If there's one problem with most of the modern games I play, it's that they don't have an inviting world and setting. A kind of place where I can get lost for several hours and surface for air having taken in a chunk of lore and game play.
A lot of this simply hinges on the fact that those experiences are over too soon. There's no getting lost in them. If you play for about ten to twelve or so hours, you've probably seen everything the game has to offer. Maybe there are additional collectibles, but that's about as far as most modern games are willing to stretch.
We've long-since passed the days when RPG's giddily exclaimed "80 hours of play time!" on the box. So, Evoland 2 was...quite a surprise from at least that perspective.
For those of you who never played Evoland 1, that game was about the idea of time shifting. In that universe, the minute you stepped into a "new era" you would be greeted by better graphics, going all the way from crude, game-boy styled green and black and slowly advancing all the way to pre-rendered sixteen bit graphics of the sort you might have found in the last few Playstation 1 Final Fantasy RPG's.
This conceit was interesting, if flawed. For one thing, that game had very little lore. The other problem was that it was really just a teaser. If you knew what you were doing, you could mow through the game in under two or so hours.
All of these problems have been corrected with the sequel. In fact, all of these problems have been corrected with a vengeance. The game - for me, at least, clocked in at 35 hours of playtime. It also has a thread of story that - while not exactly novel - does make for a compelling thought exercise. Especially when all the little bits are strung together to make a whole.
In this particular sequel, you play as Kuro, a young man found by Fina on the day of a great celebration: the humans have triumphed over the demons in a war that has been demoralizing for both sides. In true protagonist fashion, Kuro doesn't remember a thing. Fina suggests - because they found him in the forest - that they head back that way so that they might jog his memory and that's about where the story takes off.
I won't spoil it, because it really is interesting to watch unfold [if a little generic] - but past that point, you hop from one time to another, learning about the consequences of some of the actions from the past. Naturally, your job is to fix it so that the "best outcome" happens, if at all possible.
The first half of the game is really pretty linear, with you being shunted around, but all this leads up to a fun second half that opens the map up wide and allows you to go anywhere and approach the quest in any order, allowing you to pick which paths you wish to pursue.
As you explore the big, open world, you can move through several different points on the time-line. The "past" - which is suitably 8-bit, the "present" which is generally a nicer 16-bit variation on the 8-bit sprites and the "future" which is represented by a wonderful, low-key 3d rendering of the world.
What's especially wonderful about all this is seeing places translated between the three main "time" periods. [there's a fourth, very "old," rather Gameboy looking period that you make your way toward very near the end of the game. While that's interesting for what it is, that particular "version" of the world only very dimly maps to the more modern continents and islands that you encounter in the main game.]
As you play, you're mostly engaging in a Zelda-like adventure, using your sword in real-time on moving enemies. Each enemy is pretty unique and each place you encounter is colourful and pleasantly varied, from the red shores of the continent Demonia right down to a jaunty Carribean-like island.The base Zelda-like game play is spiced up during boss battles and various side missions with other, interesting game-types. And this is possibly the one slight misstep. While these changes of pace are welcome, they might also prove too difficult for some who are not into them. As an example: pre-patch, there was an absurdly difficult Street Fighter-like fight that relied on you actually knowing the move-set for Street Fighter characters. Didn't know them? Good luck. And this, I think is going to be the thing that kills most people's run of the game. Encounter a section you don't like? You'll probably put the controller down and quit. Which is too bad, because Evoland 2 has a lot to offer.
If there's one other problem, it's that the game is occasionally rather buggy. I only really encountered this during the Guitar-hero like stages, [those are absurdly difficult and probably need toning down - or, at least, they need to be more "rhythmic" and "make more sense"] where the game would soft-lock and I'd have to restart [but the save they give you is generally pretty generous - you won't have to do too much rehashing should this happen to you] but I've read that many people had rather more buggy playthroughs than I did. My only advice? Pick up the latest version of the game. It worked pretty well for me.
Should you get this? Oh, absolutely. If you're looking for a Zelda-like game and you're not afraid of the genre swaps this game does, [because it does many of those] then you will totally have a blast with Evoland 2. Yes, the plot is awfully cliche, and sure, you might encounter a game type you hate, but it's a pleasantly large game that will certainly remind you of games of yore.
Please note: This review originally appeared on Greywolfe's Standalone Blog. You can read it here.