Sony Computer Entertainment presents a pleasant offering with Folklore exclusively for the Playstation 3. In this fantasy tale, two lead characters leap into the rabbits hole to find a fantasy realm of haunting escapism. Your offering is excepted, welcome to the world of Folklore.
Folklore is a story of dual realities, dual lead characters, and dual gameplay characteristics. Created by Kouji Okada (Shin Megami Tensei) Folklore tells the tale of two main characters. Ellen, a young girl looking for answers when she receives a letter from her mother who has passed, and an occult journalist Keats who receives a mysterious phone call with instructions to visit the same town as Ellen, the quiet town of Doolin. This leads the two characters into an intertwining meeting of fate on a sea side mountain pass which is just the begging of Folklore’s tale from the rabbit’s hole.
Folklore is rich in its mood, setting and storyline which is one half of the gameplay, adventure. The other half of Folklore is real-time action with a lean towards magic and outnumbering combat situations. The adventure half of Folklore is based on static camera angels, dry environments and text heavy conversations. This is a throwback to the old PC based adventure games from the 1980s that still has value twenty years later. Everything that is needed and expected is in its right place. These graphic novel / CGI elements are used to progress the story which is an interesting twist when paired with fast paced 3rd person combat. Folklore throws the adventure element in the mix all over the map which helps break up the pacing, or any monotonous feeling you might have if the focus was entirely on combat.
The haunting journey in Folklore is separated by two worlds, the real world based in the sea-side town of Doolin, and the land of the dead, the Netherworld. Both characters are granted access to the Netherworld, although you can not freely jump between the two worlds. The gameplay sequences are broken down to a “real world” section and then the “netherworld” half. The only real fault that occurs with having two worlds is that you will instantly miss the Netherworld once you leave. In comparison it’s impossible for the real world to live up to the imagination and beautiful art design that flows like waterfall through the Netherworld.
The balance between the two worlds are wonderfully out of controls which mirrors the storyline content of broken families, torn memories and uneasy trauma. This could be the point Game Republic wanted to make with a dead world full of life and colour and the real world a depressing palette of grey and brown. As you are taken back in forth between two worlds and the plot thickens you will constantly be impressed with the quality of the games design, and its emotions stirring around in its chaotic tranquil whirlwind. Folklore is its own opposite at all times, from the design right down to the gameplay. One minute slow and dark, then colourful and fast paced.
The characters in Folklore play the same as they are only different in design, gender, and storyline. Keeping things interesting Folklore lets you choose which character you want to play with, however both characters will have to be played at one point to progress the tale. This comes up when you finish a chapter and the choice is yours again to pick which character you want to progress with. Since the storyline intertwines I alternating between the two characters to keep my senses in the loop but how you want to progress is totally up the player. For combat they have the same system implemented, abilities and powers. It would have been nice to have a little variation between their strengths and weaknesses rather then a straight clones, but this is a minor observation that wouldn’t change the overall game.
When the trail of clues end and the battles begin, Folklore becomes extremely fun with its imaginative combat system. Overly satisfying, Folklores combat revolves around capturing creatures called Folks and then using them in combat. At any one time you can use up to four creatures which is mapped to the controllers face buttons and shown in the right handed side of your HUD. Navigating and switching up new creatures is easily done from a nicely put together menu system. Each Folk have their own speciality if not defence, then in elemental form, or just brutality. In an original design the Folks launch out of your body in a transparent ghost like appearance delivering their unique attacks. This could only be accomplished on next generation hardware, and if you ever needed a reason to show off you PS3’s capabilities Folklore is a good representation.
The combat system continues to innovate with the capturing of the Folks souls or Id. Reminiscing of Ghostbusters proton stream and trapping, your character pulls a stream from the fallen Folk and with a flick of the control pulls their Id into your body. For the majority of Folks once quick tilt up will take down their spirit, but there are a few other Folks that you have to wear down by repeatedly yanking at their Id when it changes colour, or shaking them side to side. Stealing the harder Ids takes a little patience and timing which surprisingly doesn’t become annoying and turns into being a great dynamic added the Folklores bag of tricks. Initially I though the system was going to be annoying like a fair amount of the motion controls added into PS3 games, however, I was wrong and the Id capturing controls are right on the money adding a nice element of realism into the game.
Using other creatures as your weapons in Folklore adds a collecting aspect to the games personalities that makes it a little more addictive. Each time you acquire a new Folk you want to explore its capabilities while learning your own strategy in combat. The Folks can even be upgraded by unlocking their karma which is basically hit a number of pre determined goals and they will become more powerful. If you’re looking for more collectables you can find new cloaks for Ellen that also enhance her stats in game. These have to be found and can be switched up in the main menu. For more extra’s Folklore offers a dungeon making feature that can shared online with other gamers. This boosts the longevity of the game offering gamers something else to do besides the main storyline, although it’s not overly impressive. The dungeons you create are fairly basic and don’t match the feeling you get while playing through the adventure. For what it is, an added feature, I’m not going to complain, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time building and download other dungeons.
Overall Folklore is a solid game; however there are a few issues that hold down Folklore from perfection. One repeating issue I had with Folklore is navigating around the world. The problem arises when you’re on your way to through a level and you have a battle and starting running and spinning around. Then when you get your bearings you forget which way you where headed and have to run around watching the little map in left corner of the screen. The map should have helped me more than it did; all it did is get me more confused because I was more focused on it then looking around and taking visual clues from the environments. That problem could be a user problem, I’m sure other gamers might not have a problem in that area.
Folklore can also be a little repetitive because both characters will be revisiting the same locations this means you’re basically playing through the same level twice. Too keep this experience a little fresh; both characters will have slight variations on the Folks that inhabit the levels. Some Folks will be repeated, but there are a few fresh faces to keep Folklore interesting. Repeating also creeps up with some of the comic inspired cut-scenes that will repeat when you start up another character replaying the scene that happened already. It’s a small little qualm that is passable, however it can be seen as unnecessary and a minor design flaw.
Folklore is a hidden gem in the PS3 library of games. Incredible, charming, and imaginative, Folklore breaks down the barrier of standard button mashing action to deliver a deep and interesting adventure full of action, mystery and wonder. The artistic design is beautifully recreated making the environments and creature design one of the original entries I’ve seen in a while. Folklore is one game that you have to play to really get a feel fore its unique flair and original combat ideas.
I highly recommend every PS3 owners to at check out Folklore. Folklore might not have the marketing or brand recognition of some of Sony’s other titles at the moment, but it’s definitely one of the best games for the system. Perfectly matched for Halloween, Folklore haunting adventure is worth taking a leap of faith down the rabbit’s hole.