Developer: Eastshade Studios | Released: 2019 | Genre: Adventure, Paint
In my backlog at GameDeed.com, I described this game as a peaceful open world exploration-adventure. It was pretty apt. As a mute protagonist I was washed ashore in a landscape with a town and a city, populated by affable humanoids with animal heads. Apes, owls, bears, deer.
The protagonist was a skilled painter and thus the overall goal was to get quests and commissions for naturalistic painting. There were also a lot of side quests of almost any kind, crafting, fishing, and even a little touch of survival thrown in for good measure. The open world was big enough to warrant many hours of exploration, yet it was also small enough that I could run from one end to another in a few minutes.
To put is shortly, it felt a lot like a lighthearted first person Elder Scrolls game without the combat.
The first town Lyndow was just a few houses. Most quests earned glowstones which was the currency in the game. A nice deviation was when a completed quest taught me how to craft something new. The user interface for crafting and keeping track of quests was logical and easy to use. By far the most used crafting option was of course combining boards and fabric to create a canvas for painting.
Walking around, meeting people in the world and doing various quests for them, felt good and relaxing, and the game was certainly commendable in that regard. If anything, it was a little too lighthearted a times, particularly in the beginning where it felt like a game for kids. This does ease off later, but sometimes I was also missing a bit of combat to spice things up.
I never thought I would ever see myself type that sentence.
Maybe that yearning for combat was because of how much the game looked like an open world RPG with all combat stripped out, rather than casual exploration closely related to pure adventure games.
I started on ship that soon ran aground on a reef and the water was flooding the chamber I was in. This is barely a spoiler at all as it happens within the first few minutes of playing. It surprised me a bit as I thought it was going to be a safe journey to the harbor of Lyndow.
I was running instead of walking 99% of the time, which forced me to keep the
Shift key down. Call me weird, but I don’t like toggling this with
A really surprisingly game feature was how I was prevented from staying out at night time to begin with. If I allowed the sun to set, ice crystals started seeping in from both sides of the screen. Shortly thereafter, I was teleported to a room at the inn in Lyndow, right next to a bed. Here I could rest for the night. There were ways to stay outside at night later, but you’ll have to check the spoiler section below for those.
The ice crystal effect really didn’t look like it. I thought I was being cursed at first.
Drinking tea was useful in this game. One flavor of tea made fast travel possible (with an annoying loading screen), another raised my inspiration for a while, etc. Inspiration was required to produce paintings and was drained when finishing one. This was typically earned by doing interesting quests.
Fishing was also possible after buying a fishing rod in the city of Nava. I had to choose the type of bait, cast when a circle was in the right spot on the water, then pull up when the time was right. I didn’t fish much in this game. I probably drained the fun out of this in various MMORPG.
A nice and atmospheric detail was the big ass moon in the sky. The sun was tiny behind it, and an eclipse occurred for a few minutes every day. The lighting went pink during this eclipse.
The first damper on night time was to solve a quest about catching a water fox by luring it inside a wooden cage with fresh eggs from a nest. The bear guy thanked my by teaching me how to make a tent. This tent could be put up anywhere in the wilderness for sleeping on the spot.
The final solution to the night problem was to buy a warm coat in Nava for 80 glowstones. At that point I had started doing commissions for a paint shop there, making it easier to earn a lot of glowstones.
There were various points of gatekeeping. The first was to pay a toll for crossing a stone bridge. To gain access to the city of Nava, I had to acquire three reference letters from friendly quest givers.
Among my prioritized tasks was making four paintings in memory of my mother. The first was a painting of a giant tree right in the middle of Eastshade. A house was built into one side of the crown.
After buying a zip trolley in Nava, I could use long ropes for sliding down from high ground. This also made it possible for me to visit that house built into the giant tree crown.
