A number of years in the past, a cute new action-adventure sport known as Eastward launched on most platforms, mixing some interesting EarthBound-esque visuals with a narrative-driven sport loop that’s vaguely harking back to the older Zelda video games. We actually loved it, regardless of its flaws, and evidently developer Pixpil had some extra concepts it needed to probe for the distinctive world it constructed, because it’s now launched a large DLC known as Eastward: Octopia. This siloed enlargement provides much more than only a few new ranges and scenes, successfully performing as a half-sequel of kinds that utterly adjustments up the gameplay. We’d even go as far as to say that it’s a superior sport to the unique.
Octopia’s narrative takes place in an alternate universe separate from the principle timeline of Eastward; on this world, issues are decidedly cheerier and brighter, whereas there isn’t a touch of miasma to be discovered wherever. The story kicks off with Sam and John arriving by practice at a mysterious place known as Octopia, an deserted amusement park that’s lengthy since fallen to wreck. The 2 buy a small home and a plot of land there to begin afresh, and got down to rebuild Octopia to its former glory by means of their farming efforts. Loads of alternate-universe counterpart characters from the principle plot of Eastward ultimately transfer there to hitch them on this endeavor, however everyone seems to be just a bit completely different on this iteration.
We received’t spoil an excessive amount of, nevertheless it’s closely implied that the narrative ultimately ties again in with Eastward’s primary story, although newcomers don’t essentially must know the total story to get probably the most out of Octopia. For probably the most half, this can be a easy, cute story a few rising rural group coming collectively to construct their residence, however these of you who performed by means of the total story of the principle marketing campaign will discover some particulars and easter eggs that point out a better connection. Most significantly, the narrative right here is decidedly much less verbose than the bottom sport, and this a lot stronger give attention to pacing is a welcome enchancment.
Gameplay in Octopia diverges fairly a bit from the narrative-driven, Zelda-esque construction of the principle sport, changing it as an alternative with some good old style farm sim mechanics. Every day is simply over ten minutes lengthy, and you retain John and Sam busy with actions like tending to your animals and tilling your soil, whereas reinvesting the income from the products you promote on the town into upgrades in your property and extra seeds to plant. What you do together with your day is left largely as much as you, there’s no rush, however unlocking extra upgrades and getting extra folks to maneuver to city is gated by fulfilling requests by townsfolk for development initiatives or meals you may cook dinner for them.
Like most farm sims, Octopia begins out somewhat gradual, nevertheless it doesn’t take lengthy so that you can fall into a pleasant rhythm as you begin setting brief and mid-term targets and diligently carrying out them. As soon as issues begin to open up extra and you’ve got extra residents within the city, duties begin to choose up fairly a bit to the purpose the place it virtually appears like there aren’t sufficient hours within the day. But it doesn’t matter what you select to give attention to, you’re all the time properly rewarded in your efforts, creating an exquisite sense of development as you watch the ramshackle city slowly flip into a spot that feels extra like residence.
To assist break up the repetition of farm duties considerably, Octopia additionally options minigames that supply a little bit of gameplay selection. Fishing, for instance, duties you with ‘chasing’ fish across the perimeter of a pond together with your fishing pole’s bobber, with rarer fish having extra deft and swift swimming patterns to evade seize. In one other instance, you may extract uncommon ore from a mine by sending down a cutesy remotely-operated drone, which you navigate round caves by taking part in an old-school arcade sport that duties you with dropping bombs to loosen deposits and unlock deeper flooring. We appreciated the gameplay variety provided in Octopia—it isn’t overwhelming, however there are simply sufficient actions to keep away from issues getting too repetitive.
The visuals had been all the time one of many highlights of the unique Eastward, and we’re completely happy to report that their high quality has not dipped within the slightest for this enlargement. The detailed spritework and animation is among the finest within the enterprise, doing an important job of showcasing every character’s distinctive persona and quirks. In the meantime, the brilliant, cozy environments really feel proper at residence with the farm sim aesthetic, whereas the later biomes you unlock and go to assist so as to add some good graphical variety. It’s robust to say whether or not Octopia seems higher than the bottom sport, however on the very least it continues to set the bar for what a hi-bit 2D artwork type can accomplish.
Octopia isn’t with out some comparatively minor points. One essential drawback is that there are some noticeable efficiency hiccups to take care of. We had just a few occasions the place the sport utterly crashed on us, wiping out any progress that we made on that day, and we seen occasional however sudden body drops that may trigger you to lose a fish or trigger John and Sam to leap ahead just a few steps when tending their crops. The body drops aren’t too detrimental given the general gradual tempo of the gameplay, however they’re a persistent annoyance that dragged down the expertise a bit.
There are additionally some lacking quality-of-life options that make Octopia a clunkier expertise in comparison with its style contemporaries. For instance, if you’re cooking dishes—considered one of your primary sources of revenue—there’s no choice to mass produce multiples of a dish in case you have a whole lot of elements and need multiple, so that you’re pressured to navigate the menu and reselect the dish repeatedly to make separately. Such points don’t enormously have an effect on the expertise, however little issues like this will add as much as disrupt the gameplay movement, particularly throughout prolonged periods.
And although that is much less of a direct criticism, we’d like to focus on that Octopia is simply obtainable to those that have purchased Eastward first, confusingly. Regardless of being successfully an entire, self-contained, 15-20 hour farm sim, this isn’t obtainable for separate buy like different standalone DLCs equivalent to Demon Turf: Neon Splash or Shovel Knight: King of Playing cards. This isn’t essentially a dangerous factor, however it might come as a disappointment for some; not solely is Octopia general a extra gratifying expertise than the bottom sport, however on the value of solely six bucks, it’s a steal when you think about all of the content material it has to supply.
Eastward: Octopia could not convey many new concepts to a crowded style, however that is an impressively well-executed enlargement that properly ticks all of the packing containers for a satisfying and enjoyable farm sim. Though it has some rougher edges, the respectable gameplay selection, attention-grabbing story, beautiful visuals, and stunning quantity of content material all come collectively to make this one a straightforward suggestion to any followers of the unique Eastward. Even for these of you who fell off your playthrough of the unique for one motive or one other, we’d encourage you to contemplate coming again for Octopia—this can be a a lot better-paced sport and, some efficiency points apart, it’s misplaced not one of the appeal that made the unique so common.