Game title: Folklore
Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 3
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Game Republic
Release date: October 9, 2007
Overall rating: 9.5/10
Folklore is a game that is hard to describe and, as a result, harder to review. If I was to describe it in one word, I guess it would be beautiful. One glance at the game and anyone could tell you why, but the rabbit hole does go alot deeper than that. It's unfortunate that Folklore got released when it did. The 2007 holiday season was flooded with big name titles like Ratchet and Clank, Assassins Creed and Call of Duty 4, an Folklore feels almost like an independent game among them. It didn't receive the focus of games like that and got list on the shuffle, as a result. Point and case, at the store that I reserved the game. I was the only one to do so. The store received a whopping two copies of it on launch day for the game. This is sad in light of Folklore being a stunning game that everyone should try. Let's look into it and see just what the game has to offer.
Gameplay - 9/10
At the core of any game (yes even role playing games made in Japan) is it's gameplay. Gameplay is the most important thing to every single one of them. IF the gameplay isn't good, the game is not worth playing. Folklore has it where it counts the most. The gameplay here is unique diverse with a sense of familiarity about it. The game can be devided up into two sections. The first is the battling within each realm at night and the second part is the mystery during the day in the town. While the second part is a standard fair, the first part is where the game really shines
In Folklore you visit a number of netherworld realms or afterlifes in which you battle creatures called folks to get to the folklore. At the begining of hte game, you are given a few minor folks to help you along the way. You use these folks to attack the folks outside the designated safe zones within each realm. Once you do enough damage to them, the folks Id (which, in the game is kind of like a soul) appears. You can, then, harvest the id to capture the folk. Once you capture a folk, you can use it for your own purposes, which you do by assigning it to the face buttons. The more folk you collect, the bigger your arsenal of weapons will be, and you will need them.
At the begining of the game, you are given a most basic folk that works as a hack n slash sword type weapon. You whack away at your enemies. You suck out their ids. You gain new folks and new attacks with them. This is where most of the real depth comes into play. There are more than 100 creatures to collect in this game, which means more than 100 attacks spread across multiple types of elemental damage. This allows for a large number of folk combonations,m which means you can mix it up and find out what works best in what situation. No two folks do the same thing. Ontop of that, the individual folks gain levels by doing things such as capturing more of that same type of folk. When you do enough of this, the folk does what it calls 'releasing Karma' where the folk becomes more powerful in one way or another, such as a wider range of attack or a more powerful attack. To counterbalance it all, there is a bar that is eaten up a bit every time you use a folk. Once it runs dry, you cannot attack until it refills. It keeps you from wailing on everything.
There are two characters that you can play as. Keats and Ellen. You switch back and forth between them as you will over the course of the game (I did Keats, then Ellen and back again). Two two characters are similar, but they do have their differences. Depending on what character you use, there are different folks and different powers for the folks that are the same. Keats is more of a up close and personal type character. He is a tank and fights like it. His folks quite often tend to be less ranged and more powerful. Ellen is more of a tactical character than Keats. Her folks, quite often, tend to be more elemental or long ranged. One further differens is that Keats has a mode called Transcension mode where he becomes faster and stronger while Ellen has various protective cloaks that she can wear.
The second part is the stuff that you do during the daylight hours of the village of Doolin. This is your standard fair RPG stuff. You will walk around and talk with people to try to figure out just what is going on. These sections are short and full of story, so they are not something to be dreaded. Even so, they aren't too terribly exciting either. The saving grace of this portion of the gameplay is the story, but I will get to that later on. It's safe to say that this is not why the gameplay got such a high mark.
Graphics - 10/10
The gameplay isn't the only thing that shines about Folklore. The game goes beyond being easy on the eyes. Folklore is take your breath away beautiful. I can promise you this. You have never seen anything quite like this game. Folklore is overflowing with style and art. The setting perfectly sets the mood for the game, but the artists didn't slack off there either. Folklore is a stunningly beautiful game from an artistic standpoint. I do suppose that it is worth mentioning that, from a technical standpoint, this isn't the best looking game ever. That being said, when the art is this good, who cares?
I suppose that it is rare to say that the art alone is enough to keep you playing a game, but that's how Folklore is. Even if the story and sound weren't anywhere near as good as they are, the art is reason enough to keep playing. Game Republic have done a fantastic job here in creating 7 completely unique worlds that lend a dark dairy tale look to the world. People think fairy tale and they think childish or something, but you won't get it here. This is more like a fairy tale for adults. Think Pans Labyrinth if you have seen it. This is that kind of stuff. Each realm of the netherworld is beautiful and unique, as well as full of surprises. that make you want to keep playing just so you can see what hte game holds in store for you around the next corner.
As I previously mentioned, the enviroments are not the only things that got this attention. The netherworld realms of Folklore are full of creatures unlike anything you have seen before. Each one seems to fit in perfectly with their enviroments as well. The creature design here is as top notch as it is unique. There are more strange and interesting critters in this game to pique your interest than you can imagine, and it only adds to an overall enthralling experience that sucks you in and will not let go. Even the most basic folks that you begin the game with received this type of attention. You could tell that this game is a labor of love for the developement team. Alot of blood, sweat and tears went into it's design, and it more than shows.
