Eastward Octopia Review (PC) – The Second Course

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you just made a different decision, had got a different job, or even just crossed the road when you could have kept walking? The life unlived, where maybe you were a successful opera singer, or the leader of an organised crime syndicate, rather than the life you have right now, on the internet reading a review of a video game?

Where most DLC just carry on the story, or throw useless skins at you, Eastward asks this very question. What would have happened if instead of going on their brilliant Eastward train adventure armed with only a frying pan, Sam and John had stepped off at the derelict Octopia theme park station, and decided to make a go of it farming, selling their produce, and reinvigorating the local area? What if fate drove many of the unique and interesting characters they had met along the way to also stop here, obedient to destiny, but under completely different circumstances? And what if instead of an RPG-lite, it was a farming sim?

Octopia is the life unlived for Sam and John, another version of their lives where they don’t have to face danger at every turn and instead lead a sedate life in the country. And it makes it a pretty unique bit of DLC – The Sliding Doors of video games.

The story is simple but made lovely by a wonderful and quirky returning cast. Sam and John essentially found a new version of a town around the ruins of the Octopia theme park, and are joined by characters you’ll remember from the base game; trader William and his son and robot twins, Daniel and Daniel; Alva and Isabel; Mung and his two builder sons. They quip and bicker in the same charming way as they did in Eastward, but in Octopia you really get no backstory whatsoever, so my relationship and warm feelings for them were borne entirely from nostalgia.

Sam’s incorruptible positivity and energy returns, as does John’s stoic robustness, his father-figure energy that never fails. They are lovely characters, and helping them build a little farm to greater and greater strength, use materials and food to reunite the cast, and help them build homes and businesses is a quiet kind of pleasure. Octopia is not going to set any great bar for storytelling but it is nice to have any story in a farming sim, and without even the skant amount I got, I don’t think I would have got far.

That said, it is a few scenes, and spaced apart by getting the right food, or the building materials needed, or waiting a defined number of in-game days for anything to happen. I found the drip-feed tiresome and requiring of a fair bit of patience.

Octopia is a farming sim and a quaint and serviceable one. Its not got the depth it would need to support an entire release, but as a ten-or-so-hour addition to a brilliant base game, it only needs to go so far. The gameplay loop is pretty much just planting seeds and keeping them watered until harvest a few days later, and then utilizing John’s incredible cooking talents (which were clear in the original game too) and making culinary delights that complete quests for the visitors and townsfolk who settle.

Estate agent feeling depressed? Well, then he needs a Sweet Potato Hotpot to jerk him out of that funk! Quest complete. You need to find seeds, harvest the right ingredients and then make the food, but essentially that is what it boils down to. There’s a fair bit of Dave the Diver to it, in that it’s making food for interesting characters, and the gameplay loop revolves around ingredients and cooking.

But just like Dave the Diver, Eastward Octopia is defined by its quirky characters, its irreverent dialogue and wholesome heart. Without those parts it’s a very slow farming sim, without the necessary complexity to make it a more timesink-type experience.

Octopia’s main issue lies in the lack of much going on for in-game days at a time. You get one cooking assignment, say with ingredients that need to be planted, harvested and cooked, and that ends up taking maybe six in-game days. That’s fine in and of itself, but often you aren’t given another thing to do until that one is completed. I could have handled multiple requests at once, or just more of a different kind of quest in the meantime. It means you end up just doing the basics and then going to sleep to move on the days. I didn’t always want to do that, so maybe I went fishing or took my axe to some trees, which meant by the time the next building materials request came in, I could fulfil it instantly, which meant I had absolutely no requests for days afterward.

The whole thing could have been streamlined and fine-tuned in terms of the pacing out of quests and tasks. Throw much more at me, let me build multiple projects at once, John can handle it. I do appreciate that if this happened, the ten hours could have become five very easily, and instead I might be complaining about the length of the experience.

For me, there was not enough plot to keep me going, and not enough activities and quests to fill in the gaps between scenes. Eastward Octopia is too sedate for its own good. Not quite sure whether it’s a farming game or just a little story on a farm, it fails to do either to the level it needs to hold this player’s attention. This reviewer found himself wandering away from the game constantly, in search of something a little more interesting and engaging.

Eastward Octopia is a lovely addition to Eastward if you just want to bask in that world again and you are satisfied doing a few farming tasks. At only £4.99 it’s kind of insanely cheap. But if you are coming into this new, Octopia is too sedate for its own good and doesn’t give a good idea of the main game. Play Eastward first, and if you love it, only then consider coming back for a second course.

Eastward Octopia! is available now on PC via Steam (review platform) and Nintendo Switch.

Developers: Pixpil

Publisher: Chucklefish

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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