Evoland was one of those games I had been dying to play ever since it was originally announced. Several people kept telling me that it was a game that I had to play and that it was brilliantly fun. Well, finally I had the opportunity to get in some time with the game and I agree, it is brilliant fun.
Shiro Games' independent RPG made waves when it first appeared on Steam Greenlight last year around this time, and it continued to make waves up to its launch a few months later in April of 2013.
The game is a progressive, linear story about the typical player-character being put in the role of a hero who must save the land from an ancient evil. It's all by-the-books fantasy-fare, as far as story and character development go.
The thing is, Evoland isn't just some mindless cash-in on nostalgia. It's not a “Hey look at me trying to be hip and cool” kind of game. It is a real game, though light in some features. The idea is that players will experience gameplay rich scenarios that evolve from green-scale 8-bit overhead gameplay all the way up to 64-bit 3D gameplay, and slightly beyond. Players have to open chests to unlock new evolutionary gameplay and graphics features that enhance the game one way or another.
It's not just a cool feature to unlock progressively better gameplay and graphics mechanics, it's the fact that all of it is so seamless that it leaves wondering just how the designers managed to create a small yet rich universe that encompasses so many different layers of the RPG genre all in one game and in such a tight package.
What's more is that with Evoland I wasn't thinking about how many sounds were allocated in the memory at the time; how many enemies were taking up blocks; what the boundaries were in order to keep the scenario within the RAM budget; where the enemy (re)spawn nodes were, or whether or not you could see a loading screen coming based on the size of the area. Instead, everything about Evoland felt – and continues to feel – organic and progressive, as if there's an actual game there and not just a set of string-along scenarios pushing you from one Hollywood blockbuster set to the next.
I found myself over-training in order to meet the inevitable boss battle where you're supposed to lose, and I found myself desperately trying to strategically keep my party members alive for as long as I could in hopes of maybe pulling off a Chrono Trigger and defeating the boss earlier than you're supposed to. Moments like that are moments that are captured in time and will mark themselves along the annals of video game history as a nostalgic moment worth remembering.
The game's combination of Legend of Zelda gameplay fused with Final Fantasy is such an enriching touch to the game's overall scope that it feels like you're taking on more than just a single historic experience from a specific era, but you're rekindling a lot of experiences that helped shape entire generations. I suppose I'm just in awe of the fact that the developers were able to include so many different progressive elements into a single game more than anything. It really does make the rinse-and-repeat gameplay from AAA titles look trite and uninspired by comparison... I suppose that's because a lot of the gameplay from AAA titles happen to be uninspired and trite by comparison.
I have yet to conquer Evoland because I'm taking my time and exploring every nook and cranny (like we used to do in older titles), but the inclusion of airships, melodic chip and synth tunes, battle systems that are challenging but simple, as well as so many references that hearken back to an era where developers put their all into games, is a shining beacon of where so many games, game studios and publishers have gone wrong in today's industry climate.
While it's obvious Evoland is a short thrill-ride through nostalgia, it's a heck of a lot more ambitious than many other titles out there. Not every gamer will appreciate what the game has to offer, though, especially if you didn't grow up through the 8-bit or 16-bit era of RPG classics. However, for gamers who know the value of content, and appreciate the developers who delivered that content with the intent of cementing a legacy in the annals of video game history, you just might take a liking to Evoland more than you originally thought.