"Evoland" Review: A Chronicle of RPG History That Lacks Its Own Style

Do you need a history lesson in RPGs? Evoland is the best teacher you can get.
"Evoland" Review: A Chronicle of RPG History That Lacks Its Own Style

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RPGs are a legendary breed of video games. From Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Diablo, RPGs have remained a mainstay in gaming culture. All of these games come with characteristics that make them unique, and Evoland attempts to combine all of these elements into one game.

Evoland is a history lesson in RPGs. Nicolas Cannasse initially created the game as an entry to 2013's Ludum Dare, a video game competition that challenges developers to make a game in a mere 48 hours. 2013's theme was evolution, and Evoland definitely embodies that motif. Shiro Games has since taken over, creating a new version full of different enemies and playing styles.

The Good

When you start up the game, you'll probably be taken aback. The screen shows nothing but colorless pixelated artwork that'll have you thinking "Did I really just pay for this game?" You stand in between two chests and open both, Legend of Zelda-style.

The chest on the left grants you 2D movement, allowing for a wider screen. The snarky bar on the bottom of the screen reads: "You got 2D Movement. That's good, you can't go anywhere else anyway." I got a good laugh out of these comments—they poke fun at retro RPG games, which really shows you how far we've come in terms of technology.

As you move through this black and white environment, you'll slowly unlock different elements of an RPG such as the introduction of color, classic RPG music, screen scrolling, enemies, weapons, and more.

The first portion of the game plays much like the early Legend of Zelda games. The environment, enemies, combat, and the main protagonist (ironically named Clink) have an uncanny resemblance to Legend of Zelda, but it's supposed to be that way.

After you finally open all the chests in the area, the game finally reveals your mission. You play as a member of the Order of the Dragon Knights, and it's up to you to restore peace to Evolandia. From this moment, Evoland really begins.

You'll then begin experiencing random encounters instead of using real-time combat to eliminate your foes. When you come across enemies, you'll have to defeat them using a turn-based system, much like Final Fantasy and Pokemon. Later, you'll even encounter a dungeon that bombards you with enemies in the same spirit as Diablo.

Evoland is completely dynamic—the environments, artwork, and rules constantly change, referencing RPGs of the past. The frequent allusions make the game fun to play. It allows you to revisit old video games with a modern perspective.

The Bad

Evoland's fast-paced progression definitely prevents you from getting bored, but is it enough to constitute an entire game? To me, Evoland acts more like an educational experience, rather than a full-blown game. While I'm aware that it's supposed to highlight iconic RPGs, I'm still a bit disappointed that Evoland doesn't evolve into its own style of RPG by the end.

Evoland takes heavy inspiration from outside sources, which makes it a bit repetitive and predictable at times. If I want to open chests, whack enemies with my sword, and chop down bushes, I'd play Legend of Zelda. Similarly, I'd play Final Fantasy if I wanted to do some turn-based style fighting. Evoland utilizes the tropes from these games, causing it to become stale fast.

That being said, the game is almost too easy. Sure, you'll die if you slip up, but other than that, it's a breeze to play. Evoland definitely isn't a game for challenge-seekers—it's best for nostalgia-hunters.

Although Evoland has its own storyline, I feel that you don't even need it. When there are so many references to outside games, you aren't paying attention to what's going on inside Evolandia. The storyline is just generic, and it sits in the shadow of the game's true purpose of relaying the evolution of RPGs.

The Verdict

The game plays smoothly, guiding you through various transitions in gaming. You won't have to put in 100 hours in order to complete the game—you'll likely finish it in under a day. Despite the fact Evoland's identity is a mishmash of RPGs, it still provides an enjoyable and unique gaming experience.

Evoland 2 has since been released, and I'm itching to try it. Hopefully, Evoland will find its own voice in the sequel, instead of relying on other games.

4 5 0 1
Evoland encompasses elements from popular RPGs throughout history, starting from the past to the present.
Evoland encompasses elements from popular RPGs throughout history, starting from the past to the present.
Total Score
The Good
  • Gives you a brief history of RPGs
  • Unique dialogue breaks the fourth wall
  • Gameplay constantly evolves
The Bad
  • Lacks its own identity
  • Familiar elements get repetitive