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Review: Folklore

Posted Jun-12 2008 by ron, created under common review policies
For Playstation 3. Optional harddrive installation: 1040MB (takes around 2 minutes 45)

In every sixth generation of shoemakers, a perfectly mismatched pair of hewn sandals emerges from the bowels of Sandalwood Forest to impose judgement upon aspiring retainers of the craft. Only those schooled in the ancient rituals of arhytmic counter-clockwise nudges may pass such challenge and earn their customary lifetime supply of mustache-proof gum. The game Folklore, however, is about something else entirely.

Ellen approaches an illuminated bar at night

Ellen doesn't know yet what she's getting in to. If she just had someone to explain the game to her!

Folklore is a combat-centric action RPG starring characters that curiously lack any combat ability of their own. Instead, all attacks are performed indirectly by summoning a creature in front of the character that does its typical motion, and then disappears again. These helpful creatures, or "folk" as they are called in the game, are recruited from the ranks of defeated enemies. There is a wide variety that the player can catch and later reuse in this way, and by assigning one to each of the four face buttons on the controller, players can fully customize their current repertoire of offensive and defensive moves. This reshuffling can be done for free at any time in the game, and conveniently pauses the action.
Otherwise the controls are typical and straight-forward, with movement on the left analog stick, free camera rotation on the right, and an evasive dash on R2.

Ellen summons a group of soldiers against fish-like enemies

The snipers near Ellen are actually on our side, and will perform a single attack for us before they disappear again. That they appear in a whole group at once and their long attack range are the two distinguishing traits of this particular type of folk.

The dozens of different folk in the game have various elemental affinities and attack ranges, trajectories and areas of effect – e.g. while most smaller folk can only strike enemies at ground level, the "Henky" folk attacks with a big soap bubble that floats upward, which allows it to hit small flying enemies. Some folk have attacks that can be charged by holding down their designated attack button, some can perform simple combos, and there are also defensive folk that shield the player character from damage when summoned, rather than attacking. It bears repeating that, unlike most summoning mechanics in games, folk are not companions that would follow the player around in some fashion. They just pop out for the second or so it takes for their attack to go through, and then they vanish again.

Keats struggles to absorb a large shield-bearing mechanical creature

This is how the creature catching works: folk that have been damaged enough fall into a kind of daze that allows the player to quasi-jank out their souls to absorb them. Lesser enemies can be caught by perform just a quick pulling motion with the Sixaxis controller, but there are several other, more difficult modes of absorption, like the rhythmic tilting required to soften up this "patriot" enemy.

Folklore's game world is divided into differently themed realms, each of which is populated with its own unique set of folk. The realms are not seamless, they are further divided into areas or rooms with clear boundaries between them. When you leave and reenter such an area, the preset group of enemies within will respawn, which allows you to fight them again for more catching opportunities, more of the consumables they sometimes drop, or simply for more experience points to level up your character. If you don't want to be slowed down by ever-respawning enemies, there's no need to worry though. There is often a reward for clearing a room for the first time, but with few exceptions you can just run past all enemies.

A picture book depicting creatures fighting each other

Defeating certain folks often requires you to use specific folks yourself, particularly so for the boss battles with their multiple phases.
Instead of using an artificial narrator-based hint system, Folklore lets players collect pages of picture books as seen above, where the hint of which folk to use against the most noteworthy enemies is given in visual form.

Using folk in battle consumes a bit of mana, usually in proportion to the power of that specific folk. Mana recharges automatically and rather quickly, so this mainly acts as a limit to how many attacks you can chain together at once, with no long-term implications. It effectively prevents players from constantly spamming their most powerful folk's attacks, and encourages a bit of careful selection and experimentation with "cheaper" folk. Due to their different attack styles and elemental affinities, there are often very clear best choices of folk to use against any given type of enemy.

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