Oct 4, 2007
Given that the Playstation 2 was once the mighty home to all things RPG, the PS3 is going through a bit of a dry spell. But we understand, the system's still in its salad days and probably doesn't want to embarrass itself by porting something unworthy of it's $600 prowess. So is Folklore going to ease the agonizing wait between infinity and a Final Fantasy game? Well the answer is: sorta, kinda, maybe and for the most part, not really.
The best thing up Folklore's sleeve is the massive arsenal of beasties at your disposal. You could hardly call it a hack-and-slasher because your primary weapon is, well, everything. Nearly anything you can kill you can also embody, allowing over a hundred different creatures, machines, and otherworldly beings with which to dole out pain.
You'll come upon an enemy, or "folk," beat it into submission, then suck the resulting "id" into your bodily repertoire with a pink tractor beam and a flick of the SIXAXIS. Gimmicky? Sure. But it's fun, it works, and its the closest technology has come to letting us feel like a real live Ghostbuster.
Playing as the grief stricken Ellen, or intrepid occult reporter Keats, you get to configure the spiritual monstrosities to your liking. Some block, some slash, some shoot, and some just rampage. And as you might expect, certain enemies have strengths and weaknesses, and we're talking beyond the mere fire, water and lightning touches (although they're here too). You've got a creature of flight called a Brownie that dumps immobilizing goop, or a towering hellbeast straight out of Where the Wild Things Are called a Bargest who's got a devastating swipe and also emits spines when swallowed by ruinous tentacles.
Folklore promises somewhere around a hundred beast-abilities and you've got plenty of time to figure out which abomination is right for you. And if that desciption has your head in a Pokemon-esque "Gotta Catch em all" tailspin - relax. Collected pages forgo the oceans of charts and numbers with stylishly drawn illustrations showing what works best against what. Anything can be swapped to the 4 face buttons on the fly with the help of the R2 button, 'cause there ain't no turn-based battles here. Folklore's action is all real-time, baby.
And let it not be said the game isn't gorgeous. Heavens no! You're in for some of the most lusciously beautiful environments ever to grace a console. We'd be the first on board any vessel bound for the Land of the Dead. Like a gothic What Dreams May Come, or Middle Earth with a brighter assortment of foliage, the level designs make even the most barren of desert environment seem worthy of a quixotic journey. If only that were possible...
Folklore's downside is that it's so damned structured, and linear to a fault. Given how striking each and every stage is, it was a little heartbreaking that we were restricted to such a sternly defined path. There's almost zero exploration involved. And with the consistent load times, respawning enemies and story repetition, the game would seem to punish any one curious enough to hoof it off the very beaten path.
In the level structure alone, the game just doesn't go very far to harness the most powerful console currently on the planet. While the many load screens aren't too long, the environments haven't grown much since Final Fantasy X. Shouldn't the PS3 be able to produce environments larger than a high school gym by now?
Additionally, the plot, involving a missing person in the forgotten town of Doolin that just happens to be a gateway to the Netherworld, is stunted due to similar technical shortcomings. The text-based, comic book cutscenes lack the emotional heft that the so-so story really could've benefited from. Especially given how breathtaking and epic the scant few cinematics look.
Folklore is a damn good game in its own right. Visually, it's everything we've hoped for - even if it isn't exactly the RPG we all wanted. It's an "action-RPG" that tips the scales heavily in favor of the action. Outside of leveling up your abilities, there's barely any role-playing element, and in the end, isn't all that comparable to the likes of a Final Fantasy game. But you could do a helluva lot worse while waiting for XIII in the meantime, so don't hesitate to give it a shot.