effort. You start with the very basic challenge of learning to battle with Ive Lavender, who then steals a ship because she’s rebelling against her father. Who doesn’t love a rebel?
Then you skip, as is common in Final Fantasy, to a completely different part of the world and do a bit of scavenging with Amon Barros.
There’s more battling, where you learn the advantages of “kiting” – the more enemies you can kite (or lure, for the uninitiated) into a battle, the bigger the rewards.
You find the treasure you’ve been looking for, go home and try to sell it, only to be told by a hogbunny that it’s an ancient relic that could be worth far more than money…
Cue a wander into the wilderness with a hogbunny that you only just met, to find a mysterious woman you’re never heard of. What could possibly go wrong?
So, is it anything like Final Fantasy?
The parallels are too many to ignore, but again, that’s not a bad thing. Final Fantasy is a hugely popular game series, and it’s hard not to see its influence all over RPGs.
In FF X for example, you upgrade characters using a Sphere grid, using various types of sphere to unlock new abilities. In Earthlock, you upgrade characters with a talent table, using talent points to unlock new abilities. If you’ve played FF X, you’ll have no problem understanding the Talent Table system. If you haven’t, it’s ridiculously easy to learn. At least it’s not as huge and unwieldy as the License Board in FF XII!
Stylistically, the game is like a child-friendly Final Fantasy. You go around battling things in a similar system to some of the earlier FF games – VII and IX are the ones I’ve played the most from the days of the ATB (Active Time Battle) system. You – and your enemies – can manipulate the battle by applying haste and slow effects on your enemies, making the order of attacks swap around to your – or your enemies’ – advantage. Again, if you’ve played Final Fantasy games, you’ll understand how it works. And again, it’s not as unwieldy as Final Fantasy XII’s Active Dimension Battle system.
You don’t like FF XII then…
Yes, I know it sounds like I’m bashing Final Fantasy XII, but I’m really not. The License Board system and Active Dimension Battle system were a pain in the butt. Nobody can deny that. But god damn it I love that game. I actually want the HD remaster of FF XII more than I want the HD remake of FF VII.
Yeah, I said it.
I’ll take Balthier and his
bunny girl viera “travelling companion” over Cloud and his silly hair and impractically huge sword any day. Wait, what do you mean, “Balthier wasn’t the main character in FF XII”? He certainly thought he was!