Fresh off the success of its PC release, Eastshade Studio’s walking sim / exploration adventure, um, Eastshade finally landed on consoles. Us being primarily console based here at Finger Guns we’ve taken the long way around the visit this particular island.
In what feels like a full imagining of its short prequel Leaving Lyndow, Eastshade begins with you stranded on Lyndow, the most southerly town of Eastshade after your ship crashes and you’re washed ashore.Your surroundings are a wonderful sight to behold. A scenic, beautiful port ripe for exploration and uncovering the mysteries that surround the town. Immediately reminiscent of the likes of What Remains of Edith Finch and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, the game world immediately allows you to explore with little direction, which may be somewhat jarring for those unfamiliar with the genre it plays in. Whilst Lyndow is somewhat small, there’s plenty to uncover, and this is where the frustrating aspects of the game rear their head.
It goes without saying that you’ll need a little patience to get through the early stages of Eastshade. Your walking speed is monotonous, and though you can run the pace seldom reaches a point where you really feel you can get your quests done and dusted with any particular pace. The games quests are constructed in such a way that its RPG elements begin to take over, which pulled me out of its rather serene tone from the get go. The main mechanic is talking to the local inhabitants, anthropomorphic animals that reside on the island – you’ll meet owls, deers, bears and the like all chipping in the keep the island’s economy on the straight and narrow – naturally all have tasks that require your help in order to complete, so moving back and forth between them all allows you to learn more about the island.
The locals are kind and welcoming, worrying for your wellbeing in the aftermath of the shipwreck. Those who were also on the ship with you are in the town, safe and sound and are glad to see you, offering help and advice whenever needed, so long as you do something for them first, of course. You want to help, such is their warmth, and keeping up a list of tasks will take your mind off the somewhat egregious backtracking that’s required in order to complete your missions. Your goal in Lyndow is to earn enough to get to Nava, and this is where Eastshade really opens up.
It’s in the early stages of the game I explored. And then explored some more. And then some more. Before I knew it hours had passed and I had barely scratched the surface of the story. That it kept my focus through sheer exploration and learning about the island through the view of the locals and the books I found, finding out small nuggets of information I could then use to converse with someone who wasn’t available to speak to yet, I kept myself wildly entertained by the pure malevolence of its narrative.
Aside from the gorgeous visuals – which are very apparent in these screenshots – the unfolding story drags you in. Your dialogue choices will come back to haunt you if you’ve chosen to be particularly nonplussed about the worries of the townsfolk. Through your choices will determine how those who have initially chosen to be kind will quickly form a subtle change in their attitude towards your plight. Whilst yes, you are helping them purely for your own progress rather than just being a kind person, you also want to ensure you keep most on side. In most games of this ilk your attitude will determine how the rest of your experience plays out. Even as you can feel yourself getting frustrated when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall, a positive mentality goes a long way on this island.
Then there’s the painting, the game’s core mechanic and perhaps Eastshade’s most glorious USP. You’re a painter by trade, and as the locals find this out you’ll be called to create masterpieces for them. Whether painting the eclipse (something I wound up doing before I knew I needed it for a mission) or indulging wealthy aristocrats with portraits, your canvas is your currency. It’s a shame then that the painting boils down to nothing more than collecting wood and fabric for the canvas, framing your subject and then pressing X, letting the game take over. I never felt like I accomplished anything when taking on the painting, which is strange considering how vital it is to the overall progression of the story. It’s less work than building a flight of stairs in Fortnite and it’s a tad disappointing. When your ‘clients’ take a look at your painting and decree how tremendous it is.
I’m glad you liked it. I didn’t do anything.
There’s a vast amount to see and do in Eastshade, far more than I was expecting. There’s a reason why this review is a little late. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get so very invested in its world. It’s stunning to look at and the aforementioned exploration is a joy. It’s a shame then the main USP feels so lackluster. Whilst I wasn’t expecting to have to paint the canvasses myself with a Move controller, that I have no control over the canvas at all was a bit of a letdown.
Having just spent several glorious hours playing Concrete Genie, the lack of any form of interaction with your creations was a real shame. I was hoping for more and whilst there’s far more to the game than just this particular mechanic, I really expected more. It feels like as much effort as you would take to capture a screenshot.
Still, away from the painting what Eastshade presents is a story of unexpected depth, allowing you to get lost in its gorgeous world and cast of delightful characters. Its calming nature lures you in, the world makes you want to stay lost in its peaceful serenity.
Anybody fancy a visit? I want to go back.
Eastshade is available now on PC, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Xbox One.
Developer: Eastshade Studios
Publisher: Eastshade Studios
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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