Folklore – A Dark and Wonderful Fairy Tail

Folklore is a game that you probably haven’t heard of and I wouldn’t be surprised. It didn’t do very well but it was one I kept hearing about over the years. What drew me to it most though was the fact that it was an RPG based in Ireland, with a heavy focus on Irish mythology. That’s something you don’t see a lot of in games or any kind of mainstream media, apart from the odd appearance in Persona or Final Fantasy strangely enough.

As an Irish person and enjoyer of mythology in general, I was somewhat biased towards this game before starting it. But of course surface level charm is not enough to keep me engaged in a game and Folklore has so much more going for it.

Its story begins with a girl called Ellen visiting the village of Doolin after having received a letter from her dead mother. At the same time, Keats, the author of an occult magazine gets a call from someone in the village saying she needs help. They arrive together to find an elderly woman on the edge off a cliff, which she promptly throws herself off. Ellen and Keats find the woman’s daughter and that night, a ghostly voice calls Ellen to the local pub, which is populated with mythological creatures.

Afterwards, Ellen is lead to a henge in the village by a scarecrow and is given the title of Messenger, allowing her to travel between the real world and the Netherworld, or the afterlife. Later on Keats is also given this ability.

Having the main characters able to travel to the world of the dead allows the story to do some interesting things. Each chapter is basically about trying to discover what happened in Ellen’s past and the villagers’ past. The first visit to the Netherworld results in Ellen meeting the woman from the cliff and finding out that some mysterious thing happened in Doolin 17 years ago and it may involve her mother.

From then on, the chapters are split between Keats and Ellen and each one involves visiting some different part of the Netherworld to meet with different dead people, all of whom have ties to the villagers in the real world, and unraveling the mysteries of the village. On top of that there’s also a Faery Lord and an ancient witch battling for control of the realms. The story as a whole is really well paced. Each chapter ends with a reveal and a cliffhanger of some sort.

But more than that, they each act as their own self contained stories. Naturally there’s a recurring theme throughout the game of dealing with mortality and death, whether its a character’s own death or the death of a loved one. Each chapter manages to keep the over arching plot moving while also telling an emotional and relatable story about the villagers of Doolin.

The story is also presented in an interesting way. There are very few full motion cutscenes in the game so most of the dialogue is presented in sort of comic book cutscenes. They’re mostly still images with text boxes. It sounds basic but the way it’s presented visually and with the musical accompaniment really makes it work. It’s got this sort of low budget charm but it’s also still aesthetically pleasing.

Folkore as a whole, is aesthetically pleasing actually. Despite being a PS3 game it holds up very well visually. Character models are quite well detailed and the village of Doolin is suitably realistic. Where the visuals really shine are in the Netherworld though. Even the pub where the Netherworld beings dwell at night has this undeniable coziness that comes from the warm colours and low volume traditional Irish music.

The Bug-a-Boo, with a look that says “I might kill you if you come any closer… maybe.”

My absolute favorite thing about this game’s visuals is the creature designs. They’re mostly inspired by Irish mythology but with a bit of a twist. The beings of the Netherworld, called Folk, are dark and colorful at the same. They’ve got this really unique look that makes them stand out. They’re horrifying but still kind of cute sometimes. I mean look at the Bug-a-boo. He’s so fluffy and kinda goofy looking but then he turns his fur into spikes and impales you with them.

Or he can impale other Folk. It’s about time I talked about the actual gameplay of Folklore. It plays like an action RPG with real time combat. Keats and Ellen don’t have any attacks of their own, rather they can capture Folks and use them in battle. One thing I really like about this system is that the Folk don’t just give the character abilities to use, but they actually summon them to attack or defend for them.

For example, the Pouke lets you do quick melee attacks so when you press attack he’ll appear in of Ellen swinging his spear. Some larger monsters will have longer and slower attacks but because they’re physically there, it means Ellen or Keats can use the Folk creatures as shields and move away to a better position as they attack or even get some quicker attacks off with other Folk while they’re doing their thing. This physicality really adds to the feeling that they’re fighting alongside you in battle, which I feel really adds a layer of immersion. They’re not just attacks and abilities, but living things you’re interacting with

Another great thing is that there’s such a wide variety of them too. There are 5 different realms in the Netherworld and each has their own flavor, which influences the Folk within. The Faery realm Folk are all fantastical beings while those in Warcadia, a realm built from deaths in wars in the real world, are all goblinoid soldiers with firearms or hulking biomechanical war machines.

This variety does a lot to keep the gameplay interesting throughout. The game as a whole is really well paced. Folk can all be leveled up several times and in different ways. Sometimes you’ll need a certain number of specific items, you’ll have to defeat a certain number of other Folk or whatever but they never take so long that it feels like grinding. Folklore took me about 14 hours to complete and I only remember one instance of grinding and it was only for about ten minutes.

Overall, Folklore is just a great game. Its charm drew me in at the start but it was the story telling and varied gameplay that kept me coming back for more. If you’re a fan of murder mystery stories, mythology of any kind and action gameplay with light RPG elements then I can’t recommend Folklore enough. It’s such a shame this game didn’t see much success because the developers really did a great job with it.

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