Status: Only about five chapters in, total, but I’m outta here.
Most Intriguing Idea: An RPG centered around a murder mystery in a small town.
Best Design Decision: The monster upgrade approach.
Worst Design Decision: Aversion to numbers.
Folklore is a game about two characters who go into the netherworld, where they can absorb and subsequently use spirits called “Folks” (ugh) to fight other spirits, eventually taking on a giant monster called a “Folklore” (uuuggh). Having played a rather dull game with a similar idea earlier this year, I was interested by the system used to upgrade the Folks. Rather than use the character’s experience, the Folks get improved by specific task. It might mean absorbing a certain number of that specific Folk, or giving it some items. It’s a smart system, because it prevents late-acquired Folks from falling behind, and it sometimes offers interesting trade-offs. For instance, some Folks only develop if you defeat (destroy entirely) certain enemies rather than absorb them. Since absorbing them is how you gain experience, you must give up some of your advancement for your Folk’s.
Unfortunately, because the needed items are at best semi-rare drops and some of the target creatures are absurdly uncommon, Folklore‘s upgrade system ends up being just as grindy as the experience system it would replace. Additionally, it’s difficult to figure out what the upgrades are actually doing since the game seems to have an almost pathological aversion to giving you any numerical information. This left me mostly in the dark as to how much damage (if any) my attacks were doing and whether it made sense to beat a tactical retreat.
Alas, Folklore has too many issues for me to stick with it. The protagonist Ellen drove me up the wall with her habit of assuming any damn woman with her back turned was her mother. Her standard pose, with downcast face and a hand drawn up defensively against her chest, is the sort of thing that could only be imagined by a person who has no experience of actual adult women. The game initially poses itself as some sort of mystery about Ellen’s past, which I found interesting, but within a chapter or two shows that it will be dealing in standard apocalyptic stakes, which bores me. On the design side, the game’s useless map and wonky camera made navigation a chore, and of course it suffered from the typical JRPG design cruft, e.g. the existence and poor positioning of save points. Attack targeting was generally poor, and many Folks were both slow to fire, inaccurate, and apparently weak (although, as mentioned, I have no numbers to back this up). As a result the real-time combat was surprisingly un-fun, and I gave up mid-way through an irritating boss fight.
Verdict: Not recommended
If you can’t say something nice… Folklore‘s best design decisions are really sharp, and it had motion control I didn’t virulently hate. Also it was extremely pretty.