The Xbox Games with Gold program is a godsend for those, like me, who can’t afford to buy new games very often.
Generally you will tend to get one great title and one average/former arcade game free each month – as long as your Xbox Live subscription is valid at least.
This month was a little bit different.
Throughout September you are able to get your hands on Earthlock: Festival of Magic – a brand new game!
Review – Earthlock: Festival of Magic
Personally I don’t really associate Norway with Japanese-style RPG games, a genre long dominated by Square Enix and their Final Fantasy series.
Created by Snowcastle Games, Festival of Magic began development around 5-years-ago, with the first trailer released in 2013.
To help with funding, the game was put on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, raising more than $178,000.
And now, after years of hard work, Earthlock has landed on the Xbox One.
Taking place in the fictional world of Umbra, the game revolves around scavenger Amon and the typical mish-mash of travellers-turned friends these games tend to introduce.
Earthlock is one of those games that is very easy to pick up and play for any J-RPG fan.
The developers have taken the basics of the turn-based combat system and added a few custom tweaks.
The pairing system allows you to match up two characters, unlocking powerful special moves and perks which are unique to each combination.
Mixing and matching these pairs – unlocking more and more powerful benefits as their bond levels up – is key to success as they can quickly turn the tide of a battle in your favour.
Instead of changing equipment to boost your characters attributes, Earthlock’s talent system allows you to both unlock new moves and magics, as well as improve things like your defence and health.
Crafting is a key part of Earthlock, with the majority of the enhancements to the talent system coming from items crafted on your own personal island retreat Plumpet Island.
Potions and ammunition are also crafted by hand, with players able to grow planets and harvest them to gather the necessary items.
This isn’t a grindy process though, it’s an quick painless – and if you really don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. It’s just a nice extra.
The game’s dialogue is less over dramatic than the traditional Final Fantasy-style RPG, integrating a lot more humour.
This game has balanced its difficulty well, it’s hard – if you don’t know your enemy and just use the same move combination over and over you’re not going to survive.
Taking the time to vary your attacks and discovering each creature’s weakness is key. This can turn an impossible boss battle into something strategic and enjoyable.
Earthlock is a good game, everything feels polished, it has a well written story, it’s pretty and plays really well. However, something niggles away at me every time I pick up the controller.
The save system is a little inconvenient, warping between areas on the map requires bouncing back to your island before your reaching your destination.
There’s also the far to many loading screens. Nothing breaks immersion like 20-30 second loading screens.
But they are only niggles, if there’s any game you’re going to get this month, make it this, especially while it’s free on Xbox.
If you somehow miss it on Games with Gold, the £23.99 price tag is pretty well judged.
Score: 7/10 (Based on graphics, gameplay and story on the Xbox One)