Hell Fire's Folklore Review
When I mention Folklore to your casual gamer, chances are they’ve never heard of it. With so many online FPS being pumped out these days, most RPGs fly under the radar. I decided to order it online after reading a few reviews and despite it being quite a short game; it was money very well spent. Don’t expect your traditional RPG. Folklore combines the elements of action, adventure, role playing, and graphic story telling in a way that you haven’t seen before. It’s hard to put it into a genre, but all you need to know is that it works well. Despite its few flaws, Folklore is a game that will most likely amaze you, and should appeal to all audiences who enjoy a compelling story and don’t whine like a baby every time a games title doesn’t have the COD acronym.
This was the highlight of the game for me. The story starts with a detective, Keats, receiving a phone call from a distraught woman pleading for help. Curiosity gets the best of him and just like any detective would, he travels to the village of Doolan in hope of a career changing news story. At the same time, a young woman, Ellen, is contacted by her mother who she hasn’t seen in 17 years. Shocked by this, she too packs her bags and heads to Doolan. These two characters meet up on arrival only to find a lady sitting on the edge of a cliff who then falls into the ocean far below. Was it murder? Yes it was, and this is only the start of things to come. The story in Folklore is a typical murder mystery with loads of twists and turns, and moments of genius. The final hours of the game is when this game hits its peak. I couldn’t help but rush through everything just so I could find the answers. Below is a graph of the excitement levels throughout the game.
Aside from the serious murder narrative that happens in the real world, there is also another story that runs parallel in the fantasy world, called the Netherworld. Both characters begin by entering the Fairy Realm in an attempt to speak to the dead (which will help them resolve the murders in the real world), but it soon becomes more complicated as they become caught up in the Netherworld politics. While this ‘second’ story isn’t nearly as interesting as the main plot, it still adds some enjoyment and eventually the two tie together which results in some pretty bad-ass story telling.
As mentioned before, there are two main characters that you can take turns controlling. The paths that Ellen (innocent young girl in search of her mother) and Keats (Sarcastic young journalist who will do anything for a story) take are very similar to one another. Each of the first five chapters are dedicated to a realm in which both characters must complete for their own reasons (which always relate to the murders in the real world). You must complete each chapter with each character but the order is completely up to the player. While this system deserves praise for giving us two different points of view, it can get a little repetitive and predictable, as the realms are the exact same (apart from some of the enemies). I didn’t find this too much of an issue, as I’m a big fan of being offered different angles to view the story. Eventually, these two characters will come together and you’ll have the choice of who to control for the final stages of the game.
The real-time battle system is fairly simple but still offers a lot of variety. You can equip four folks to use at a time, each one being assigned to the X, O, Square or Triangle buttons. A typical setup may be having a defence folk assigned to X, a quick melee folk assigned to Square and a couple long range folks assigned to the other two buttons. Each Folk has its own element so it’s really a matter of finding the enemies weakness and choosing your Folks accordingly. There is also no shortage of Folk in this game. Each Realm has about ten Folks to capture, so there are a lot of ways to go about your battles if you acquire them all.
There are however a couple of downsides to the battle system. Firstly; the repetition. Both of your characters will have to journey through the same Realm, fighting the same bosses. The second time through can become a bit of a chore at times, especially during the later couple realms. The upside to this is that the Folks do slightly change for each character. In addition, the two characters use some Folks differently. For example; when Ellen summons Hawk, she sends out three at a time, and they charge towards the enemy, whereas Keats summons one that performs a melee attack. This adds a nice little bit of variety to battles which is essential considering your battling through the same dungeon twice.
While you can only assign four folk at a time, you may still switch in folk on the ‘bench’ any time you wish by stopping battle and entering a new screen. After changing your folk, the screen vanishes and there is a slight pause before the battle resumes. This is frustrating because you’ll be switching Folk a lot, and this lag destroys the sense of a seamless battle. It may seem like a small gripe now, but when you change your folk four or five times in a battle, you’ll see what I mean. Below is a quick video from a battle in the Faerie Realm.
This game is beautiful in every way. Each of the realms have such distinct features and are so unique that you’ll just want to walk around and take a look on arrival. They also set the mood perfectly, particularly the village of Doolan in the real world. It’s isolated, haunted and there’s been a bunch of murders. The dark shadows and pale colours are just a couple of the ways the depressive mood is set in this location. Here’s an image of the second Realm you will visit; Warcadia.
The Folk are just as beautiful as the settings.... well most of them. There are probably about 100 Folk in total, and they range from tiny, weedy little creatures, to huge, powerful dragons. The problem is that about 10 of them are duplicate models, meaning they look the same, but they’re a different colour and size. Talk about slack! They did the same thing in Final Fantasy X, and it annoyed me just as much.
So we know that the game looks beautiful, but it’s the way the story is told that takes the cake. The entire game is very story driven. It’s a murder mystery designed to keep the player completely engaged and guessing. The story is delivered in three ways. Firstly, there are the beautiful cut scenes which really show the beauty of the game. This is the only time you’ll hear the voice acting which is a bit of a shame because these cut scenes don’t happen too often. The second delivery method takes place when two characters are conversing. A 2D image of each character is placed on both sides of the screen, and the text is shown in the middle. There are a lot of these, and they aren’t anything special. It’s the third method that is ingenious. Most of the story events unfold via a comic book layout, and these look fantastic. The camera scrolls down and through the pages, and each cell appears to be 3D and has its own camera view that changes throughout the scene. This looks fantastic and is very effective.
While definitely more of an action game, Folklore still allows you to customise your characters to make them stronger. In addition to you characters gaining levels after absorbing wild Folk, there are certain criteria that each folk has in order for them to reach a higher level. This is called releasing Karma and it’s a lot of fun. Here are a couple of examples; Folk-A will increase its attack power when it has had 50 kills, or Folk-B may have to kill 10 of Folk-F in order to gain more attacks. Exploring all the realms and unleashing the Karma is a lot of fun, however it’s not essential as finishing the game without releasing Karma is also quite possible. This is a very nice addition to those RPG fans who like spending hours maximising their characters strengths.
There isn’t too much extra content in the game as it definitely focuses more on the story and presenting you with its many twists and turns, one after another. I’m usually a huge fan of extra content but I didn’t mind in this game due to focus on the narrative. Just imagine reading a suspenseful murder mystery, leaving it for a few weeks while you read something else, and then returning to it all that time later. It’s likely that you’ll forget some key points which you really need to know.
So what is there to distract you from the main plot? Apart from a bunch of side quests that you can take on at the pub, there’s nothing really. While these quests are interesting enough and provide you with some cool additions such as extra Folk to fight for you, they’re not in large quantity, and are fairly short most of the time. Also, once you’ve finished the game you can create your own dungeon and upload it for other gamers to try. I gave it a quick go but it held my interest for about 10 minutes. This is certainly not something to buy the game for.
To sum everything up: Folklore is a very unique, story focused murder mystery designed to keep you guessing at every step and hook you until the end. Despite its blend of Action and RPG elements being simple, the large possibilities of Folk customisation keeps things interesting. Everything about the game is beautiful and it’s hard to find any big fault in any area at all. Due to the complexities in the plot, this is a game you’ll want to play again. In the end, I highly recommend this game for those old enough to follow a mature, elaborate story. Check it out now and don’t let it fly under the radar your entire life.