I didn’t like Evoland.
I mean, I’ll get into it further now because duh, but I think I should make my opinion quite clear from the get go. I had really high hopes for Evoland, I tend to be very forgiving towards artsy games when it comes to mechanics and gameplay errors. In a world where triple A titles seem afraid to stray even a tiny bit from their money making checklist, it often falls to indie companies or solo designers to provide actually innovative or diverse experiences.
And Evoland had a really cool concept: You play through the different eras of video games, with the game evolving and gaining newer mechanics and appearances as the player progresses. You start with black and white pixel graphics, and eventually make your way up to a fairly standard 3D RPG adventure.
But here lies the problem, Evoland isn’t a good RPG adventure. The game’s mechanics were fairly simplistic at best and downright sub-par. Combat isn’t difficult but it is frustrating, with a very basic main character move set and swarming enemies that don’t provide enough challenge for a sense of accomplishment but aren’t easy enough to just carve through for a power fantasy. Deaths feel less like a learning opportunity and more like a punishment, except the punishment it just having to play more of the game: never a good sign.
All of this may be forgivable in what Evoland claims to be: “A short story of adventure games evolution”. Had Evoland focused more on it’s interesting exploration of game mechanics development and its presentation of how technological advancements have allowed for an evolving game experience for players, then the janky combat would have faded into the background as a forgivable indie misstep. But as soon as Evoland hits the third dimension it gives up on trying to guide you through a history lesson of games and tries instead to be a traditional RPG, albeit a self-aware one.
Despite my intro for this article I still don’t want to push anyone away from experiencing Evoland. I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a flop or a waste of time. It does still have a fascinating core concept which warrants exploration, and if you can forgive the mind numbing gameplay elements it’s an ok use of about 4 hours. I wouldn’t pay more than $10 for it, but I also have an unreasonable emotional connection to the concept of $10. So take that as you will.