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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)

Merely finishing Folklore's six main realms should take players around 25 hours. However, the draw of trying out your freshly captured folk on that one back there that you couldn't catch on your last visit is quite strong, and upgrading your folk turns out quite rewarding as well, as it feeds back directly into your ability to fight. It turns out that the game is quite challenging if you attempt to beat it – the bosses especially – with basic, freshly-caught stock of folk. A bit of upgrading later, it all becomes much easier. If you want to go all out, upgrade every folk to the max, and finish every side-quest, you may well spend 35 hours doing so. And then there's still the dungeon trial mode to delve in, where you can compete online in quick dungeon romps designed by other players (or yourself).

Ellen standing in a bright opening in the forest

Folklore's imaginative art is one of its greatest strengths. The faery realm in particular has some spots that are really nice to look at.

Folklore's big feat is the balance between the dozens of folk. They are so distinct, and yet they all seem to have some utility for a long while. You rarely come across a folk that outright replaces one you caught earlier, it's almost always a matter of adding a new twist at least, such as a charge-up, a stronger strike in exchange for a longer cooldown time etc.
The narrative on the other hand, although ambitious, ends up disappointing. The story is quite unique and good enough, but there just is too little volume to properly fill out the large amount of cut-scenes in the game. Thus several times you will be "rewarded" at the end of a chapter by meeting a character that outright refuses to talk, when you thought he'd finally tie up some loose ends. It gives off the impression that the writing output didn't match up to what was initially planned. This happens around the middle of the game, while the story pace gets much better toward the end, and is at least acceptable in the beginning.
Thankfully, that's just the story side. The game itself seems rounded and quite complete.

Our rating for Folklore

+1, good score

Classification (not part of the rating)

Story focus: four decade-old murder mysteries
Style focus: two circus tents on burial grounds
Mechanics focus: two wooden planks, one soldering iron

Folklore's combat itself is quite simple, and more of a means to an end. You won't need to have astute reflexes to succeed. What matters far more is knowing your enemies' weaknesses and choosing the right folk to get the job done efficiently. A bit of grinding seems openly invited, as you will have to fight tons of battles to upgrade your folk. The many, frequent and small upgrades that each feed back directly into the core game make that process feel rewarding enough. The growth of your actual characters is by comparison rather limited. They only gain a few more hit points, and very slowly at that. Your main concern is swapping out folk to match whatever you're facing and having the folk you need the most (for boss fights) upgraded as far as you can.

There is little to be improved about Folklore as is, and we can't fault the gameplay in the slightest. The game delivers where it matters the most, but bears flaws in less critical side disciplines. The biggest offender is, sadly, the ambitious narrative aspect. The presentation is excellent, with all modern convenience functions (skipping, fast-forwarding, rewinding individual scenes) covered, and good art to boot, but the substance, the story itself, doesn't match up. This shouldn't be a big concern to most gamers, but it's still hard to not notice.
Another thing that might grow into an annoyance is the regular loading. Areas are quite small, even in the town, where there are no arguments to be made about respawning enemies that require a strict separation of rooms, and the game loads for a few seconds at every boundary. Eventually, you'll roll your eyes.

All in all, despite its limitations, it was definitely worth a thorough playthrough, and it's very hard to find any other game that could replace what Folklore offers, namely its unique twist to third-person combat and the large amount of imaginative content. Collecting creatures for actual gameplay purposes doesn't get much nicer than this.

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