Folklore: Early Impressions

I’ve owned Folklore for a while, waiting for the right time to start it. Today, Kathy and I finally set aside some time to blitz through a couple chapters.

The game takes place in two locations: Doolin, a town on the west coast of Ireland, and the Netherworld, a land occupied by faeries, monsters, and the spirits of the dead. As the game begins, two people arrive in Doolin on the same day. Ellen, a 22-year-old woman, recently received a letter from her long-dead mother, instructing her to visit the village. Keats, a 27-year-old publisher of occult magazines, came at the request of a mysterious phone caller.

Going through the game, you’re given the option to play as either Ellen or Keats. After completing a chapter, you can either continue to the next chapter with the same character, or you can switch characters and see the events of the current chapter from another point of view. We’ve been switching from character to character, hoping to get the whole story in one playthrough.

When not fighting, the storyline and presentation are similar to an RPG or point-and-click adventure. You walk around town (or the civilized areas of the Netherworld) and talk to everyone you can, hoping to piece together the story and find out about your next task.

There’s very little voice acting in the game. Most of the cutscene interactions occur in subtly animated comic book style panels, complete with dialogue balloons. It kind of makes me feel like I’m playing an old PSX game, like Vagrant Story, which is fine with me. It also means more time for the game’s excellent music.

So far, I’m intrigued by the main story, though the lead characters haven’t really done much to win me over, yet. When Ellen meets a talking scarecrow, learns that she’ll be travelling to the land of the dead, and dons a cloak that instantly transforms her from Hollywood Ugly (dowdy clothes and a ponytail) into Videogame Hot (no ponytail and plenty of midriff), she acts like it’s exactly what she was expecting to happen in Doolin.

Keats, at least, rants a bit about how unlikely it is that the Netherworld and its Faeries exist. The only problem with his skepticism: he tells all this to an invisible fucking man. Seriously.

So far, battles only occur in the Netherworld. Your character collects the Id (i.e., soul) of each type of creature — called folk — you’ve defeated. You then summon these folk to attack your next batch of enemies. It’s a pretty cool concept.

I’ve heard Folklore called an RPG. It’s not. While there is some resource management, it doesn’t amount to much more than deciding which folk to bring into a particular battle. And the combat is definitely not turn-based. It’s straight action. The system is much more similar to Okami or Kingdom Hearts than to Final Fantasy. We haven’t played nearly enough to have learned all the ins and outs of combat strategy, so it could be a while before I’ve really made up my mind about it.

The game does have some Sixaxis stupidity. Several months into my PS3 ownership, I still hate everything Sixaxis. In order to grab the folks’ Ids, you have to move the controller around a bit. Happily, it’s been pretty easy so far (as opposed to the pain in the ass of tossing grenades in Uncharted), but I just hate how Sixaxis usage been tacked on to just about every PS3 game, for no good reason.

So far, I’m enjoying Folklore. The presentation is great, the story’s interesting, and the battle system suits the game. When we finish it, I’ll let you know if it fulfilled its promise.

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