January 20, 2023

An Epic Journey - Ghostlore (Steam) Review

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An Epic Journey - Ghostlore (Steam) Review

By Joel | January 20, 2023
Enter the eerie and dangerous world of Southeast-Asian folklore, where you must fight to survive against monsters inspired by myths and legends.

Ghostlore, by indie developers Adam and Andrew Teo, doesn't reinvent the AARPG genre as I had hoped it would. But then again, it's probably the last thing I expected from a game with a title like this.

While Ghostlore is a gem to play, it falters somewhat, and not because of the design itself, but due in large part to its genre; the Hero must be good, the villains must be bad, the world needs saving, and as a result, there's no room for nuances or special endings. But one thing it manages to accomplish is that it still gives players one heck of an adrenaline rush.

A Ghost With A Past

The story starts of with our hero who must save his mentor from the clutches of evil. When you pan around the first level, everything is engulfed in flames; the houses, the fields, the entire landscape has been turned into a blazing inferno.

You navigate through the broken pathway where you encounter a few goblins and what appears to be zombie-like scarecrows. You dispose of them rather quickly with your default weapon, a rusty but effective sword. You locate and save your mentor and he, in turn, gives you a compass that creates a portal to which the two of you are magically transported back to the main kingdom.

The land where you start is an eerie splendor of islands separated by a current of water. All of this is rendered beautifully by solid use of effects and shows the dichotomy of the two locations: one, a harsh and foreboding dark realm, and the other, an enchanted fairyland reminiscent of the Mushroom Kingdom in the Super Mario games.

The main hub is where your adventure begins. Following traditional mechanics from games like Diablo and Titan's Quest, our hero speaks with characters who offer quests to open the story. In the first few levels, you are sent to a neighboring land where you must retrieve a valuable trinket and dispose of an evil threat.

In this forbidding land, nothing lives, and it is thick with the blackened bones of dead trees as if the forest fires have only charred the greenery, leaving only the golden hue of wheat stalks. There are no other humans here only a slew of monsters confronting our Hero in a dramatic stare-down.

Additional creatures appear only when needed, then disappear back into the thick brush making the pace deliberate which allows for the discretion of exploration. Unlike Diablo's bottom dwelling creatures, Ghostlore employs magical beasts from Far East folklore.

There are no trolls, or ghostly coffin creepers, only little goblins, sadistic pigs, and mysterious mummy-like creatures wrapped in swaths of white linen. The story never goes into details of what these things are, but I guess it was a good idea as players can use their own imaginations to figure out what they are and where they came from.

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost

The gameplay is etched in the traditional seek, explore, destroy, and bring back type missions, but the highlight of Ghostlore lies in its robust skill system. Here, you command extraordinary supernatural powers, including the ability to materialize a bird that can fight alongside you or shards of blood that can penetrate through flesh.

You can build up your abilities by picking up items called Glyphs, which impact passive and special traits through a Tetris-style format. Choose a glyph that you want, place it in your skill tree and add the enhancements in the pattern. It's a very simple idea but holds powerful potential.

Since I consider myself to be an old-school gamer, my favorite feature is the graphics. The levels are an enchanting fairyland set in a pixel retro world, which is a triumph of art direction and design. Detailed decorative tombs and urns scamper and gambol in tribute to a cemetery scene straight out of a horror movie.

The in-game characters themselves are nicely designed, pale-skinned sprites with old, but wise faces. The spirit of the land is embodied by a great aura with expressive eyes and horns that spread in awesome complexity. The wonderful ambiance helps keep players moving along just to see what the next levels might look like.

As for the rest, the musical score and sound effects are enjoyable, and the controls are pretty decent, although the WASD movement was lacking. You can try playing with a standard controller, just make sure you enable it in the options menu. On the flip side, if you want to play using keyboard and mouse only, make sure to untick the box for controller, or else the entire screen goes wonky.

Next Level ARPG

Overall, Ghostlore offers a well-done gaming experience, but I can't help but wonder that somewhere deep is a much more broader game where greater complexity for the characters and quests development can be made.

But considering I walked into this expecting very little complexity at all, at least from the trailers and screenshots I've seen, I'm surprised by the positive experience. While Ghostlore may have a few shortcomings, it truly is a hidden gem.

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