FOLKLORE-Box-Art.jpgFolklore is a game that caught my attention a number of years back, but I never really gave it a fair chance, as every time I picked it up to play it, shortly after something else came out (or up) and I never had a chance to do much in it. This time, however, I finally gave it my all and completed it, despite really wanting to take a crack at the Bioshock Collection.

Folklore was a game that came out shortly after the PS3’s launch, and after a mere year, copies of the game stopped being manufactured (or so I’ve heard). As a result, Folklore faded into a quiet obscurity. Folklore became folklore. Which is a shame, because Folklore is a fantastic game with some really neat ideas.

Folklore is an action game, with a few RPG elements, restricted mainly to experience and ranking up. Throw in equal parts action, Pokemon, Alice in Wonderland, and a dash of murder mystery, and you’ve got what Folklore is all about, roughly.

One day, two characters are called to the mysterious island town of Doolin. Ellen, a quiet girl with missing memories receives a letter from her mother who has been dead, claiming to want to meet her in Doolin. Keats, a writer for a paranormal magazine, gets a mysterious phone call asking for his assistance in Doolin. Folklore is played in chapters, so after each chapter, you’ll return to character select and decide whether you want to play with Ellen or Keats, leading up into the final chapters, which require you to beat all of the chapters with both characters. It’s best to alternate chapters between the two, as some story bits are presented the best way then. The story is interesting enough to keep you going, but really ramps up near the end when the loose ties start coming together. In total, I did about 16 hours of play, which I think is adequate. Unfortunately, once you do the story and the quests, there is little left to do, and the story does a bad job of letting you go back once in the final area. My final save is probably about a half-hour of play before the end, but you can’t really go back after that area.

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Absorbing Folks’ Ids are the best way to power up.

When the characters arrive in Doolin, Ellen’s mom is dead, waiting for her on a cliffside, which she soon falls off of. However, Doolin seems to have a mysterious Stonehenge style object that enables certain people the ability to meet with the dead, provided they have a memento of the deceased. This enables Ellen and Keats to travel to the Netherworld, the place where souls go to rest after death. Here is where the meat of the game kicks in, as you’ll find Folks, little monsters created from the thoughts and feelings of the dead, and you’ll have to fight them with other Folks that you’ve captured. You start with two Folks and you can map them to any of the four face buttons. For example, one Folk will enable you to have a combo attack, one may give you a shield, and another may be a ranged attack, so a healthy composition of your Folks is essential, but the ability to change them on the fly is really nice and allows for things to flow smoothly. If you hit a Folk’s weak spot, a blue shadow will fly out of them, called an Id. Continuous hits on the weak spot causes the Id to turn red, giving you the ability to absorb that Folk’s Id and use them in combat. To absorb an Id, you have to flick upwards on the DualShock 3, and stronger Folks require different methods of absorption using the DualShock 3’s built in motion control, from shaking, to waving the thing around like a madman. The DualShock 3’s controls are a really nice touch. They simultaneously feel like they enhance the gameplay while also not feeling like they were just “tacked on” or just there for a neat gimmick. Throughout your travels in the Netherworld, you’ll find storybook pages which give you an insight on what Folks’ weaknesses are, including the boss of each area, the powerful Folklore. Each Folklore is a Legend of Zelda style fight with multiple parts, requiring the effective use of 3 or 4 folks to defeat it.

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A good third of Folklore is exploring the island of Doolin.

Which brings me to my next point, the art design. The art direction in this game is amazing! There are 6 different worlds you’ll traverse in the Netherworld, plus the overworld, Doolin, and each one is designed brilliantly. The first area you visit, the Faery Realm, is beautiful, and straight out of (an admittedly more tame version of) Alice in Wonderland, complete with fantastic creatures and foliage. Each area is beautifully designed from the underwater area to the war wracked realm where an endless war cycles on. Doolin contrasts with these fantastic realms really well, with a sort of dreary yet beautiful island town. The lore behind each world is really interesting and don’t even get me started on the characters, Folks, and Folklores… These are some of the coolest, weirdest, and most interesting characters I’ve seen in a game in a while. Some look straight out of fairy tales, while others, I can’t even describe. After a while, sure, sometimes you’re faced with a palette swap, and many Folks have similar uses, but they all fit really nicely into their designed worlds. If absolutely nothing else, play Folklore for its amazing art direction.

The actual level design isn’t too terribly great, though. There are a few puzzles here and there, most of which late in the game, but most of the time, you’re just getting from point A to point B, and exploring is only minimally rewarding. The gameplay, art design, and story are the real gems here.

The basic flow of each chapter starts you in town as you gather clues and information until you find a memento, then you can use it to open up a realm of the Netherworld, then you progress until you defeat the Folklore, the boss of the realm. There are also a couple of quests you can do for extra materials used to strengthen your Folks or even unlock rare Folks that aren’t found in any of the realms. Each Folk has a number of upgrades, for example a close range Folk may acquire more hits to its combo upon leveling up. Leveling up your Folks usually requires either using materials, randomly dropped from enemy Folks, absorbing multiple of that Folk’s Id, or by defeating a certain Folk with that Folk. There is a lot of Folks to collect and upgrades to get, making for some fun personal challenges for yourself.

The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Fun ideas and gameplay concepts.
  • Beautiful art and character design.
  • A fitting soundtrack.
  • Great story that really ramps up at the end.

Cons

  • Little replayability; a once and done kind of game.
  • Linear and unimaginative level design.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Folklore is a fantastic game that I would easily put on a list of “forgotten gems”. I wish there were more to do once you’re done, outside of the several DLC add on packs, but, what can you do? This is sadly a franchise we’ll probably never see again, but I’m really glad I got to see it at all.