The term ‘walking simulator’ has acquired unfortunate pejorative connotations over recent years, though the purpose of that sort of game—to provide a relaxing, combat-free game—remains a valid creative choice
Eastshade builds on the legacy of its walking simulator predecessor Leaving Lyndow and marries it with the trappings of an open-world RPG to create a beautiful and relaxing experience where the player takes on the role of an artist who is shipwrecked near the small town of Lyndow.
The player discovers that the artist main character recently lost their mother, and the mother’s dying wish was for him to see Lyndow and the region it inhabits, known as Eastshade. As such, the main quests revolves around travelling and finding specific locations described by the artist’s mother, and then painting them in an act of remembrance.
Though Eastshade clearly takes inspiration from games such as The Elder Scrolls series, it has no world-ending catastrophes, and the protagonist does not gain phenomenal power in any sense. Instead of aiming for an epic feeling, the developer instead aimed for cosy. The result is that while player actions do have consequences, they tend to be of a local, familiar, or even personal scale, affecting who will talk to the player or whether or not a family stays together.
Though the scope of Eastshade is smaller than other open-world games like Skyrim, it nonetheless feels like a real place. Interestingly, exploration is wide open to the player right from the outset. Nothing is blocked off, and the game does not appear to provide any severe negative consequences to the player for wandering where they should not, since the game has no combat and the protagonist is only armed with a palette and paintbrush.
As a game about art and starring an artist, one would expect the graphics to be notable; that is certainly the case in Eastshade. Especially as a game comes from a small indie studio, the visuals are extremely impressive, showing depth and vibrancy.
The central mechanic revolves around capturing the more impressive of these graphics, with the artist character wielding their paintbrush to transform a view onto paint and canvas. This mechanic ends up being something of a disappointment, as all that is required of the player is to correctly line up the camera and hit a key, and the game obligingly creates the painting based on the view selected. Unfortunately, the mechanic is somewhat like taking an elaborate screenshot.
The main thrust of the game actually involved ‘finding inspiration’, which works on a type of points system that racks up as the player discovers now places. This system becomes in impetus for exploring the game world, though the beauty of the world encourages exploration all by itself.
In order to create these paintings, players will need materials in order to keep on painting, which brings in a the lightweight crafting mechanic. Most significantly, players will need to gather wood and cloth in order to make the canvas to paint on. The crafting also becomes useful in other ways.
Eastshade also features side quests for the player to complete, mostly in the form of anthropomorphised animals providing fairly simple fetch quests, often involving the crafting mechanic where painting is not directly involved. These side quests are typically small, domestic issues, adding further detail to the open world, though the characters themselves lack depth.
Thankfully, all of the game’s NPCs are fully voiced, adding a layer of realism to the world. The voice performances are good, with only very occasional hiccups of mediocrity. The game’s characters hint at deeper lore and history within the world, but this is rarely expanded upon, which can be frustrating to players hoping for more.
Eastshade‘s original soundtrack, composed by musician Phoenix Glendinning, is gorgeous. Every track is gentle and relaxing, and each note feels relaxing and entirely suited to the open world and tranquil gameplay.
The game suffered a few frame rate drops in areas with high graphical loads, and players may occasionally find themselves unable to move from awkward placements of scenery. However, besides these examples and a few minor graphical bugs, the game runs quite smoothly.
Eastshade takes roughly 20 hours to complete, including all side quests. However, once all the game’s quests have been completed, players are unlikely to find any reason to return to the game, which is a shame. The game is stunning and deserves to be revisited, and more hidden lore or secrets around the world could encourage players to spend more time turning over every stone.
Eastshade is transcendent. While the game may not be perfect for everyone, fans of RPGs and players looking for a relaxing video game will certainly want to check it out. The game’s gentle soundtrack and gorgeous visuals nicely accompany its detailed open world for a beautiful, chilled out experience.
Reviewed on PC.