Why I Am Hopelessly in Love With ‘Eastward’

It's so far beyond what I was hoping it would be

Key Takeaways

  • Eastward is an absolute gem of a game that does every single one of its influences justice.
  • It pulled me in right from the beginning, and even its minigame can make hours feel like minutes.
  • Just look at it! Listen to it!
A screenshot from 'Eastward.'

Eastward is that rare type of game that shot way past my initial expectations and has already lodged itself firmly in my heart.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen often, but I know everyone who plays video games has experienced it at least once. Where you play something that may not be perfect (because what is?) and won’t appeal to everyone, but it seems like it was made for you. Like the people who made it somehow tapped into your brain and knew exactly what you wanted before you did.

I knew I wanted to play Eastward when I saw a handful of screenshots, and I knew I had to play it once I watched the trailer. However, I was concerned that I’d built it up too much in my head, and it wouldn’t live up to my unrealistic expectations. Sure—stuff like that happens all the time. But thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

It didn’t just meet my expectations or even exceed them. Eastward shattered them like a centuries-old glass bottle being hit with a reinforced frying pan.

Comparing games to other games and forms of media is trite, I know, but it’s the quickest way to explain what I mean. Eastward feels like massive fans of Earthbound made their own version of The Legend of Zelda, then had Studio Ghibli create the art and music. I am in love with this game.

Right From the Start

The story does that thing I love where it just sort of drops you right into the middle of it. I don’t mean 'in medias res' so much as "nothing's explained and you have to learn as you go." The wordless (and gorgeous) intro does a fantastic job setting the stage, then boom—you’re in the thick of it. There is no awkward exposition and none of that hero with amnesia as an excuse to explain everything to you nonsense. Here’s the world, here are the characters, now go!

A screenshot from 'Eastward.'

Though I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I technically spent most of my first couple of hours in Eastward not playing it. You see, there’s this game within the game called Earth Born (which I’m sure isn’t a nod to Earthbound), and even though it’s basically a mini-game, it sucked me in. It’s a simple RPG-lite affair, but it also requires multiple attempts to finish, and you can buy items in the main game to augment this smaller one.

As enamored as I’ve been with the cute little side game, Eastward proper has been a heck of a ride so far. The undeniable Earthbound vibes did lead to some confusion once the combat started, as I sort of defaulted to expecting turn-based RPG fights, though. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. In fact, quite the opposite. It has a very distinct classic adventure game feel that I think I prefer over what I’d originally wanted.

It’s Also Stunning

Really though, it’s Eastward’s style that’s got me completely transfixed. Everything about this game’s presentation from the soundtrack to the visuals has been a delight. I wish I could highlight some of my favorite audio tracks but the trailer will have to suffice for now. It’s fantastic, right?

A screenshot from 'Eastward.'

As for how Eastward looks, well, I know art is subjective but this is one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen in quite a while. All of the colors are so vibrant, and the lighting effects do a stellar job of setting the mood or creating atmosphere. And the designs are incredible. Across the board, the characters, buildings, monsters, and environments are all amazing. There’s so much imagination on display here it almost makes me jealous.

I went into Eastward desperate to like it because I was instantly pulled in by its look, and it hasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Not just on the visual front, which as I’ve mentioned is incredible, but in all other aspects. I’ve been enjoying myself so thoroughly due to, well, everything about it.

I want to see and hear what’s next, find more hidden supply boxes, discover more cooking recipes, meet more characters, and smash more monsters with my frying pan. I want to find out where the story goes. And, of course, I need to beat Earth Born.

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