Eastward Review: Gorgeous post-apocalypse adventure is a classic in the making
Indie games have really raised the bar for what small companies can create and with the sheer amount of titles being released at the moment, it can be easy to miss a hidden gem.
Chinese developers Pixpil have certainly been turning heads since the first trailer of their RPG Eastward dropped in 2019. It looked marvellous and fans have been anticipating its release ever since.
Eastward is a post-apocalyptic adventure that follows the silent but reliable John and the lively Sam.
Set in a world devastated by a mysterious event called the Miasma, John and Sam live in the underground community called Potcrock Isle whose main rule is never to travel to the surface.
After a series of unprecedented events, the duo are banished and forced to find somewhere new to call home.
This journey will see John and Sam go from strength to strength while meeting a host of charming characters and unravelling Sam’s past.
Eastward is a thought-provoking coming-of-age story filled with dark undertones that can be unsettling at times.
Eastward’s strength definitely lies in its characters, who are quite the odd couple, John’s stoic demeanour is constantly being challenged by Sam’s cheerful attitude to life, they are a joy to watch.
For a game without voice acting, the developers have done a great job scripting an engaging adventure from start to finish. My only issue is that the pacing can be slow at times with some segments feeling slightly overwritten.
Eastward is a visual feast with a magnitude of intricate detail encapsulated in its brilliant pixelated art style.
Each vibrant environment is filled with beautiful locales that harbour so much hidden detail. There is also a great use of the lighting that helps establish several types of mood throughout.
The huge number of characters and NPCs are admirably animated with a wide range of expressions that mirror their feelings.
Enemies and bosses look great, their design has been adequately executed to help convey the feeling of fear and terror throughout.
Eastward looks incredible and the three-man team at Pixpil have done an amazing job at crafting this fantastic world which kept me entertained all the way through.
The soundtrack composed by Joel Corelitz, features an eclectic mashup of nostalgic bliss that pleasantly supports the visuals.
Each retro synth tune does a fine job of adding extra atmosphere to each scene and level, especially during the boss fights.
Eastward is essentially a game of survival where players will have to control John and Sam simultaneously, switching between them.
Each character comes with their own set of abilities that greatly differentiate. John will basically be doing all the fighting and what a guy to have on your side.
He uses several different weapons to protect himself and Sam. Players will start off with his cooking pan and steadily keep adding to his arsenal with a wide variety of weapons becoming available. All the items can be upgraded to enhance their capabilities.
Sam on the other hand has a magical ability that allows her to stun enemies, leaving them for John to dish out damage. She can learn more abilities over time and upgrade them.
The flow of combat, for the most part, will be stunning enemies with Sam, then switching to John to attack them.
A lot of the time players will find themselves circling away from the enemy and hitting them with a powerful weapon.
Combat can feel repetitive at times if you stay in one place for too long, especially since there is a lot of backtracking and enemies respawn when you return to an area.
However I feel the enemy difficulty matches the pace of the narrative, slow but impactful, so it can be a shock once you enter a new area.
The boss battles are majestic and are designed with some of the game's best puzzles. I love the fact that some of the bosses just pop out of nowhere, really keeping players on their toes.
Outside of combat John and Sam will mainly be exploring and completing puzzles. Travelling on the Charon train they visit many cities that are filled with treasure items and secret areas.
Puzzles themselves have been cleverly crafted and gradually increase in difficulty as players progress. Puzzles will feature different designs that will either require players to use John and Sam, together or split them up.
Eastward also features some side quests scattered around various cities, these will mainly be fun mini-games that help mix up the gaming loop.
One of John’s hidden talents is that he is an amazing cook, players will be able to cook up meals that will give him different buffs depending on the recipe.
The process includes a fun roulette mini-game that adds extra ingredients to the recipe.
Eastward will also feature a side story about Sam’s favourite game Earth Born which may be a nod to Earthbound. Players will be able to play Earth Born throughout the adventure while meeting other fans of the game for funny skits.
There is also a gacha system where players can collect prizes based on Earth Born.
Eastward is an amazing indie title that spans around 30 hours of gameplay, told through a captivating story. The wonderful art direction and spectacular animation are warranted enough for Eastward to grab your attention.
Watching the bond between John and Sam grow through each heartfelt scenario will invoke all kinds of emotions that will stay with you for a long time.
It may have taken a long time but the developers Pixpil have created a new classic.
Eastward is out for PC and the Nintendo Switch on 16 September