Evoland is an action/adventure RPG for the PC. Shiro Games, an indie studio out of France founded by Sebastien Vidal and Nicolas Cannasse, developed Evoland. It is an “HD” upgrade of Evoland Classic, which was a Ludum Dare winner in 2012. The original game dealt primarily with the 2D era, but this game expands the scope venturing well into the 3D era. Truly a labor of love, the game was developed by a small team helmed by Cannasse and Vidal with help on the graphics by Etienne Makowski and Jeremy Vitry, and the music and sound handled by Camille Schoell. Drawing heavy inspiration from luminaries and stand-out titles in the action-adventure and RPG genre, Evoland sets out to tell the history of the genres through its gameplay and graphics. Does Evoland manage to channel what made its sources great and iconic?
The world of Evolandia has been at peace for centuries. However, as it tends to happen, an ancient evil has awoken. Long ago in the times of tumult existed the Order of the Dragon Knights that kept evil at bay, but most of them are gone. Now there only remains one Dragon Knight, who must traverse Evolandia to find the means to destroy this newish old menace. A hero sets off on a journey in a black and white 2D plane with static movement, but soon he finds a chest and his world changes. The more chest he finds, the more complex Evolandia becomes. His mission gains clarity when he rescues a fainted traveler, a young girl in pink. This new companion will reveal the true path to defeat the terrible threat bent on destroying existence.
As a hybrid of the action-adventure and RPG genres, Evoland changes gameplay styles in the same way that its graphics evolve. There are three distinct styles at play in the game. The first is the action-adventure style popularized by the Legend of Zelda, the hero will explore fields and dungeons done in connected rooms. In these sections, the player will use a trusty sword to kill enemies and avoid attacks while keeping an eye on their heart meter. In addition, they will solve some puzzles and open up locked areas while discovering some hidden treasure chests. Eventually, the player gets access to some additional weapons outside of a sword. These weapons will open up secret areas or are more effective against certain enemies. The other type is active-time, turn-based random enemy encounters inspired by Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. In the areas with these enemy encounters, players control both the female and male protagonists (the name are omitted because they are delight to discover) and can choose various actions. The hero is the bruiser and he will mainly be used to attack, while the female lead is a magic user, so she can cast some spells against enemies. There is a third gameplay style, but it is such a delight when encountered that it is a disservice to spoil it.
Each of the game’s dungeons will alternate between the action-adventure gameplay and turn-based gameplay. The main overworld will feature only turn-base combat and fields will only have the hero exploring it similar to everyone’s favorite Hyrulian. Due to the game alternating between a number of different gameplay styles and adding elements to them much in the way the graphics change over time, the mechanics never get too crazy. Everything gets to the point and heart of what it is emulating, but never delves hugely deep into them. However, it is all satisfying and the boss fights are great.
Graphics and Sound
It is difficult to describe Evoland’s graphics accurately because things change frequently. The game never quite settles down into a solid graphic style until near the end. Seeing the game in action and playing through it is the best way to experience its beautiful and eye catching art style and graphics. There is a huge achievement that it manages to tell the story of a genre from simple black and white 2D side scrolling graphics with static animations all the way to full 3D animations with antialiasing and rich textures. To appreciate the graphics is to play the game and discover the subtle and obvious details that occur. Evoland features a gorgeous soundtrack by Camille Shoell. The music is infectious, charming and addictive. Much like everything in the game, the music evolves as the player makes progress through the game. That is an achievement.
Evoland is truly an unique experience. It functions as a solid and well-made action-adventure/RPG. More than that though, it serves as a history lesson and a beautifully written love letter to the genres it emulates. For fans of RPGs and action-adventure games, there is little to no reason not to give Evoland a play through. The only issue with the game is that is lives up to its short-story namesake and is over too soon, but it is satisfying up until its last moment. This game should be given to all younger gamers, ones that first Final Fantasy is entirely 3D or who have only played Twilight Princess, because this will show them an accurate history of the genre.