Folklore Review - 24/12/2007

Folklore is the Playstation 3's first, first party developed role-playing game, and it shows. It's unfortunate but true; there are some very rusty edges underneath all the high-def gleam. But moreover it's just plain weird!

The game takes place within a rural village in Ireland called Doolin, which could pretty much be compared to towns like Sleepy Hollow (you know before the bad guy shows up). But Doolin is not the only place the game is set, oh no, about 80% of the game takes place in the Netherworld. Which I found strangely bright and colourful, looking like the level designer took his 3-year-old son to work with him one day and the kid attacked the levels with a felt-tip.

The story is split almost down the middle between the two lead characters, Ellen and Keats. Both are drawn to the sleepy village but following communications from a mysterious source, Ellen receives a letter from her long lost mother and sets off in search of her and Keats gets a phone call telling him a woman's life is in danger. Now if that sounds, like a great beginning to a noire detective novel, you wouldn't be far off; you see the game seems not to be sure what type of genre it wants to fit into. Sure, it's a RPG based game but that is only the dough at the bottom of this pizza. The game seems to have a small sprinkling of a detective story mixed with an extreme fantasy overload, which really makes things very confusing to follow at times.

As you can see things aren't shaping up well for this RPG, but it does have a few little tricks up it sleeves that make all the confounding features of the game seem to dull slightly in comparison. Here is where the game starts to make the crossing from interesting to diamond in the rough: Folklore makes incredible use of the SIXAXIS controls which link nicely with the brilliant combat system.

The control in combat seems very normal and really slightly mundane as you approach your foe. The game injects a sudden feel of action RPG into the now even stranger mix of genres, but it makes it out the other side of this infusion with spectacular results. The combat is simple in line with games like Kingdom Hearts; you assign your collected monster (more about that in a minute) to one of the four buttons on the controller (X, Triangle, Square or Circle) so that at a press of the button out jumps your creature to attack. This by itself isn't particularly astounding but coupled with the use of the SIXAXIS and you've got the beginning of something great. The basis of combat is that you have to bash each monster's soul out of it by either hitting it with physical attacks or with some of the beasts they require elemental attacks to defeat. Once the soul is freed it hangs out of the monster, called folks, and this is the point that the SIXAXIS steps up to the plate. With a hold of R1 your character will latch onto the soul and start a mini-game, in this mini-game you need to move the SixAxis in certain ways to capture the soul. But this unique use has its drawback and unfortunately it is a big one, it's just knackering! At times you have to swing the controller from side to side in great arch-like motions and you need to do this fast - it just ends up with you aching from the effort.

Thankfully the game's controls and combat aren't the only thing that is dazzling, the graphics and cutscenes (when you finally get them) look beautiful. Every house in Doolin is surprisingly realistic looking for a fantasy RPG, but the thing that will take your breath away, at times that is, is the cutscenes. They really do look like a Playstation 3 game should.

All that said Folklore is terribly linear, Doolin is such a small town that there are about six places to explore. But I to use explore loosely as most of the places in Doolin are small areas that lead to the Netherworld in some shape or form. The Netherworld doesn't fair any better with the vast majority of areas being corridors that connect to another web of corridor-like rooms.

There is something for everyone in Folklore but hardcore gamers will have to dig deep. The game has plenty to do for the twenty odd hours that it takes to complete. This isn't the jewel in Sony's crown that perhaps they wanted it to be, but it is a step in the right direction.

- Alec Hilton



Game Republic