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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)


Beside the whole combat-versus-strange-creatures thing, Folklore also has a strong story-telling aspect to it. The setup is that Ellen and Keats, the two playable characters, get called to a mysterious village out by the sea at the start of the game, and the first thing they see when they arrive is the death of a villager. For the remainder of the game they then busy themselves with figuring out just who called them in the first place and why, and what is going on in the village and with themselves. The town of Doolin is also conveniently a sort of hub that connects to the netherworld realms, where all the actual gameplay takes place. While it's a usual village during the day, at night the (friendly, talkative) ghosts come out, and portals open up into the netherworld realms.
Conquest of the realms is presented in the story as a means to uncover lost memories, of the deceased and otherwise, and each time the player makes major progress in the realms, another bit of the mystery unravels.
It's worth pointing out that cut-scenes can be skipped, and the adventuring aspects are very light at best. Folklore fully supports players who want to get on with the game proper as quickly as possible.

Keats and one of the villagers investigate a house

Keats and Ellen experience different perspectives of the same story. To progress to the final stages of the game, players must advance through both characters' paths.

Inside the realms, some of the rooms are likewise pacified zones where friendly NPCs solicit conversation, or story events play out. You will also find teleportation spots here to accelerate your travels, which double up as a means to heal, and Ellen can switch into a different costume (which may grant her immunity to certain status effects and other similar bonuses).
The differences between Ellen and Keats are a bit more pronounced than just story perspective and the odd costume though. First, even though Ellen and Keats' main story chapters lead them through the same realms in the same order, there are many differences in the folk they encounter. Many types are exclusive to either character, and even with folk that ostensibly seems equal, there are often differences in their attack elements and other properties.
The strategy required to defeat the customary multi-phase boss encounter that awaits at the end of each realm tends to be quite different between the two characters as well, and so they get to collect their own helpful picture book pages.

Ellen versus a small flying creature

This "Impet" folk, that attacks with a sticky goo, only appears when playing as Ellen. You can also see the lock-on feature being used here, which keeps the enemy in view, and automatically aligns all attacks properly towards it.

Optional activities are layered on top of the mandatory progression of chapters. Characters can take on side quests, with different sets available depending on whether you're playing Ellen or Keats, how far you have advanced through the main story, and on the time of day. Quests reward players with new special folk, consumables, picture book pages and costumes.
Another big reason to revisit the realms out of order is the "Karma release" system that upgrades your folk's abilities, makes them stronger, reduces their mana cost etc. Each folk can be upgraded in up to four steps, sometimes by giving them a certain number of a certain consumable, sometimes by defeating a certain number of a certain enemy with them, and sometimes simply by absorbing a few more of the same type. These upgrades follow a certain order, and often require the player to go back into a previous realm. Some folks can only be upgraded in later realms, i.e. they can't be upgraded right away when first caught, but only a couple of chapters later.

A menu screen detailing the steps to upgrade a specific folk

This is the upgrade path for the "Worthhog" folk, a kind of flying assault bomber. As you can see, due to the upgrades, it has become stronger, its area of effect is larger, and it costs less mana to call upon.

Things you won't glean from the demos

The demos present Folklore as a strictly linear game, where you move from one realm to the next. However, in the full game you can switch back and forth between realms at will, at any time, which is not only useful for doing side-quests and upgrading your folk as described above, but also to even catch all the folk you want to begin with.
That's because some folks are simply out of range to all but one specific type of attacker, and if you don't have this one prerequisite folk already in your possession, you won't be able to make your desired catch. Another variant of this are folk that demand a certain attack element to be "validly" attacked. The game distinguishes between attacks that can damage an opponent, and attacks that can lead to the dazed state that allows catching. When pummeled with "invalid" attacks, the enemy simply dies and dissolves, but it can't be caught this way.

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