Folklore Review

Let's just get one thing out of the way; this is probably the hardest video game I have ever had to review. Ever. Never before have I myself been so polarized about how I felt about a video game. Folklore mixes in an intriguing story, fantastic graphical design, wonderful sound and a great combat mechanic with some rather repetitive game design. I don't mean just a little repetitive Folklore goes the whole nines into mind-numbingly repetitive and it hampers an otherwise great game.

On the surface Folklore seems like a simple enough game. You control two characters, a young woman with a mysterious past by the name of Ellen and a writer for an occult magazine named Keats, on an adventure that spans two worlds. During the day you will explore the village of Doolin, a sleepy little place out in the middle of nowhere in Ireland. At night you will find your way into the Netherworld speaking to, and fighting, Folks of all sorts. These Folks are the souls of the dead who have lost themselves and devolved into more primal forms. While not all evil per se even the mischievous spirits can be dangerous and you must combat them.

The Folk are, by and large, based off of mythological creatures. Things like Kilmoulis, Barghest and Faerys abound in this world as well as darker creatures. They are all here and look quite fantastic. While their designs might not match up with what mythology says they are still quite a sight to behold. Personally I have to admit to a great fondness for the setting. Stories about places where the living can meet up with the dead are prolific in mythology but not so much in games. It is a great premise that works well in this game.

But you won't just be fighting the Folk; they serve as your weapons as well. You will start with two of these little guys and you must find others around the realms. By absorbing their Id, the magical part of their soul, you can turn them into Pokem… uh, employee Folk. As you gather more and more of these Folk you will find that you have a wide variety of abilities at your fingertips, ranging from four hit slash combos to sticking enemies in place or even firing a cannon ball at your enemies.

The intriguing part of this is that you can have up to four Folk at the ready at all times, each mapped to a different face button. By pressing that button you initiate that Folks attack. Since they are all so available you can create your own custom combo attacks by linking together Folk attacks. It's quite interesting and it works well, allowing you quick constant access to the action that makes this game so much fun.

 

However to actually absorb the Folk Id you must engage in a little mini game that is probably the best use of the Sony Sixaxis thus far. As you attack enemies a blue image of their form will emerge from their bodies. Once you have done enough damage they will stop in place, stunned, and a red image will hover over them. This is when you press the R1 button to project a stream of energy from you to them that attaches to their Id and starts the mini-game.

For basic enemies all you need to do is move the Sixaxis controller upwards and you will yank their soul out and into your body. For bigger enemies, and bosses, things get a bit more complex. Some will require you to jerk the controller from side to side as you attempt to beat their Id down and yank it out of their bodies. Others will require you to time your controller movements upwards to coincide when the enemy Id glows red, as opposed to the green it will glow most of the time. Both of these methods must be done until you have filled the meter below the folk. Once it is full you will have succeeded and the Folks Id is yours.

The biggest success of Folklore is the graphical design. While the game itself isn't the best piece of work on the PlayStation 3 the art design more than makes up for it. All of the netherworlds you will adventure in are richly detailed and wonderful to behold. Even the creatures have an almost exaggerated, storybook look to them but it works really well in this game. So while it won't beat out Uncharted you will likely not even notice the difference. The only real graphical failure is the character models. Keats and Ellen move fairly stiffly through the game world and there is a lack of fluidity to their movements, looking like moving mannequins. They do however look great when using Folks.

The storyline here is moved forward in one of three manners. You have your run of the mill in-game banter where you will converse with other characters via speech bubbles. The second method are actual cutscenes that look fantastic and have some incredible voice acting (I love the Irish accents). However these cutscenes are few and far between, relying mostly on this games comic style cutscenes.

The basic way that these cutscenes work is that they are like moving comic book panels. The game will scroll from panel to panel for you and dialogue will pop up as the dialogue moves. This is both a strength and failure since some of the dialogue can move too fast to be read comfortably, requiring you to make liberal use of the rewind option given to you. With the lack of spoken dialogue and sometimes hard to read speech bubbles these really never grew on me. They also don't hurt the game; it's more of an irritant than anything.

You do get a great feel for the characters in these cutscenes. So while Ellen might initially come off as your stereotypical memory lacking hero the story does a great job of revealing more information about her over time and drawing you in. Even more so than Ellen, Keats is a great character. Not only is he a scientific minded person working for an occult magazine, a dichotomy that works well for approaching things with a realistic mindset, he seems to have some greater link to the Netherworld than you might expect. It does a really good job drawing you in.