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Earthlock Nintendo Switch Review

Earthlock Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Snowcastle Games

Publisher: Snowcastle Games

Release Date: March 8th 2018

Price as of Article: $29.90 USD, £22.49 GBP

Earthlock has an interesting history. Having been successfully Kickstarted in early 2014 and released to the world in late 2016, this JRPG was met with mostly middling reviews. Unlike many developers who would just leave it at that, Snowcastle Games couldn’t be satisfied leaving their new baby being mediocre and set to work on fixing it and producing what they originally envisioned. It’s a bold step considering in order to do this, they had to put the already in-development sequel on the back burner. Dropping the “Festival of Magic” subtitle, this fix has been launched as a new title and not an update because it changed too much making save files incompatible. Now, I do need to mention that I’ve not played the original so no comparisons will be made here.

Many fans of JRPGs will be playing for the story and I feel that Earthlock is a simple affair, but it starts with a brief introduction of a strong-willed cadet called Ive, the best in her class, after being rejected for a scouting mission by her General father, she decides to go anyways. Meanwhile Amon, a young scavenger, and his uncle arrive in a local ruins to rummage around and eventually stumble upon an ancient artefact which will get the unassuming adventurer into trouble and leading to his uncle’s kidnap. On his way to find his uncle from a mysterious group Amon will be joined by a ragtag bunch of allies who all have their own reason for tagging along, including the aforementioned Ive. Of course this is just the set up for a much larger story involving the history of the world and a potential catastrophe that may occur. Obviously I don’t want to say too much about the story since it’s an important part of the experience for an RPG, let’s just say I found it overall okay, if a little meandering at times. It took quite a while to get to somewhere where the stakes became high enough for me to care.

In the audio department we have some decent music that plays along nicely and always seems to fit the theme of the area well. In the quagmire pirate den you have some eerie twinkles from the piano, some cultural drum beats in the desert areas and so on. I actually think it’s above standard, much better than what I would expect from looking at the game. Both the battle music and boss battle music are really well done and have an epic feel to them. It’s a commendable soundtrack. 

One thing I would have liked is if there was some voice acting in the game. Conversations feel a little on the empty side especially during cutscenes. I know that a small budget game like this may not have the means to hire and produce voice acting of high enough quality but it would have added an extra layer of production value that I think the game needed. Even if it was just during cutscenes, it could have elevated it much more than what it currently is.

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Earthlock switch plumpet island

The visuals are okay if you look at what its inspirations are. Going for a late 90’s – early 2000’s RPG feel it’s colourful, cartoony and not too bad. If you’re judging it by today’s standards however, Earthlock doesn’t look great in my opinion especially on models and the environments which are blocky.

Looking past the graphical prowess to something more important, the art style, then it stands far better. While some places can look a little bland and basic, there are some rather tremendous locations to explore that really stand out. In the swampy pirate’s lair, it really took me by surprise how good it looked compared to what I’d experienced up to that point.

I will say I’m not a huge fan of the art style for the human characters since most of them look like modern Disney rejects. The supporting, more fantastical creatures fair much better in this regard though and I like Amon’s uncle and Gnart’s design rather well.

The gameplay is your standard JRPG that fans of the genre will be used to. You and your motley crew walk around an overworld, get into scraps with monsters, solve a few puzzles in dungeons and face up against a boss once in a while, levelling up your character and gaining new abilities. Standard is a good word for it.

The most unique thing about Earthlock for me is the battle system which has an interesting stance switching mechanic. Each character has a few stances they can change between. They’re basically job classes you’d find in many RPGs but being able to switch between them mid-battle is what makes it unique to me. For example, Amon begins the game being able to change between the Blaster class which allows him to shoot flying enemies, and the Thief class which is what you’d expect. I think it’s a nice take for a battle system, it becomes quite tactical especially in boss battles which often requires you to find the right set up to overcome them. On the other hand it can slow battles down somewhat since switching will sacrifice a turn meaning battles are longer than I would have liked.

Earthlock bandit king boss battle

Contrary to the early PS2 era RPG’s, there are no random battle encounters. All enemies are visible while walking around and can only be fought if they touch you or you preempt their attacks by pressing the B button as they approach you letting you have the first strike. You’ll find it’s not quite choosing your battles as there’s often no way around many enemies, but it’s nice there are limited amounts rather than the never ending stop start of random battles.

There are small side-quests in the game, usually involving collecting some things like insects or scrap mental, really nothing too special or absorbing to go out of your way to do in my opinion. I feel like side quests should always add to the story in some way, giving extra development to characters in the game, but I didn’t find that in Earthlock. Granted, I didn’t particularly go out of my way to try many of them after the first few.

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Pretty early on you’ll be sent to a safe haven called Plumpet Island which is a nice little distraction from your adventures and can be warped to from any save point. Here you can take part in a bit of gardening for materials and crafting weapons, abilities, ammo and items. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly interesting and as far as base building goes it’s really its most basic but it’s a great way to get more ammo for your weapons and healing items using things you’ve scavenged.

Regarding difficulty, I would say that Earthlock seems to be fair, although boss battles can present a spike especially if you haven’t found the right way to deal with them. I died more often than I’d like to admit which takes you back to the last time you saved the game. While I wouldn’t say that grinding is necessary, it’s definitely necessary to get the right set up, make sure all your abilities are set, equipment up to date and that you have the right strategy. Otherwise you may struggle from time to time.

At $29.90 or £22.49 Earthlock is a high ticket game, one of the highest on the eShop for sure. And even though I did enjoy it without getting overly excited, I can’t say it’s worth the high asking price right now. If it was $20 I’d say that was more reasonable, but right now it’s a little too high for me. The production values and overall quality don’t quite match the price in my opinion. I would say wait for a small sale.

For those interested Earthlock will take a meaty 3.6GB of storage.

Earthlock battle tutorial


Solid Gameplay

Nice music


Overall a little plain

Story takes a while to get going

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