Folks & Ids & Fairy’s Oh My
Folklore tells the tale of Doolin Village, both in the present and seventeen years ago on a particular day when many mysterious and sorrowful events occurred. As the player, you will control two protagonists, Ellen and Keats. You can switch between the two characters at the end of each chapter throughout nearly the entire story, and I do recommend doing this because it provides the most insight to this complicated, but intriguing story. Speaking of the story, I would argue that it’s mostly a strong point of Folklore, but it also is a weakness. The reason being is the story is really quite confusing and convoluted, and by the end of the game I was still confused about some of the ideas presented and about what exactly happened to who and why. I think the story could have been more effectively told if there were more full blown cutscenes and more explanations in parts. There are in fact many cutscenes, but most are text driven, comic book style ones that, while in themselves I find nothing wrong with, can make an already confusing story harder to follow over the course of playing through the game.Ultimately, even though I don’t necessarily get every aspect of the story, it was still a much more interesting and satisfying tale than most games I have played.
Getting that next clue to the mystery and unlocking more secrets about the heinous events of seventeen years ago and in the present kept me playing for many hours at a time. The gameplay mechanics including the controls, style of play, health system, etc., are for the most part, very nicely done. I think my biggest issue with playing through Folklore, besides struggling to completely understand the story, was in how Folklore handles save spots. There are no checkpoints, just save spots, and towards the end this gets frustrating, especially when battling longer, tougher boss battles. The reasons include having to battle through the same enemies over and over (in some cases you can actually run past them, but usually not) just to get back to said boss to try again. In comparison, take a game like Uncharted, which I just recently completed, and the way Naughty Dog handled checkpoints. Checkpoints in Uncharted come silently and often, and for me that opens up the game a lot to experimentation and it definitely keeps it fun. With Folklore, exploration and roaming about isn’t encouraged because everytime you leave a ‘room’ or area and come back, guess what, every enemy you just defeated is there again and again. While you can build up Keat’s Transcendental power meter with this and earn experience and unlock Karma (something I will get to shortly) by engaging in these repeat battles, I just found them annoying. The Genji games, also created by Game Republic also has this issue, although I am a huge fan of both Genji games, too.
So despite those issues, which are considerable but certainly not deal breakers in and of themselves, Folklore is a very enjoyable game to play. I found that there is actually quite a bit more strategy and RPG elements than I expected, too. Before explaining that and other aspects of Folklore however, you need to understand that your character doesn’t actually do battle themselves—they call upon the Folks they have absorbed to battle for them. You can assign four Folks at a time by accessing the Folk Palette. Each Folk is assigned to one of the four face buttons and they are invoked simply by pressing (and in some cases holding for more power) these buttons. Each Folk takes away some amount of your Mind Capacity, which is basically your Mana or energy, separate from your health. It fills up automatically after a few seconds, but it’s timed in such a way that you cannot constantly call on Folks back to back without pausing for a few seconds.