If games are designed to transport us away from reality, then Eastward is our one-way ticket. Pixpil’s Eastward combines the nostalgia of RPG adventures with its own quirky characters, its map of passing towns, and its relentlessly engaging storytelling. Published by Chucklefish.
To see and interact with so much in Eastward, you will never get bored or wonder what happened to the last five hours of your life. This review does not contain any spoilers, but themes and characters are discussed briefly.
|September 16, 2021
|PC, macOS & Switch
|Indie, RPG & Action-adventure
As the story unfolds, you’ll be given the option to switch between characters on the fly to solve puzzles and fights, as well as a frying pan weapon that you can use to sneak around with. After a rough start, John uses ranged weapons and a few types of bombs to break down walls and take on bosses. Using energy blasts, Sam is able to manipulate the world, and she gains even more powerful energy attacks that must be charged up before they can be unleashed. The combat is simplistic and unsatisfying throughout the game.
There are many puzzle segments in dungeons where the player must control the characters individually, moving them around to interact with the environment in order to get past elevators, overgrowth, and a variety of other obstacles. Fortunately, most of these puzzles are easy to solve, but a few involve enemies attacking your characters while they are defenseless (forcing you to switch control between them) or time trials that drag on far too long. John and Sam are easy to control, both in and out of combat. There are only a few truly interesting boss encounters and puzzles, and they’re mostly found in the late game.
Unexpectedly, Eastward does not rely on its combat or puzzles to survive. Eastward creates a world that is believable, heartfelt, and intriguing, and it is a pleasure to explore. Games often use archetypal building blocks from fantasy, science fiction, and other well-known genres as a basis for their worlds. I found Eastward to be refreshing in that it took me on a roller coaster ride where I had no idea where things were going. You’re on a journey around the world to escape a deadly miasma that’s encroaching on you. Occasionally, you’ll uncover other threads that take you into the world of organized crime, time travel concepts, the pleasures of simple farm life, and making movies with a decidedly unconventional crew.
My favorite parts of the game are the locations and the characters that inhabit them. I wanted to explore every corner and speak with every NPC. Pixpil’s world is so well-crafted that I cannot recall the last time I did that in an RPG. However, Eastward’s combination of spectacular music and pixelated look creates a magical atmosphere that proves that you don’t need 4K resolution and ray-tracing to create something magical. Coziness creeps into gameplay with the cooking mechanic, where you can craft some amazing meals that provide potent buffs to help take on the more challenging bosses.
Contrary to expectations, Eastward delivers a memorable experience in spite of its lackluster combat and a lackluster puzzle system. When it comes to quirky, captivating, and somewhat surreal content, you’ve found it with this game.
- Excellent art direction
- Dungeon segments are a real highlight
- Earth Born minigame is awesome
- Glacial pacing in many places
- Combat feels rather clunky
Eastward takes you on a cozy journey through fascinating and bizarre worlds, with a memorable cast of characters. If you can get past the lackluster combat and repetitive puzzle styles, this is a game well worth checking out.