Review: Evoland is the action-adventure RPG history lesson you’ll want to play
I have to be completely blunt with this; Evoland is an amazing concept. Maybe it’s because I’m an old school action-adventure RPG nut, or the fact that I’m a historian, but I absolutely love the notion of this game. Evoland takes you from the very beginning of black and white, screen scrolling, and gear gating classic games we grew up with and love, and transitions into more current, three-dimensional, free-roaming, and action-based combat of modern gaming.
The gameplay is simple; you start with just directional arrow buttons. You’ll stumble upon several chests during the game that will unlock technology upgrades, as well as in game items. For example, in a chest you may unlock free roaming, 16 colors, a mini map, the ability to enter houses, or a bow. While playing, you’re going to want to open every single chest you come across to completely change the game you’re playing. Once you get use to a game style, it changes on you in a more advanced technological sort of way.
Besides these unlocks from chests, Evoland plays homage to classic action-adventure RPG franchises throughout the entire game. I’m talking about classics like The Legend of Zelda, Chrono Trigger, Diablo, Final Fantasy VII, and many others. There are a bunch of delightful easter eggs hidden in bookshelves and dialogue throughout the game -- all mini-references and more homage to the classics.
Once you unlock “story,” you play as an unnamed blonde hero (which you can name later). I don’t want to spoil too much of it, but there are iconic situations, battles, and a plot on par with the RPGs of yore. With all that said, while I think this is awesome, people who don’t understand the specific references won't enjoy the game as much. While Evoland is a game, it’s also in interactive history lesson, and I fear that’s not for everyone. The game runs in a pretty linear, gear gating style that is played in a pretty straight forward fashion.
If your intention is to play a unique action-adventure RPG, Evoland may not speak to you. Since the game is constantly pursuing different tributes, nothing is horribly original; if you don’t pick up on this, the game will come across as quite subpar. While the game is priced under $10, it only offers a few hours of gameplay per play through. There are collectibles and a card game attached, so how much you get out of the game is really up to you.
I was sad to learn that Evoland doesn’t support controller integration. While this is a personal preference, I felt like the keyboard invaded moments of nostalgia. When I played classic games in the past that Evoland was emulating, it was always with a controller; without one, I felt part of the experience was lost.
While you eventually unlock menus and even more advanced menus, they are just for show. It bothered me that if my character was low on hit points, I couldn't use a potion outside of combat. At one point, I didn’t realize the game auto-saved after entering the over world every time, and I only had 1 HP from a previous encounter. My random exploring resulted in me being forced to start over. Fortunately, the game is quite short in this sense.
For the price and nostalgia, this game is an absolute must for someone who adores action-adventure RPGs. However, if you’re just looking for a new indie RPG, this game may not speak to you. As a history lesson you can play, it covers the past pretty accurately; it’s delightful to see everything in the game change within minutes of playing. Evoland is quite niche, but if you’re in that niche crowd, Evoland a true testament to your childhood.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