Been playing Eastshade
recently and I've really been enjoying it. It's a very relaxing and serene experience that is incredible to look at, and is a lot of fun to explore. It's one of these experiences I wouldn't necessarily qualifies as a "game", as there isn't really any skill being taught or tested here, but it still provides a lot to engage with, and gives you an impressive open world that you are free to explore around and find quests to complete and stories to uncover, as you make your way around meeting people as a travelling artist. The thing that drew me to this originally is how it seemed to be giving off strong Oblivion vibes with its world and mood. It certainly delivers that in spades, but not without its own personality too. But it's similar in that it gives you this idyllic and lush countryside to get lost in, full of life and greenery, and a soothing and peaceful soundtrack that lulls you in to a feeling of bliss. The environments are incredibly detailed, and expertly arranged where it seems like they somehow planned the entire world out to look fantastic from any angle. It certainly helps with making paintings too, as it's almost impossible to not find a really good composition for anything. It's even similar to Oblivion in some of the jank it has too, with some stiffly animated characters and occasional silly looking visual bugs. So in a way it feels like what Oblivion would be like if they had much more horsepower to work with, and a much smaller world to focus their attentions on.
But it has its own twist in that it has something of an Asian/Eastern flair to it. The way the characters dress and the architecture of buildings have hints of the kinds of things you might see in the middle or far east. The main city of Nava in particular is very impressive with its central library that looks like a huge temple. Also all the characters are anthropomorphised animals of some sort. They look a bit strange, going for very human like bodies but with semi-realistic animal heads, but it helps the game feel like it has an exotic vibe that I really like. It also probably helps hide that the modelling and animation on them is pretty iffy. I imagine it would look a lot more jarring if they tried to make them look like actual humans. But they are good characters. There's dozens to interact with, all fully voiced, and they all have some quirky trait to them that makes meeting someone new always a fun time. There's a lot of charming sidequests and stories to go through with these characters too. One of my favourite so far being playing matchmaking for a pair of very nice bear ladies. A few times they give you an option to back out of it and not set them up, but the lines are written in an amusingly sardonic way that I'm sure was meant to poke fun at people who object to the idea of the quest. Like one line you could choose being "No, love is disgusting", but I got a chuckle out of seeing what point they were obviously making with that.
There are a few little issues though, but most of them haven't really been a big deal. It runs pretty terribly. They do pack a lot of stuff on screen, but I don't think it's enough to have it run anywhere near as bad as it does. The default walk speed is very slow, and when you start off things can feel pretty restrictive. At first the walk speed is acceptable, but you're stuck like that for quite a while. As you play more you unlock various ways to speed up navigation and get more resources, so it stops being a problem. It probably takes a little bit too long to get there though. There are also a few little quality of life/streamlining issues too that make it feel like this was designed by someone who wasn't really a game designer. The UI is a bit fiddly, and it does weird things like requiring you to manually place down and pick up your bike every time you use it. I can see someone accidentally leaving it somewhere in the world and forgetting where it is.
But despite the issues I'm still liking it a lot. It does scratch that itch that Oblivion did so well when exploring around Cyrodiil listening to Jeremy Soule for hours, but at the same time it feels very unique and different.
A handful of the many screenshots I've been taking as I've been playing:
- Spoiler: show