Many developers attempt to sell us retro styled games to appeal to our nostalgia, but very few of them manage to create something that’s both nostalgic and interesting. Some simply coat their game in old-school paint and hope that is enough to appeal to your inner child. While Evoland is not the first game to celebrate RPGs of older times, it provides a unique and fantastic survey on the evolution of RPGs, even if it is too shallow.
Evoland is both a parody and love-letter to RPGs spanning from 8-bit to 32-bit style. You play as Clink, a protagonist who fittingly looks like a cross between Link and Cloud. Like every other RPG protagonist on the market, Clink is charged with saving the world, although Clink has to do so by visiting different eras of RPG gaming in the process. You won’t find any endearing characters here; however, the game has plenty of witty dialogue, and the achievements always provide a good chuckle. I won’t go into further detail to avoid risking spoilers, but Evoland has plenty of hilarious situations--one in particular involves a chocobo (renamed in the game, of course).
In the first part of the game, you will mostly unlock treasure chests with the next graphical upgrades. You begin with monochrome graphics, and your only option available is moving to the right of the screen. Once you pick up chests, you’ll soon begin to uncover other typical options such as moving up and down. Eventually you’ll unlock certain graphics (16-Bit, 32-Bit, pre-rendered graphics, etc.).
You’ll also unlock three different battle systems in Evoland, which pays homage to Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Diablo. In some of the Zelda portions, you have to switch different graphical settings by activating crystals in order to solve puzzles. Sadly, Evoland doesn’t find the right balance between the three styles of gameplay. For the majority of the game, you switch off between playing a Zelda-styled game and a Final Fantasy-styled game. Only the Zelda bits seemed interesting, as it allowed me to experiment by switching graphical styles to solve puzzles.
Apart from a boss battle and a certain dungeon, you’ll only switch to the turn-based system on the world map. The turn-based system just felt out of place. You won’t need to level up or customize your characters—the system is far too shallow for you to worry about that. You’ll barely notice the presence of the Diablo-styled gameplay, as it was by far the most shallow portion of the game. It’s a shame, as some of the puzzles show Evoland’s true potential; however, the game is clearly more focused on paying homage to these games while cracking jokes about them than it is offering substantive gameplay mechanics.
Once you near the end of the game, you’ll finally receive your airship, which you can be used to explore the map and pursue a few side quests. Some of the sidequests include finding an upgrade for your character, collecting all of the rare stars, or becoming the champion in a simplified version of the Triple Triad card game in Final Fantasy 8. If you choose to complete them, you’ll ultimately just contribute to your completion rate. Otherwise, you can expect to finish this game within a mere 3 hours.
Evoland is a comedy that light-heatedly plays with RPGs of different eras of gaming. But like all things humorous, Evoland’s joke only needs to be said once.
This review is based on a digital download copy of the game for PC provided by Shiro Games.