Sony’s atmospheric new fantasy game “Folklore” attempts to balance deep exploration with fast-paced action but doesn’t come together into a coherent whole. While it features a distinctive art style, deep plot and unique game-play elements, “Folklore” is a disjointed experience that will likely draw only a niche group of fans to the PlayStation 3, for which Sony made the game exclusively.
The game centers on a set of entwined stories concerning a mysterious event in a remote village that led to a number of deaths years earlier. The game has players unravel the mystery in the form of two different characters: a young woman trying to find out more about her mother and a writer for an occult magazine.
Instead of just feeding the storyline to the readers, the plot is dispensed piecemeal through conversations with the living and dead members of the village. This is a great way to keep gamers entranced but also leads to quite a bit of repetition as players are forced to go through many of the same steps as both characters.
While a chunk of the plot is discovered roaming around the small village, most of the game play takes place in the realms of the faeries.
In these realms, the feel of the game shifts quite dramatically, turning it into something less like a straightforward role-playing title and more like an action game.
Players need to defeat faeries and then capture their souls using the controller’s motion sensing to shake, twist and yank the souls free from their bodies. Once a soul is captured, it can be assigned to one of four buttons for use as an attack. The game features more than 100 creatures, characters and monsters, giving “Folklore” a “Pokemon”-for-adults feel at times.
The faerie realms have a fast-paced action feel that contrasts sharply with the often-plodding exploration in the village. Either could work on its own, but they don’t mesh together well and make for a bipolar experience.
The artistic direction and graphical quality are excellent, serving to cement “Folklore’s” otherworldly feel.
The stylized graphics also play out well in some of the pre-animated cut scenes, but tragically, the game switches to a static, comicbook-like delivery for other cut scenes. This style is so out of sync with the rest of the art direction that it feels more like a cost- or space-saving measure than a purposeful decision.
Regardless of the reason, they highlight the problem with “Folklore”: It’s an often fantastic journey sorely lacking in consistency.