GDC 14: Scavenging for Treasure in Earthlock: Festival of Magic

Everyone has a nostalgia for different types of games. There are those who love Mario platformers, and those who adore Contra side scrollers, but the team at Snowcastle Games have a deep and profound love for Role Playing Games. With the re-launch of their Kickstarter campaign, the Norwegian studio is looking to bring back traditional turn based role playing, but with a twist. We were able to talk with Bendik Stang, Co-founder and Game Director at Snowcastle, during GDC last week, to find out more about their upcoming fantasy world.

Stang credits the development of Earthlock: Festival of Magic to his team’s overly dedicated RPG backgrounds. He mentioned that everyone on the team are huge fans of the genre, but each one has their own preferences. Some love Western RPGs such as Deus Ex while others are more into games such as Final Fantasy. Because of this, it has influenced the overall structure of the game and more than likely the storyline, which is the main focal point of Earthlock, described as a deep and emotional tale that will take many hours to complete.

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Earthlock: Festival of Magic isn’t your typical role playing game, though. While it has elements that are reminiscent of old school Japanese RPGs, Snowcastle has put their own unique mark on it. For one, combat operates on a partner basis. What this means is that, during battle, there will be upwards of six characters on the field, but the warriors are essentially tethered to their protector partner. By doing this, they give the player the option to play more defensively or aggressively depending how the flow of combat is going, only allowing for one attack or spell per partnership. The world itself is structured similar to something like the more recent Tales games as, instead of running into random battles, it’s about interacting with monsters on screen.

What’s different is that, instead of having simplistic attack and defend stages in the midst of combat, players will grow their own ammo. The main character is a lone desert scavenger who is equipped with a unique projectile weapon called a Spudgun, which essentially acts as a magical conduit depending which kind of ammo has been crafted. Each individual will have different types of items to be grown, with an example of one character eating mushrooms to obtain strength. For those who are wondering, there should be no point in which you’re out of ammunition as, even if you try to ignore farming, it has been ensured to us that there will be individuals at your base who will help you out.

The general sense of combat is very similar to traditional turn based RPGs, though. Players are placed in a single large arena in which character groups are granted only one action per turn. Snowcastle wanted the game to be balanced so there wasn’t a need for a grind, but at the same time putting up a decent challenge for the player. Enemies will also have various stages to their form, one example being that if a monster is attacked with an element they’re weak towards, they might go on the defensive and not attack. It’s an intriguing system that no doubt has us interested to see how it turns out.

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The story itself is about a post-post-apocalyptic world in which, after the planet of Umbra stopped revolving, war broke out across the globe. Instead of dealing with futuristic, high-tech weaponry, the setting is more about archaeological technology and magic. The protagonist Amon will meet various new faces along his journey as he unveils unsettling mysteries about the planet and its inhabitants. It should also be mentioned that the game has a certain level of beauty to it. We only got to see a couple of areas of Umbra, but what we saw impressed us greatly. It was the art style that stood out the most, with simplistic yet affective coloring expressing the environments. The world itself will be expansive, going from the scorching deserts to the chilling arctic, showcasing some beautifully crafted terrain. The final build will also feature various environmental puzzles, putting the player’s mind to the test outside of battle.

Earthlock: Festival of Magic is shaping up to be a heavy hitter in the RPG community. It features a compelling story to explore, fascinating gameplay mechanics and wonderfully rendered visuals. While we only got a taste of what to expect, it has intrigued us greatly. If all goes well with their Kickstarter, Earthlock: Festival of Magic will be available in the first quarter of 2015 for PC and Mac, with console versions (Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U) coming a little later.