Evoland is a game that has very much remained on my radar since it first came out in 2013. I can vividly remember being excited as I watched other players venture through the first few stages of the game, evolving as they went and I was eager to try it out…but sadly never did. Skip forward to 2019 and I now have the perfect opportunity: Evoland: Legendary Edition has been released on PS4 and its safe to say it’s scratched that little nostalgic itch I didn’t know I had.
Serving as an interactive museum, of sorts, Evoland serves as a beautifully crafted homage to the history of video gaming. The core mechanic is brilliantly unique: As you progress through Evoland’s world, the game itself improves in line with the progression of RPGs across the years.
You begin with extremely minimalistic graphics and only the ability to move right, but as you explore the world you slowly pick up abilities from moving to the right, to being able to utilise explosives and bows – but, and here’s where it gets interesting, you also pick up new technical and graphical improvements. As you venture through, you slowly add things like colour, 16bit graphics, NPCs, simple puzzles and HD textures. It’s perhaps one of the most unique and interesting core components of an RPG that I’ve seen in years.
Sadly, once you’ve unlocked 3D textures and the ability to ‘time travel’ (essentially switching between modern gaming and retro gaming), the upgrades and unlockables slow down immensely. It goes from a downpour of upgrades and new enhancements to a light shower – which, while understandable due to the game’s length, is slightly disappointing.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy playing Evoland. The gameplay is comprised of two main elements which are blended into an extremely effective and smooth overall combat system. Evoland combines the exploration and dungeon crawling elements of the early Legend of Zelda games, with the slow, tactical turn-based combat of the early Final Fantasy games and it works surprisingly well. The combat feels refined and consistent, and also improves and upgrades as the game progresses – you’ll unlock spells, potions and new weapons as you progress through the game which keeps the combat feeling fresh and varied.
Even the story of Evoland manages to keep with the theme of evolution. In the beginning, you have no story. You simply walk to the left or bash an enemy. It’s only later in the game you begin to uncover and introduce a suitably retro storyline about wizards in dark cathedrals and crystals offering the ability to control perception and time. The progression of the story, once again, improves in line with the rise of RPGs in real life: Starting simple, but slowly become larger in scale and more interesting. The plot, however, is still just as generic and stereotypical as you’d expect, but it’s more a throwback to a genre the developer is clearly passionate about, rather than trying to become the next Witcher 3.
Perhaps one of my only issues with Evoland comes from its very attempt at replicating the mechanics of the past. There are many technological innovations which have helped games to become what we know today. Simple things like being able to sprint (or move quicker), quick select weapons/items or even use a map are things that are missing in the early-to-mid game which make Evoland feel clunky and frustrating – and this comes from Evoland’s attempt to be true to its inspirations, and so this isn’t necessary a slate on the game and more my personal preference.
Regardless of my issues with the game, Evoland still manages to create a unique and genuinely enjoyable game, that embraces the full history of RPGs. It serves as an excellent reminder as to how far games have come in the last few decades and does so spectacularly well – I’m extremely excited to delve back in and uncover all the secrets and easter eggs that Evoland has to offer.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*
Evoland: Legendary Edition£15.99
- Unique concept that is implemented well
- Blend of combat styles works well and feels natural
- A truly great homage to the history of gaming
- Upgrades are given to the player thick and fast in the early game but become rare and without impact later on.
- Missing some ‘quality of life’ features which would make the game more comfortable to play.