Evoland is, in its most basic form, an evolutionary look and a parody of both the early JRPGs and adventure titles, mainly focusing on The Legend of Zelda series. It looks at evolution both by mechanics and by graphics. The game begins with the hero in between two chests with text telling you that you are able to go right. The graphics are monochromatic and resemble the old dot matrix Game Boy. Upon reaching the chest in the right you’ll unlock left movement and upon reaching the left chest you’ll unlock free movement. Movement is grid based at this point but you’ll rapidly unlock true free movement, enemies, color graphics, a weapon, and save points. You’ll eventually unlock an overworld, towns, and turn based battles. Graphics improve to the blocky 3D of the PSX era(complete with pre-rendered backgrounds) and finish with a smoother, higher texture 3D. Arrows and Bombs are eventually earned as well as a stones that, when hit, switch the game between the top down 2D(SNES style) and the 3D style. This is used in puzzle solving as some objects interact differently in the two eras.
As awesome as this game sounds on paper I wish I could recommend it more. The issue is how disconnected the experience is. The Zelda parts of the game feel good. In fact, this could be a Zelda game seeing as the developers seemed to have copied most of the enemy sprites and character handling right from Link to the Past. The issue is when you enter the overworld and have to deal with annoying random battles. You do get money and xp but they aren’t used for anything in the Zelda portions. The levels you gain in RPG mode do not aid the adventure version of you at all and money is only used to buy potions, revives, and armor; all of which only work in random battles. Where this experience is most jarring is the dungeon after the first town. You enter it and are presented in Zelda sprites, complete with an action key to swing your sword, but it is all a ruse: this is the only dungeon with random battles. In fact, your sword has zero purpose in this dungeon. Even the inventory button does something different in each mode. The RPG area brings up a Final Fantasy-like status and inventory screen where as in adventure mode it is how you switch weapons.
This dungeon was heavily inspired by Diablo 3
For some reason there is even a Diablo-esque dungeon with tons of enemies on screen, tons of loot to collect, and a health orb replacing the standard hearts system. Hitting the inventory button here brings up a traditional MMORPG equipment screen with a silhouette of your character and open slots to equip items. There are at least 25 slots. Any dropped item will automatically be equipped and none of them have any effect on gameplay. Their only purpose is for comedy but you’ll need to read the name and description, which requires you pause your game, every time you pick one up.
The lack of Combat Commands…and also recognizable enemies
A lesser complaint would be the lack of actual gameplay. Much like DLC Quest before it, actual content is eschewed in favor of parody alone. There is very little to actually do in this game. Out of the 3 hours it took me to finish it, I’d say half of that was random battles. The random battles consist of the main character using Attack(he doesn’t know any other offensive commands) and his companion using the Heal spell(her physical damage is abysmal). The companion gains one offensive spell halfway through the game and the main character gains Heal and an instant death Summon right at the end. The dungeons weren’t horrible but the puzzles in them weren’t difficult by any stretch of the imagination. Most involved pushing a fire pit on top of a pressure sensitive plate which was often times right next to the fire pit. Even the idea of the past affecting the present isn’t explored in any sense other than to traverse past bushes and stones. The story, while existent, is shallow and hollow. The entire game is loosely held together by shallow gameplay. All of this was compromised in order to poke fun at JRPGs while showing the evolution of the Zelda franchise(seriously, the JRPG jokes heavily outnumbered the Adventure genre jokes). In fact, the best part of the game was a simple card game, called Double Twin, that reminded me a little of Reiner Knizia’s Revolution mixed with Reversi. Cards are placed on a 3X3 board and each card has a number for each side. If the number is higher than the number of the adjacent card, the adjacent card is flipped to your color. The player with the most cards their color wins. Its simple but was the only time I felt that I wasn’t playing an “on-rails” game.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the game. I certainly finished it and even went back to collect all of the stars(collectable with no effect on the game) and all of the cards for Double Twin. I enjoyed it in the same sense I enjoyed DLC Quest and other games with little gameplay, such as Dear Esther. I enjoyed it more in an “I wonder what nostalgia driven thing will happen next” way than an “I want to see how complex this game gets” kind of way. I just wish the game could have had some substance to it. That would have pushed it from a minor diversion to a worthwhile game with replay value.