Eastshade is the follow-up game to Leaving Lyndow, the first game developed by Eastshade Studios and a continuation of that world. Eastshade is a word that encompasses many things: the studio that created it, the island inside the world that company has created, and a game that focuses on exploration and RPG elements without ever swinging a sword. Instead, the player wields an easel and paints, traversing a scenic island and interacting with its denizens to discover what makes it so magical.
I previewed Eastshade at PAX, and if you read what I had to say about it then, you’ll know I had high hopes for the game. I went into my first playthrough a little nervous that the game wouldn’t live up to all I knew it could be. Thankfully, those nerves were unjustified, and I found them calmed by one of the many cups of tea I drank while relaxing in the little town of Lyndow.
The mechanics of the game start fairly simple. You need materials to make canvases, and you need inspiration, gained from seeing beautiful things (and drinking tea, of course) to paint on them. As you interact with the different quests, you gain mechanics for some simple crafting that allows you to fast travel and survive the cold nights without a bed. It’s fairly intuitive, with the possible exception of the fishing, depending on whether or not you’re smarter than me.
Eastshade’s most striking attributes are its graphics. This is as it should be: the story follows a first-person traveler who’s arrived in Eastshade to follow their mother’s wishes and paint the most beautiful parts of the island. There is no fighting and the forward motion is driven by exploration. It’s only fitting that the scenery is the most stunning part of the game, and stunning it is.
Throughout my roughly fifteen hour playthrough, I wandered Eastshade with real happiness at every turn, seeing gorgeous vistas that reflected incredibly diverse parts of the world. I could use any number of adjectives to describe the world of Eastshade, but to sum it all up, it was hands down my favorite part of a game that already delighted me at every turn. I often ran out of inspiration trying to paint all the places I’d seen, and can only imagine my character lugging fifteen paintings around in their backpack.
There are many quests that facilitate the exploration of the world, so it’s not totally throwing you into the leafy, green universe of Eastshade. Some are simple contracts of people asking you to paint things for them, but the vast majority of them have you engage with the characters of the world in interesting ways. There are RPG elements in play, as you can shape the lives around you with your choices, and while all the quests are fun, there are a few that stand out as particularly excellent. To say anything more would spoil them, but I consider it to be some of my favorite writing around, period.
Oh, and all the characters are animals. That’s neither here nor there, really, although it does enhance the story. In a game about connecting through painting the natural world, why shouldn’t everyone be animals? All I need now is a Buzzfeed quiz telling me whether I’d be a monkey, an owl, or a bear…or something else entirely. Musically, the soundtrack is as relaxing as the gameplay experience, and it fit the story and exploration beats, swelling at all the right moments.
Trouble in Paradise
The only issues I had with the game were mechanical. There are still a fair few bugs, both present when I demoed the game at PAX and persistent now. This required restarting the game a couple of times, and I wish the game had stayed in development just a bit longer, as knocking a few points off for the frustration of the bugs is only right, and I want to give this game the highest score I can.
Otherwise, I can only say I wished it was possible to have more control over the settings, especially to switch the key bindings—the current accessibility of the game is low, which I can say from experience, having played directly after a surgery on my hand. The discomfort I felt would have been easily been solved if I’d just been able to change the controls a little. A minor thing, and hopefully one that’ll be remedied: the developers are very active in updating and fixing the issues of the game post-release.
That said, I love Eastshade. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The world was beautiful and expansive, the storytelling was not only strong but often masterful, and the whole package left me with that post-game hangover that has you putting down every game after it. It’s still early 2019, but I have no doubt that Eastshade will remain one of my favorite games of the year and one of my very favorite exploration games of all time. If it were up to me, I’d never take that final ship back out of Lyndow.
***A Steam code was provided by the publisher***
- Breathtaking vistas and visuals
- Expansive story and worldbuilding
- Large variety of quests
- Top-notch characterization
- Calming exploration experience
- Minor late-game bugs
- Needs accessibility options