The commissions could be read and accepted from a book. It could be anything, like painting a chicken, a stone bridge, a natural arch, etc. It felt good painting what I thought fit the description and then see the quest updated in the top left corner of the screen. Back to Nava and drop the painting.
Another good quest gave me a map for checking out the entire world. The map was informative and had points of interest, but I was missing a dot for pinpointing my location. I know it was supposed to be a handheld map, but come on, developers – this is still a video game, right?
I also bought an old fashioned bicycle. It was refreshing as a different kind of mount.
On a cliff close to Lyndow, I saw a flock of seagulls frozen in the air. Some were flapping their wings, some where completely static. Perhaps the developers should have worked a little bit more on that one.
There were posters in Nava advertising a lecture in the inn at a certain hour of the day. I tried attending it and it did have a guy standing in front of an audience telling a story about a poor boy and an elk.
I found a mirror puzzle. One light source, two mirrors to place in the surroundings, then elucidate a lens with a trapdoor. This dropped me down to a quest giver in a cave with a poetic riddle. I suck at riddles and so I decided to not complete that one. Not being a completionist anymore, I reckoned I could skip a few.
That turned out to be a big mistake. Soon, I was stuck for hours on end.
I traversed the landscape many times, talked to a lot of animal people. Stuck. I knew the guy down at the beach had lost his amulet and I probably needed to find it for him to cough up a password for the dream tea club, but I couldn’t for the life of me find it. Finally I decided to have a peak on the internet. Turned out I needed to do that riddle quest to get a drink that would make the amulet shine in the water.
Why, oh why, did they make the riddle quest mandatory? If only it had just been a monetary side quest.
Since I suck at riddles, I immediately looked up the solution to that one too. I had to paint a picture of the eclipse through a mounted seal in the landscape close to the northern lake. The riddle guy accepted it and gave me the drink, and then I was finally back on track again.
The cistern below Nava had a few cute round boats for experiencing two kinds of dream tea. Each got me through a short dream sequence. One jumping on pillows floating in the water until I reached a waterfall. Another watering a tree so it could grow large.
I also crafted a floating device so I could cross the lake and eventually get to Sinkwood Inn on a small island in the middle of a lake. Entering it started a nasty thunderstorm and a classic crime scene investigation was waiting for me inside. This was one kind of quest trope I didn’t expect to see in this game.
On the way off the island, I was taught how to craft a reed boat for sailing bigger distances. I used it to cross over to the Tiffmoor Bluffs. Paintings of windmills and a few more quests. One part that really disappointed me were the Tiffmoor Ruins. The way it had been described by everyone (especially in Sinkwood Inn) made it sound like a big place to explore, but it was barely three pieces of wall. Bleh!
Now that I had that reed boat, I sailed all the way around the entire island of Eastshade. It wasn’t exactly a powerboat and it took a long time to complete this. Normally I don’t give a hoot about achievements, but maybe they should have added one for completing that one. I’m not sure I’ve done such a crazy coast exploration since I swam the entire south and west coast of Kalimdor in World of Warcraft.
I did find an excavation in the icy northern area. It had a quest about fungus spores in a cave.
After painting from the mountain top and the top of the tower, I left Eastshade on a boat from Lyndow. I thought this would bring me to end credits, but instead I was shown my personal room with various letters from quest givers on the island. That was actually kind of sweet.
- Cute island big enough for varied exploration, yet not so big it outstays the welcome.
- Lots of epic sights to behold as long as you don’t mind it being a bit rough close up.
- Varied quests, some of which will have you traverse the entire island to solve them.
- Atmospheric music with violin, cello, flute and shakuhachi.
- Sometimes you are taught how to craft objects that will make life a lot easier.
- If you skip one poetic riddle quest (which happens to be mandatory) you will get stuck.
- Some of the hot springs can be hard to find if you’re not exploring everything carefully.
- The terrain can sometimes be rough to deal with, forcing you to take quite a detour.
- There is no skill involved when painting, it’s just one click and it’s done.