I’m a huge fan of indie videogames and I live this time we’re currently living in where many indie games rival the major AAA releases.

I’d been following Easterward’s development for a while now with the main thing attracting me to the game being the amazing pixel art style.

Almost as soon as the game came out I picked it up during a sale and it was an absolutely fantastic experience.

Before we get into the review lets start off taking a look at the announcement trailer (I think that’s the best one).


Eastward subway

The Graphics and Art Style

The art style of this game is what first caught my attention and it’s absolutely fantastic.

The game takes inspiration from games like Earthbound or Mother 3 (the same series, I know) and everything is done with pixel art.

The environments are incredibly detailed and range from caves to cities to ruins to forests and much more. You can tell that a huge amount of care and design have gone into every single location.

Where the game’s art style really shines though is with the characters.

The characters are all essentially 2D pixel art sprites but somehow the creators of Eastward crammed so much expression into each sprite. You can really feel the emotions of the characters through their faces and animations even though it’s really just simple pixel art.

The animations really stand out as well. No character ever just stands still, they always have special idle animations where they’re kind of bouncing up and down. The animations are different for each character and really contribute to creating and expressing each character.

Because of this amazing pixel art and animation work exploring the world and interacting with characters was always an absolute joy.

I think I would even go so far as to say this game has the greatest pixel art I’ve ever seen in a game.

There’s also a sort of hand drawn style for the opening movie and character portraits and to be honest I wasn’t super happy with how it looks. It’s a very different style than the rest of the pixel art and I thought it really clashed. That’s a very minor nitpick though.


Forest train station

The Music

I didn’t really have any expectations for the music going into the game since I was mostly just enamored with the art style. I’m very pleased to say though that the music absolutely blew me away.

The soundtrack ranges from being incredibly heartfelt, to upbeat fun and quirky to dark and mysterious and pretty much every track is amazing.

Here are just a few of my favorites so you can get a sample:

This soundtrack was composed by Joel Corelitz and it’s available on Bandcamp here.


The Hot Springs

The Gameplay

Eastward is fairly similar to games like A Link to the Past. It kind of looks like an RPG but it’s really more of an action game from a top down perspective.

You essentially explore different zones and dungeons going to complete a specific objective before you return to town for more story and to talk with more NPCs.

Combat is action based, your main weapon is a frying pan that you can beat enemies with it. You also unlock bombs, a shotgun, a flamethrower and some kind of spinning disc launcher.

The combat itself is not amazing but it’s certainly not bad either.

There are some upgrades for your different weapons and a few different types of bombs but that’s about it.

You’ll also run into a ton of puzzle segments and this is where Eastward gets a lot more interesting. You control essentially the two main characters, John and Sam and you can switch between them. Normally one follows the other but you can split up and control them separately.

Sam for example is small and can crawl through pipes but John on the other hand is the only one who can use bombs or burn plants that are blocking the way.

There are a lot of segments where the characters have to split up and use their own unique abilities to solve puzzles and help each other advance through an area and for the most part these are always very well done.

Near the end of the game there are a few time-based puzzles that you have to solve within a time limit. Normally I don’t like those but the time limits were pretty generous here so I can’t complain too much.

Difficulty is pretty even, not too hard and not too easy which is perfect for a game like this.

Finally there’s a fantastic cooking system where you can buy or find ingredients and cook up recipes that help you recover health or give you added effects like extra strength or defense.

The cooking segments are actually a lot of fun and contribute to the over all story since John is a master cook.


Controlling Sam in a Dungeon

The Story

Eastward’s story is partly amazing and partly frustrating and this is where Eastward falls short a bit and doesn’t quite make it to being a perfect game.

It begins with John who lives in a little underground town in a post-apocalyptic world. John is a digger who works in the mines trying to find interesting salvage items for the mayor of the town.

One day he finds an unconscious girl. He brings her home, she wakes up without any memories and he adopts her.

They all live underground because the surface world has been destroyed by “Miasma” but Sam insists that she has memories of the surface and it’s not destroyed at all.

Through a series of events John and Sam end up exiled from the village to the surface and embark on a journey to the East to try to save the world.

Suddenly, as I’m writing this I had the thought that maybe this is loosely based on the Chinese story Journey to the West. In this case John would take on the roll of Monkey and Sam would be Tripitaka.

It’s an interesting idea, especially since the game was made by a Chinese studio but I have no idea if it’s true or not.

Anyways, where the story absolutely shines is with the characters and their interactions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game with so much heart that made me care so much about everyone.

There’s a ton of talking and it’s all very well done. After every story segment I ran back to talk to every single NPC and enjoyed all the dialog.

But there are some major problems with the story.

The first and less major issue is with how things kind of change majorly about 60 to 70% through. You’ve spent almost the entire game at this point in one city leaving to explore the outskirts before coming back to that same city and talking to the same people. You really get to know all the characters here and even the city itself is a character.

Then abruptly you leave all of that behind and do a chapter that’s completely disconnected from everything. You can tell that this chapter was more or less developed separately from the rest of the game and just inserted here.

After that chapter you go to a new city for the last bit of the game and have to meet all new characters but they’re not as good as the ones you got to know and left behind.

There’s also a bunch of really weird time travel, time loop and other time shenanigans that happen at this point and to be honest none of this makes sense.

And this is where we get to the major issue with the story.

Eastward takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. Sam is somehow connected to the apocalypse and so is the main antagonist of the game. Unfortunately though Eastward doesn’t explain what happened to the world, who Sam is and how she fits into everything and the antagonist of the game’s actions are never explained either.

The first thing I did after finishing the game (which did have quite a heartwarming ending) was go on the Internet and try to find an explanation of what all happened.

I figured maybe I missed something or maybe it was more of a Dark Souls kind of situation where things weren’t really explained and you have to piece it together yourself.

All I was able to find were people asking the same questions I had and no one had any answers other than a few broad theories.

This is why this isn’t a perfect game.

If Eastward found some way to better explain the time-travel and apocalypse stuff and also figure out a way to bring all the characters you get close to into the final area then this would hands down be the greatest indie game ever.


Monkolloywood scene

In Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong though, despite the story flaws this game absolutely excels with it’s characters, the dialog between those characters, the art style, animation and music.

If this even looks a tiny bit interesting to you I highly recommend you pick it up.

It’ll take you around 20 hours to finish everything which is a bit longer than I expected but it’s a fantastic game and you won’t find a game with such a unique style and more heart than this one.

Images from the official Eastward website used under Fair Use