Sound - 8.5/10
I hate to say that this game slouches in any areas, but the sound isn't quite as good as everything that I mentioned above. That's not to say that it is bad, but it's not as good. The music is not the problem. Folklore features an absolutely beautiful score that has quite a few brooding tracks that really set the mood for it's dark setting and story. It also has faster tracks for things like battle and boss fights. It has appropriate music for every situation the game throws at you, and it is all extremely good. The music to this game helps it feel like the work of art that it was meant to be.
Where the sound drops off a bit, however, is with it's voice acting. While the voice work never drops into the area lf just plain bad, it does range from decent to average. None of it is amazing, but none of it is cringe worthy either. There was a point in time where this was all you could ask for today, but, now days, especially when everything else about this game is such high calibur, this is a bit disappointing. The voice work is good alot of the time. It isn't great though. The battle sounds could also stand to be a bit more varied as well. It's not something that will drag the game down, but it is worth mentioning.
Story - 9.5/10
Here is another area where Folklore excels. The story to this game is fantastic. Much like the world that it takes in, the story has a dark fairy tale feel to it. It works for the game, and it helps it not fall victim to alot of typical Japanes Role Playing Game story cliches. IT does, hwoever, follow the typical 'start out simple enough but get more and more complex the further you progress' stick that all modern RPGs seem to follow. That's not a bad thing, but with portions of the story being devided up amongst two characters, it can be a bit disorienting.
Folklore tells the story of two people who arrive in the town of Doolin at relatively the same time. The town of Doolin is said to be the village of the dead in legend in myth. IT is a place where you are supposed to be able to meet the dead if you wish. One day Ellen gets a letter that claims that it is from her mother, though she believes her mother to be dead. It says to come to the town of Doolin to meet her, so she takes off. She is a college student with no memory of her childhood. Keats is an editor for an underground occult magazine called Unknown Realms. He receives a phone call in his office from a troubled woman begging him for help. She mentions that she lives in Doolin. He decides to investigate. Upon both of them arriving in the village, they spy a woman on a cliff. Keats thinks it may be the woman that called him, and Ellen thinks it may be her mother. The woman falls over and off the cliff. She was dead. They decide to stay and look into this and, hopefully, find out why they were drawn there in the first place.
Folklore uses three types of story telling. The first is the voiced CG scene. The are excellent. The games art shines through even brighter than with the in game graphics, resulting in them being a sight to behold. IT is a pity that they are few and far between, though chapter 5 has one absolutely top notch scene that had me sitting in awe. The second type of story telling is a comic book type cut scene. It would have been nice if these had been voice acted, but they weren't. These will be a love it or hate it type of thing for most players, but they are an effective method of story telling that lends itself ot the games unique but familiar look and feel. The final type of story telling is just speech bubbles with and portraits of the two characters conversing side by side. This happens whenever you walk up to them and talk to someone.
Replay value - 8.5/10
Folklore took me about 25 hours to beat. I did some side quests, but not all of them. There is quite a bit to do in this game, and doing everything can easily last you upwards of 30 hours. There are a bunch of side quests that you can get by traveling back to Doolin during the day or night and speaking with the bartender. Ontop of that, you can download quests or create your own with the quests with the dungeon trial. In order to get all collect all the folk in the game, as well as the cloaks and everything, you will need to. There is alot to do in Folklore to keep you busy past the main quest, though it isn't the 100+ hour epic that is your typical RPG. I, personally, consider that a good thing. Folklore isn't too long, and it isn't too short either. The game is as long or as short as you want it to be.
Final Thoughts -
There is one annoyance that I have not mentioned yet because I wasn't sure quite where to put it. Thius game loads alot. I am talking before cut scenes, after cut scenes, before levels, after levels and after switching out what folks you want to use. It loads ALOT. The load times are never overly long, which is nice, and you can install the game to the harddrive to improve load times more, but it does load frequently, which can get annoying. That being said, Folklore is an absolute work of art. It's beautiful in graphics, music and story from begining to end. It is alot of fun to play and I HIGHLY recommend checking this one out if you have a Playstation 3 or keep it in mind for when you get one if you don't yet. It is an excellent and brilliant game that should not be missed by anyone that likes action, adventure, great art, good stories or role playing games.
Gameplay - 9
Folklore is a fun game that uses a unqiue and very in depth battle system.
Graphics - 10
This game is a work of art through and through. The enviroments are beautiful, as are the creatures. You have never seen anything like it
Sound - 8.5
The music is beautiful, but the voice work is a little disappointing
Story - 9.5
Folklore presents a fantastic and complex dark fairy tale and murder mystery
Replay value - 8.5
There are a large number of side quests to keep you playing after the game is over, as well as downloadable quests and the ability to make your own