"In all, Earth Awakening is something every RPG fan who has not liked anything since Morrowind should give a crack at; it is a depthy, creative and exciting universe that highlights the great things about non-linear gameplay and AI companions, only to be let down by a pointless multiplayer."
Earth Awakening takes place several years following the conclusion of the original. Much like its predecessor and peers in the genre, this stand-alone add on/expansion pits the player against hundreds of monsters to save the magical kingdom (Nelwïë) from an ancient evil through the use of swords and sorcery. Nothing about the game concept screams originality and will basically offer the same experience as any other RPG for the 25 hours of playing time; although Earth Awakening does offer up some novel aspects that will appeal to gamers even from outside the series.
Upon starting a new game, I’m greeted with the typical ‘character customisation’ screen; four races to choose from (Including two new races; cliché powerful, axe-wielding and beer-drinking Dwarves and the mysterious, quite ugly-looking Saurian), each culture sporting their own positives and negatives. Due to the restrictive range of species, however, it is pretty clear to pick out which is more suited to your playstyle. For example, I opted for the obviously melee-inclined Dwarves; kings of the hack and slash gameplay that the Silverfall series sports. A few clicks later and I’m onto adjusting mini-me’s facial hair through sliders and buffing his stats up to ‘meatshield’ levels. By the time I enter the game, Ronaldo McDrunkald* is perfected down to every last detail (even his name!); kudos on the customisation front, Earth Awakening.
Thankfully, this level of control over your character’s statistics is kept as you venture through the game; McDrunkald was never stuck in one class or profession and whilst I preferred to play some axe-totting barbarian, I could have theoretically had my Dwarf learn the power to raise the dead without being punished for a choice I made at game startup. Unfortunately, this also detracts from the replayability of the title; as if one character can learn and do everything, then what’s the point in starting a new one?
Wandering around the world is an experience in itself. Earth Awakening’s environments are as beautiful and varied as they get; you really do have a fantasy universe at your fingertips and veterans of Silverfall will be just as impressed as the newcomers. The many environments are beautifully realised; from huge volcanoes to Steampunk zeppelin cities. A huge effort has been put into making the surroundings interesting and interactive as possible and a curious player can spend hours simply exploring the map.
When you’re not simply cruising around, ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ing at the sights, there is also an option to build up a typical RPG team of friends to join you on your quest. Each companion that you befriend comes with their own story and abilities; both of which are handily made accessible by optional quests so their backgrounds are slowly revealed to the player. This is another refreshing change from strangers simply imparting their life story on you at the slightest questioning; I actually wanted to find out where my mates had come from and why they were helping me. In addition to digging up some dirty secrets on your comrades, questing for them also makes your new friends like you more, even to the extent that – stop the pressers FOX News! – they can become your lover. Remember that all of this is completely optional, however and most of the side-plots have nothing to do with the main story; but this simple change of pace can go a long way once you get bored with clearing out Dungeon #37 in search of Mystical Stone #4; as would be the case in most other RPGs.
There are parts where the genre stereotype is broken in Earth Awakening and it works out worse for the game design: The multiplayer mode is definitely tacked-on. Despite the ability to play co-operatively with someone online, the communication system is frustratingly laggy and bugged, playing with the aforementioned AI allies is actually preferable. Furthermore, the ‘versus’ gametype offers little more than an experience uncannily comparable to the likes of a World of Warcraft arena grind. Again, the constant disconnects between all of my playing buddies made PVP annoying and pointless: Earth Awakening is a definitely single-player game, so why bother messing around with attaching a broken online mode? Oblivion succeed without, after all.
In all, Earth Awakening is something every RPG fan who has not liked anything since Morrowind should give a crack at; it is a depthy, creative and exciting universe that highlights the great things about non-linear gameplay and AI companions, only to be let down by a pointless multiplayer.
*What? It's better than Stouty McBeardface!
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (September 05, 2008)
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