Do you know how they say that nothing beats mom’s cooking? Even the simplest meal has that special something when it’s made by your mom. Many studies were probably done on that topic but I think we can all agree (or assume) that it’s because it is made with love. Love instantly makes any meal better. And that’s what made me notice Eastward. It has cooking, therefore, it has plenty of food. But is it made with love? Not just food in the game, but the whole game as well. Let’s find out.
In the near future, society is starting to collapse, and the human population is at an all-time low. A deadly toxic presence has spread across the land, destroying and devouring everything in its path. If you’re lucky to escape the slow crawling miasma, you had no choice but to retreat underground and start a new life. It’s what many did in Eastward and that’s how we ended up with thriving underground complexes and mines. You can still go out on the surface, it’s not poisonous but dangerous due to ferocious monsters now and whatnot. And this is where our protagonist duo comes into play. John and Sam. Solve puzzles using both, fight through the dungeons, unlock hidden paths, do some quests and stop by every once in a while to cook something delicious. And with love, of course.
Eastward is a simple Zelda-like RPG (I’m talking about those from the Game Boy and Super Nintendo era, though), full of intricate details and things to do and discover. Now, let’s talk about our main characters more. John is a simple melee-focused character, equipped with a frying pan (don’t laugh, it’s a super useful weapon here actually), then later a flamethrower and a cog shooter. On the other hand, Sam could be labeled as a support character who will often get you out of tight spots with her kinetic blast. But it’s not all about fighting in Eastward. You’ll spend most of the time traveling through incredibly detailed areas, solving main and optional quests, and do a whole lot of cooking.
The combat in Eastward is satisfying, engaging, and colorful but that’s not the main selling point of the game. If you heard about this game in previews before or stumbled upon a trailer, then you’ll know what it is. Eastward is a beautifully made and charming old-school RPG. It is a joy to look at it as much as it is to play. The level of detail in every area and in every city you visit is downright insane. Some sections feel like a game within a game. I like the overall choice of a warm color scheme as you play, it really amplifies the vintage vibe throughout the game.
It would be a crime to write this to the end and not mention Eastward’s marvelous soundtrack. The music blends in so naturally with the game that I would often forget it exists. Of course, it would always be there and playing but these 8-bit tunes go perfect with the game that I wouldn’t change a thing. It just fits so well. And despite the lack of full voice acting in the game, the comprehensive characterization of everyone (main characters and every prominent NPC) definitely makes up for it.
The only bad thing about Eastward is that I started reviewing it pretty early all things considered. It’s only September so I can’t recommend it as a perfect Christmas game. Which is what it is. The comforting atmosphere, the meditative 8-bit soundtrack, lovable cast of characters, and engaging combat………it all comes together as a part of a perfect dish. While the introductory premise of Eastward comes with that post-apocalyptic feel, I love how there’s never a sense of rush or impending doom as you play. It’s like a game telling you to “take your time, this is one a lifetime experience”. And you know what? That’s what Eastward really is. Don’t sleep on it and definitely don’t wait until Christmas to play it. You owe it to yourself.
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