Not Nostalgic: A Review of Evoland
I have always stood by the belief that satirization is one of the most difficult types of humor. Satire requires you to point out something’s flaws through imitation, while still remaining entertaining in your own right. When you’re taking on flaws through satire, the line between funny and flawed is a thin one to tread. Evoland, unfortunately, is satire that is flawed.
Evoland is a game that attempts to satirize action-rpgs, incorporating elements from The Legend of Zelda to Diablo to Final Fantasy. It originally came into fruition through a Ludum Dare, in which a team of game designers creates a game in only 48 hours. It was later given a full release through Steam. You progress through the game by collecting treasure chests that hold features games of those eras had. For example, one treasure chest may contain the game’s 8-bit music, while another could change the battle system from simple stabbing of a sword to that of a turn-based RPG. The goal is to collect the treasure chests while defeating some ancient evil.
If this system sounds familiar, then you’ve probably played a game called DLC Quest, which incorporates a very similar system. What sets DLC Quest apart, however, is its humor. DLC Quest features excellent writing. It makes you laugh at the fact that we spend money on everything from map packs to horse armor for games that we’ve paid full price for. It has a message the developers wish to relay in terms of what they think of Downloadable Content.
On the other hand, Evoland does not have such humor. There are glimmers of it in the game; at one point, the character presses a switch, and a rumble occurs. “Something happened somewhere,” a text bubble states. “Guess you better trudge across the map to look for it.” But for the most part, Evoland does not capitalize on the potential laughs that can be derived from riffing off of RPG tropes.
Instead, Evoland attempts to ride on its treasure chest mechanic and, subsequently, on the coattails of nostalgia. Were the mechanics solid, perhaps it would be possible to salvage Evoland as something above-average. Sadly, this is not the case. Every aspect of Evoland is “just good enough.” It seems to be the case that Evoland was barely expanded upon in comparison to its Ludum Dare younger brother. From the combat to the presentation to the plot, you are able to recognize “yes, these are the things that were in RPGs of yore.” But none of these things are done better than the series’ that they are ripped from. The turn-based combat is too bare-bones to be compared to Final Fantasy, and the action segments are not tight enough to be compared to The Legend of Zelda. As such, you are left with a sort of empty feeling when you’re done playing Evoland. The game conjures up the belief that it could be far greater given enough polish and thought. Everything has been expanded upon in Evoland compared to Evoland Classic, but in reality, nothing has been improved.
This is especially true towards the end of the short, three to five hour game: at one point, you reach a dungeon that requires your main character (not named until the Enter Name chest is opened, of course) to bounce back and forth in time, which is illustrated by the switch from 16-bit to polygonal graphics. Thus, lighting a sapling on fire in the SNES era prevents the tree from sprouting in the PSX era, allowing you to progress. This was the one moment I sat up in my chair playing Evoland, thinking, “oh, well now we’re finally getting somewhere!” And just like that, the moment passes, and rather than continue to use the two eras in different, puzzling ways, you are instead forced into a mindless Diablo-cloned dungeon.
I can understand why Evoland was created, with the goal for it to be a sort of museum displaying the features of games of the past. However, a game cannot simply ride on a single mechanic and neglect to fill out everything else in the game world. Evoland points to all of the tropes in RPG games, while neither improving on them nor being funny while pointing out their flaws. What you’re left with is a game that is simply there, a relatively soulless, short project, where it seems that a Game Designer said “wouldn’t it be cool if a game evolved through the RPG era!?” but forgot to put in everything else.
Evoland doesn’t evolve. Far from it. It happily skips through the eras of games that have passed, without taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers, to see what really makes gamers so nostalgic for the NES to PSX generations. Neither an improvement, nor a satirization, all Evoland has been able to do is display all the things that are seen as generic in RPG games. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Pixels Or Death gives Evoland 2 out of 5.