What was once a major strength for Sony, RPGs have been few and far between this generation. Now it’s time to take a look at Folklore, one of the only RPGs to have been released this year. Can it stand up to the onslaught of First Person Shooters and Action titles?
Like all RPGs, Folklore’s strong point is its storyline. The story is broken down into chapters and gives you several chances to switch characters in between. You can choose to play as Keats, a journalist for an occult magazine; or Ellen, A girl who recently received a letter from her dead mother. Both characters are led to Doolin, a town that seems to be the intersection between the netherworld and the real world.
As the storyline progresses, you are shown ways to access the netherworld. This is the place where all of your battles will occur. While in the Netherworld, you’ll see that there are 2 types of areas. The first contains other characters you can talk to and save spots. The other is where you’ll be fighting. In these areas you can fight enemies called ‘folks’. Folks are souls which have been corrupted and they can be seen walking around the area as you go. However, once you get within their range, they immediately attack you. The fighting happens in real time, so those of you who hated the random battles system from older games can relax. Like all RPGs, you have a health and magic point gauge. Obviously when fighting you’ll want your health as high as possible.? For those of you who don’t know, Magic Points limit how many times you can use a particular attack. Smaller attacks use less MP while larger attacks require more. If you don’t have enough MP, you can’t use the attack. On the flip side, folks also have a health gauge. Attack them enough times and they’ll be knocked out. Attack them after that and you end up killing them.
Once a folk is knocked out, a spirit-like shape pops up from it’s body. At this point you have the opportunity to absorb it. For some folks, you will absorb it right away, but others may require a little more effort. So far, I’ve only seen 2 other ways to absorb. The first requires you to flip the controller up when the ‘spirit’ turns red. It reminded me of fishing, a little bit. With the other, you have to turn the controller from one side to the other. On screen it looks like you’re slamming the spirit onto either side of the ground, as if to beat it into submission. Once you do, you gain that folks attack power, which can be used against other folks. These powers can also be upgraded by performing specific tasks or using certain items. Upgrades can give that attack more strength, links in an attack chain, or even lessen the amount of MP it uses. At any point during battle, you can change the button assignments for any of your attacks. However, you are limited to customizing only the triangle, square, circle and x buttons. This means you will only get to use 1 of those 4 preset attacks at any given time. While you can change them on the fly, it gets a little tiresome when trying to figure out what attack is best for your situation.
Later on you’ll get a chance to fight bosses called ‘Folklore’. These things are usually massive and require specific tactics to defeat.? Periodically you’ll run into item containers that hold pages to a book for that realm. Each page contains unreadable words and an illustration. From these illustrations you have to figure out how to defeat certain enemies, as well as bosses. This is one of the parts I love about the game. So many times -in other games- I’ve fought a boss and thought “That was just a little too easy.” These bosses require research and force a different kind of difficulty on you. Without knowing their weaknesses, you will die rather easily.
As difficult as those bosses are, I often found myself just standing around and enjoying the incredible model design. The imagination of this games art staff becomes increasingly apparent when you see the different folk and folklore of the game. Each creature has it’s own unique look and feel, yet folks from the same area are focused around a theme. For example, In a level of the netherworld that’s filled with several plants and forest-like scenary, you’ll see folks that are designed to look like forest creatures. While, in a level that looks more like a modern-day battle field, you’ll run into folks resembling soldiers and mechanical, tank-like monstrosities. The way the game manages to show you the different levels of the netherworld and yet is able to keep the same style of art throughout is truly inspiring.
The sound in this game is fairly average. The Voice acting wasn’t mind-blowing, but seemed appropriate for the production level of the game. The background music gave you a calm, after-world feel and was scored nicely. Overall, the sound design did a good job at keeping with the flow of the game. Unfortunately, the background music got on my nerves quite a few times. I’m not saying the music is bad, but it’s way too short. This is a game in which you’ll be spending a large amount of time in menus. If the background music for these menus repeat way too often, it’s easy to notice and can be very annoying at times.
While I’m in annoyances, I might as well address a few others I noticed through-out the game. Another irritation that hit me when playing this game was the odd use of cameras. While in non-battle areas, the camera is in a fixed position. But while in battle, you can move it all you like. What possible reason could they have for doing this? Artist design? I thought this generation was going to be free of fixed camera angles, but I guess I was wrong. The next little issue I had with the game was the mapping system. First off, there are 2 maps in the game for you to see: A smaller one you can see while you’re walking around, and a larger one to be accessed by pressing select. Normally that would be fine, but these maps don’t match up well. This becomes increasing obvious when you are in an area with more than 1 road to follow. So when playing this game, you will be lost for at least a little bit.? Secondly, the larger map loads slow. I’m not saying it takes a half hour to bring up, but for such a simple image, it should take no longer than 5 seconds to come up. And when you’re lost in the game, waiting 20 seconds for a map can become annoying very quickly. The map isn’t even all that detailed. It shows the area you are in (by highlighting it in red) and a blue dot indicates a save point. Why isn’t there some sort of symbol so show where you are in that area? It isn’t enough to know what area I’m in. I need some sort of a reference point to help me decide which direct to go. Especially if or when I’m lost.
Like all RPG’s, I expect this game to have a decent amount of gameplay time. However, Folklore has a missions system that allows you to play content that you’ve downloaded online. This helps to ensure you get as much playtime as you like.
Over all Folklore does a good job at being what it is…an Action RPG. The story is engaging and interesting, the gameplay is well done, and it should provide plenty of gameplay for anyone other than MMORPG fans.