Stop, smell the flowers, and make friends with bear people.

Title: Eastshade
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Developer: Eastshade Studios
Publisher: Eastshade Studios
Price: £19.50/$25.00
Release date: Out now
TL;DR: Like you’ve blended Oblivion and Animal Crossing.
Family Focus? Click here for more information

Everything is just too damn hectic these days. So many games are constantly pushing you towards a reward or objective, hustling you from goal to goal with no time to breathe. In a world where so many games are focused around the number of goals you can score or mooks you can kill, it’s rare you get something you can actually relax with. Eastshade, however, is just that – a sprawling, colourful landscape where you wander around, paint some pictures and make some friends. There’s no real “plot,” per se – you’re a travelling artist, coming to town after your mother’s death, honouring her wish to visit, paint some of the town, and because you’re a good citizen, you help a few people out along the way.

It’s not entirely accurate to call Eastshade a walking simulator, an RPG, or something heavily focused on crafting and inventory management – it’s a mixture of all three. Exploration is heavily encouraged, and the quests, while basic, are primarily around fetching things for people, painting, or collecting stuff together to craft with. The bulk of the main quests revolve around painting specific things for the various inhabitants of Eastshade, and this is governed by the inspiration meter – and if you ain’t inspired, you can’t paint. There isn’t any grinding or specific quests you need to do to become inspired again; instead, you need to stop and relax. Read some books, listen to a storyteller, or explore the quiet beauty of Eastshade, because the game actively rewards you for exploring by recharging your inspiration. A genius move, because if you could farm inspiration, people would 100% stick to the main town and miss half the content, so instead, the game encourages you to take a break, recharge, and go out to see the world.

This game is an absolute treat for the senses – and it’s a shame I can’t smell the glades of flowers that surround Eastshade. The environments have a soft fantasy vibe, lit by blazing sunlight and a vibrant sky, only occasionally marred by the blood red eclipse that happens during the day. It’s a well-developed world that feels alive, with a ton of attention to detail in the buildings, the clothes on the NPCs, and the peaceful, rolling beaches and the waves that crash on the shore. The background music is sublime, and the entire game emits an extraordinary sense of peace and serenity. The NPCs are all varied and voiced incredibly well (seriously, much, much better than I was expecting), and although owl, bear, and deer people may look a little strange at first, they all stand out. You remember them after you’ve stumbled across their little house in the woods.

That being said, whilst the game is lovely to explore, it’s not without its tribulations. You’re very much left to figure things out on your own – and indeed, while the whole point of the game is to explore and discover, you do end up wandering aimlessly and guessing what you need to do at times. This goes for some of the mechanics as well. I didn’t know there was a run button until I stumbled upon someone mentioning it on the Steam forums, and you can’t go outside without a coat on (or drinking something purchased from the inn), but money is in short supply, and you don’t get this coat until the next big city. Also, while it encourages you to wander around at your own pace, the restrictions on traversable terrain and useless jump button make it hard to explore without getting stuck on something, so you eventually give up and go the long, official way round on the path. However, these are pretty minor things, and considering the developers are very active on Steam and have published a full walkthrough, pinned to the Steam forum, I can’t say I have too many gripes with it.

There are, though, a lot of issues with frame rate. I was playing on an i7 laptop, with the graphics setting on the lowest one possible (still looking gorgeous, mind you!), and a lot of the time, it was taking forever to get anywhere and a lot of lag. While this isn’t a total dealbreaker, it’s definite drawback, but even at a slow pace, I’d happily recommend Eastshade. It envokes a rare sense of peace I haven’t found in games for a long time, and actually reminds me of my beloved Beyond Good and Evil. While the pace can feel a little meandering and slow at times, if you’re willing to sink the time into it, it’ll surely pay off. Definitely go and give it a try.

The Good

  • Calm and serenity, encapsulated in one game
  • Beautifully detailed lore and fleshed out world
  • Gorgeous soundtrack

The Bad

  • Lots of issues with framerate

Family Focus

Eastshade is as of yet unrated by PEGI and ESRB. I would say it’s fine for children 12 and up, since there’s a plotline that can end in suicide and mentions of physical child abuse.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.