Improving vastly over the previous installment, Evoland 2 is a must-play for fans of action RPGs. The game’s world is rich with backstory, the characters are entertaining and the original content is far more enjoyable than I ever imagined. The game is, however, buggy, and you will need to restart the game a few time. Small patchable flaws aside, this game is a thoroughly enjoyable tale of time travel and destiny. The use of different graphical styles is something truly memorable and engaging, and this time, it’s been used as an effective storytelling tool as opposed to a gimmick.
WHAT WE LIKED
º The game’s story is fairly complex, yet very easy to follow.
º Great use of graphics to illustrate what time period you’re in.
º All the mini-games are fun and break up the monotony.
WHAT WE DISLIKED º The game is graphically glitchy, forcing restarts.
º Some of the references are real groaners; poorly timed.
º The “Game of Cards” game is on par with Triple Triad.
First and foremost, Evoland 2 does almost everything better than the series’ overly disappointing introduction. The use of different graphical designs are now integral to the narrative, representing what era your group of time traveling heroes are currently in. The story has drastically been improved, offering a much deeper lore, with pivotal moments in its history. The characters are engaging, and their dialogue is fun and even sometimes heartbreaking. Simply put, if Evoland was a shoddy attempt at a good idea, its sequel is the redemption.
While the first game felt like it was pandering to its audience, throwing any random gaming reference at them, Evoland 2 pulls back the needless illusions and allows the gameplay to do more of the talking this time around. This pleasant change allowed the developers more creative freedom, and it shows in this installment.
The story is about a young man who’s discovered in the woods by a girl named Fina. The two of them venture out, seeking his true identity when they end up getting involved in a confrontation between an empire and a group of enslaved demons. They’re suddenly whisked many years into the past, and begin their journey towards discovering your identity, stopping a destructive war and returning everyone home.
While Evoland barely had a story to speak of, Evoland 2 addresses the problem with a vengeance. The plot thickens as you progress through a story clearly inspired by Chrono Trigger, as new twists seem to pop up after every new quest. Themes such as free will, destiny and prejudice are used as a driving force, and it makes the game all the more enjoyable. You’re constantly wanting to get to the next quest, and I was delighted when I was rewarded with new exploratory options. There’s something about old RPGs, where something as small as getting a paddle boat is somehow amazingly liberating; something that many modern games don’t seem to get right.
The graphics are stunning. The NES-style is playfully simple, utilizing a colorful mosaic of pixelated goodness. Jumping up to SNES, the game looks similar to the SquareEnix greats of the past, with expressive and lively models. When the game does break into 3D, it’s leaps and bounds above the later stages of the original, looking on par with a really good PS2 game. There is some occasional lag as the game pushes its graphical engine, but overall it’s very impressive for an indie game with so much diversity, especially when revisiting locations in different time periods.
The game is primarily played as an overhead action slasher, similar to the Mana or the Zelda series. Players utilize their partners as additional powerful attacks, rather than as individual fighters. When you hold down the attack button, your selected partner will begin to charge, releasing a powerful attack onto enemies or on-screen obstacles. When you kill enemies, they either drop coins, health or experience points. Controls are super easy to pick up, but perhaps too easy in this day and age. I’d liken them to Game Boy Advance controls. In all fairness, they were probably kept simple due to the fact that you jump in and out of 8-bit graphics, aerial segments and side-scrolling. Despite the game throwing whole new sections at me, they didn’t bog me down with explaining controls over and over again. So, while it may be simple, it keeps the flow going with its uniformity.
That might be some of my favorite moments of this game. Like the classics mini-games of the past, Evoland 2 nails mixing up the gameplay. In one section, you’ll jump into an Active-Time Battle system ala the Chrono series. These ideas could’ve been phoned in, but the developers at Shiro Games included a nice simple selection of moves and even environmental conditions for this mode. You’ll have to time your attacks, as the lights cut in and out or when you’re avoiding electrified floors that’ll nullify your attacks. These modes are not just RPG inspired either- they also have a space shooter segment, where Galaga fans will feel right at home blasting their way through enemies. There’s even several bosses, all with their own patterns to figure out. There’s a 2.5D fighter segment, side-scroller platforming, Bomberman inspired levels- and it does all of them right. There’s even a card game. Okay- that one does suck, but has there ever been a good card game in an RPG?
One thing I can’t ignore though is the glitches. Oh man- this is truly heartbreaking. I had to restart this game more times than a thirty dollar android phone. Graphics would simply drop out. Mine carts would randomly appear on the tracks preventing me from progressing. Sound effects would suddenly loop in-game, even when I went back out to the menu. My goodness, what a horrible state this game is being released in. While it was annoying, backing out of the game is fast, and I could always get back to where I was quickly- but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention these grievous oversights. I will say, the game feels ambitious, so a few glitches can be expected, but these were pretty hard to swallow.
The music is phenomenal. I don’t know how many times I relayed this to myself as I was playing, but every track hits its mark. The tropical island has a Caribbean flair, consisting of rhythmic drums, high-pitched flutes and wonky strings. Dark caverns have slow methodical notes from the piano, as soft woodwinds add mysterious hanging notes. My personal favorite was the cemetery, which sounds like it was ripped right out of Castlevania. That’s probably my only fault with the soundtrack, is that again- the music feels overly inspired. Even that jaunty tropical track feels like it came from Monkey Island.
And I think that might be my biggest complaint about the game; all the references. While I laud the developers for running with a ‘parody all the games’ mindset, they’ve now tuned the machine so well, it’s actually quite good without a gimmick. When you stumble upon a reference, it only pulls you out to remind you that you’re playing what’s ‘pretending’ to be a game. The reference may be light enough, like seeing Sir Dan from MediEvil in a dungeon’s corner- it’s when that reference becomes too obvious or obnoxious that it really hurts the overall mood of the game; like finding a mystery box straight out of the Mushroom Kingdom. In a game packed full of allusions, some are going to work, and some are going to make you shake your head in disappointment. Thankfully, the game has more winners than losers, but those stinkers reared their head in all the wrong places, including a poorly timed Professor Layton reference right at the beginning of the game.
All that aside, I’m only 8 hours in, and I’m anxious to get back to the story and see how it all unfolds. Fans who loved the charm of the first game will find that this entry has added nothing but positives to the sequel, and will surely love this entry. If you’ve never played the series before, this game is a great jumping on point. If you’re a fan of classic RPGs, especially those familiar with this type of gameplay, you’re going to love this delightfully nostalgic adventure. While it still leans on being a ‘celebration’ of the games that came before it, Evoland 2 stands on its own as a must-own game for fans of the genre.