Release Date: September 16, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Action Adventure
In gaming, I always love the feeling of experiencing a true adventure that stands out over anything else. In the moments of playing, you are so immersed in the narrative and gameplay that time seems to just fly by. Developer Pixpil has captured my imagination in their adventure Eastward as they provide a genuinely standout gaming experience.
Eastward throws players into the already established relationship of John and Sam. Both live in the underground town of Potcrock, where John takes up odd jobs to get by. Sam is a younger girl who we learn appeared in the town one day, and John just decided to let her stay with him. These opening establish the outside world is pretty much hellfire, and anyone who goes there will die.
John is a silent protagonist and doesn’t even have an expressive bubble above his head. The characters often allude to him being the quiet type, but Sam talks enough for both of them. However, some powerful and emotional story moments rely on his personality, but he’s just a stone wall. While some moments of his silent mood work, he’s often just a glorified gopher doing whatever he is told.
While it might be tough to self insert into this burly handyman, Sam is the more significant piece to this narrative puzzle. There’s something mysterious about her, but the story will keep you guessing pretty far into the adventure as to the role she plays. Sam is a proper ball of energy and an excellent lead for this adventure. She’s not afraid to lean on others and doesn’t make things difficult by getting into the logistics of it all and simply jumping into action.
The adventure evolves into a heartwarming relationship between John and Sam and introduces an impressive supporting cast that shares the screentime for much of the experience. As the duo set out from the confines of their underground home, they discover that the world has a lot to offer, but that comes with excitement, discoveries, and loss.
Each chapter has a flow of narrative moments, which leads John and Sam to a dungeon to collect some item or meet someone, and then capped off with more narrative to end the chapter. The dungeons are massive. They are filled with light environmental puzzles requiring players to switch between the two characters to get through moments. Further, the game will even separate the characters at times to progress, which thankfully isn’t overused.
While getting through the dungeons, enemies will fill the screen. This isn’t a standard action RPG, so there’s no real benefit to clearing out the screen of enemies in each area unless you want item drops. The enemies can be annoying, though, as the plant-type foes like to respawn, and others enjoy making your time in the dungeon a living hell by just throwing stuff at you. Still, it’s par for the course of an adventure game and a lot of fun to take on the challenge.
There are only a few standout boss encounters, with many of the early ones holding no significant weight on the narrative. As the player, you want to figure out the origins of Sam, but the in-game characters don’t really know anything about that, so life goes on as usual until the true antagonist is revealed.
John is the main attacker in dungeons wielding a frying pan and a few different guns. At some point, these weapons are upgradable, but it’s all pretty surface level. The dungeon exploration is a huge part of the game, but the developers don’t seem to want to frustrate you with dying since the auto-save system kicks in at every screen. It gives you less to worry about as you focus on completing the goal and taking out obstacles along the way.
Cooking is a huge part of the adventure as well. Not only does it play into some pivotal narrative moments, but John takes his culinary skills into the dungeons to craft food that provides buffs and health increases. But, again, it’s pretty straightforward, and there are no adverse effects to the experience outside of a slot machine that could add to the benefits of the dish.
It goes without saying, but Eastward is a gorgeous game. The animations for characters are brilliant, and the and overall design of the towns and dungeons are breathtaking. I loved the color palette and the use of lighting, as it sells this post-apocalyptic futuristic world.
There are moments where the story opts not to explain something fully when it would greatly benefit in the earlier chapters. I think this has to do with John not speaking and questioning events or justify any possible romance. You’re supposed to believe in the relationships, but John just moves on while Sam cannot remember being a totally different story.
It’s tough to get lost during gameplay as there’s a handy map to guide you to your next destination, but towns don’t list what the shops are, so you either have to memorize them or just go to each one until you find the one you need to buy ingredients or upgrades. There’s also a mini-game called Earth Born, where you can play a retro RPG. It’s not required, but you do get collectibles.
Eastward will fulfill any action-adventure needs that have been missing in your life. The character writing is fantastic and enhances the more emotional moments as the killer Miasma rears its ugly head. This game is an investment, but you’ll be left with a genuinely standout gaming experience full of action, exploration, memorable characters, and a fantastic final chapter. So do yourself a favor and play Eastward.
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