Game

Eastshade review

Eastshade is a first-person adventure/exploration game developed by Eastshade Studios. You play as a traveling painter who visits the island of Eastshade and searches for places his mother loves when she visits.

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Eastshade review

Your journey begins in the hold of a ship. As a traveling artist, you fulfill your mother’s last wish to paint four hard-to-reach places in the eponymous district of Eastshade. While chatting with other passengers, you are startled by a strangely ominous roar and the ship begins to fill with water. You try to escape but everything goes dark…until you wake up in a cave next to a beach.

You somehow managed to survive but lost everything except the easel that brought you ashore. As you continue, you’ll find yourself utterly fascinated by this world’s beautiful, captivatingly expansive surroundings and distinctive inhabitants – each with a story to tell, a dilemma to solve, or a problem to avoid. As you explore, craft and paint your way through Eastshade, you will have left an indelible mark on this fascinating world, large and small, and not just in the artworks you produce, but in the lives that have changed.

Eastshade gameplay

Although painting is your motivation for coming to Eastshade, you quickly find yourself looking for additional pursuits. The strange inhabitants of the land – anthropomorphic creatures of deer, bears, birds and monkeys – sometimes appreciate your creations, but often need other kinds of goodies or help. Fulfilling these missions involves playing games with RPG-like elements, but there is no violence and only one action sequence. Instead, the emphasis is on seeking specific landscapes to paint, helping or hindering various individuals, and learning more about the unique history of the area.

The characters are professionally voiced and gently animated when you talk to them. Conversations are short and full of options that at times have long-term consequences, but you usually don’t realize this until later in the game. You don’t spend a lot of time with one particular character, but each personality is often memorable, such as the friendly park ranger, the indecisive fortune teller, the grieving ship captain, and the slug-eating raft dude.

When you’re done, you’ll fall in love with Eastshade’s lands and cultures, just as your mother expected. You will also have rescued members of an archaeological expedition, decided to protect or uncover a mysterious cult, and wander through uncharted caves in the company of a long lost tribe. Exciting uncertainties arise when you interact with those you meet: credibility versus deception, disappointments, the influence of religious fervor, the usefulness of scientific testing, the brutal effects of gossip, and the pros and cons of unusually strong tea.

The inventory system is logical and easy to use. Clicking the “Tab” button and then the backpack symbol brings up the inventory screen where you can see all the items you have collected in one screen or click on a bookmark that shows you the most important categories: equipment, drinks and books. On the right side of the screen is an icon showing a drawing of every currently craftable object, such as camping equipment and floating vehicles, and letting you know how much of each resource you need to craft it. Brew tea includes a separate simple interface.

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Here are some items that you can’t craft but have to buy from shops and stands in Nava. You can earn glowstones through painting commissions, helping the local gardener, or completing quests or selling things you’ve already acquired. You will also learn to fish and boat. It’s easy to steer, but while it’s fun once you master it, fishing isn’t intuitive.

Drawing a picture is quite simple. Once you’ve created a canvas, click on it, drag the mouse to frame the scene, then press a button and the finished work goes to the painting section of your inventory. A particular screen displays icons for the four scenes your mom wanted. If you’ve managed to paint one of her favorites – or if the painting otherwise fulfills a task or advances the story – an on-screen message will note your success. You can always reuse the canvas if you paint a scene that doesn’t trigger an affirmation, but painting a scene or two just for your own pleasure produces a kind of re-effect when exiting Eastshade.

A game log lists many of your missions. Fair examples include helping an injured water fox, gifting a new canvas to an aspiring child artist, discovering the source of jungle drum sounds, and advocating for hot air balloon rides. When you make partial progress, a star appears next to the title of that task with a brief description of how the task was progressed or updated. This is a useful tool because you can multi-task simultaneously.

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Eastshade graphics and sound

The art style in Eastshade is similar to the previous game in the series, Leaving Lyndow, but even more spectacular. Slopes, valleys and meadows are literally covered with flowering plants (the soil here must be extra fertile). Leafy forests give way to magnificent waterfalls, vast reed beaches, and towering snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Much of the original town we saw in the prequel (now called Old Lyndow) was destroyed by a mudslide a few years ago. Still, some buildings in the newly built Lyndow will look familiar, with their stonework, sinuous details and curtained glass windows.

Elsewhere, the main Nava city boasts elegant round towers, giant arches, a terraced garden, and golden domes. The interiors are rustic, with wooden floors and handmade pot and dish racks, but the inns are more curious, sporting intricate tapestries and decorative walls. Occasionally you stumble upon a book with a page or two open that gives historical details, and a bard at The Tarnished Teapot Inn dramatizes episodes from the afterlife of Leaving Lyndow’s heroine, Clara.

Delicate woodwinds, strings, and choral tones playing in the background give Eastshade a fresh, new-world feel. Sometimes the music is like a bagpipe, other times it has a syncopated rhythm or a Middle Eastern sound. In the countryside, you hear river currents ripple as you observe the sunlight reflecting on them. The trees sway gently in the breeze and the butterflies flutter beside the flowers. You can watch the waves whistling on the beach and listen to the seagulls turning and crying. In town environments, characters wander, go about their business, or stand in chatting groups.

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