Folklore is Game Republic’s second PlayStation 3 title, after the sadly over exposed follow up to Genji which was always going to suffer after being the target of one too many E3 memes. Thankfully, Folklore has flown lower under the radar for most of its gestation, and is a much fresher, confident game than Days of the Blade with a stronger storyline, better production values and some gorgeous graphics.
At the start of the tale the player is treated to the first of many multi-styled cut-scenes introducing the two principal (and playable) characters in the story: Ellen, a young, troubled female called to the village of Doolin via a letter from her dead mother, and Keats, an older male journalist with a far more controlled attitude, investigating a phone call. The two meet early and just in time to witness a third character fall from a cliff to her death, and so starts a deep mystery which wraps around not only Ellen and Keats but also a number of others, taking place not only in Doolin but also within the Netherworld of the dead.
Gamers who prefer their adventures neatly segmented into chunks will be delighted with the way Folklore is played: over seven chapters you must take both characters (separately) through both the village portion, in which you’ll be looking for clues and a way to the second portion of each chapter – the Netherworld. During the day Doolin is lightly populated with an scattering of humans who you’ll need to converse with to help you solve the mysteries, but when night falls the dead literally walk the earth, and whilst you’ll travel to the same locations the characters are completely different under shadow.
Each chapter also includes a trip to the aforementioned realms, assuming you’ve fulfilled any set tasks presented during the village portion and it’s here where Folklore really makes its mark, changing from an adventure game into a free-roaming creature-based battle system, with the eponymous Folks your ever expanding arsenal. Your first two Folks are provided via a brief cut-scene, but from there on it’s up to you to assign them to the face buttons and use their various abilities to fight the native beasts that inhabit the particular region of the Netherworld you’re currently in. The catch being that every creature leaves their id behind once defeated, and the capturing of said aura (with a few gestures on the Sixaxis) unlocks that particular Folk for use by your character.
It’s a tiny bit like Pokemon, if you can make the mental leap; and with the various elements that each Folk will be assigned to, and the focus on creating a balanced range of upgradeable Folks there are numerous similarities to the Nintendo series. Each adventure in the dead world will ultimately conclude with a boss battle which will normally require a specific selection of Folks to defeat, and then you’ll be back in Doolin ready for the next chapter. You are free to tackle the levels with either character for the first five chapters, but towards the end of the game you’ll be required to have reached a certain stage with both, so we’d suggest alternating between Keats and Ellen at the end of each level – there’s some repetition (as the Netherworld sections are essentially the same for both, although the Folks are different) but the story lines overlap better this way, and you’ll get more out of the story. With subtle differences between the characters not quite enough to justify the additional playthrough of each level (including the boss) there’s enough of the collect-them-all vein that runs through each beautiful Netherworld section to just about make it worthwhile.
Visually Folklore can be stunning – the art style is mesmorising and consistent, the animation is fluid and the creature designs, cut-scenes and the multitude of ‘next-gen’ aesthetics all play a part in keeping the player within the spell of the game. The sound design is equally brilliant, with a haunting soundtrack and a well-acted script which was survived the translation to English surprisingly well. Sure, it’s all a bit film-noir but it’s meant to be and the detective aspect of the story filtering through to the presentation is welcome. The visuals run at 720p and the game supports 7.1 surround sound.
The key to Folklore’s quality is that the game is endlessly rewarding – there’s a constant supply of new Folks, quests and the ever evolving story is as good as it gets in video games; there isn’t a stage in the game that we didn’t enjoy playing through, and the difficulty curve is perfectly balanced. It’ll take you a good 15 hours to complete the main story, but the side quests and downloadable extras (via the Store) expand the game somewhat, and completists looking to collect each and every last Folk will probably end up doubling the total playtime. This is a great adventure game that really does deserve to be experienced – don’t miss out on Folklore.