When it comes to talking about Eastshade, I’m conflicted about how to portray it. Eastshade is an ambitious game that has a lot of interesting ideas that I’d like to see fleshed out, but all the ambition in the world doesn’t cover up its glaring flaws.
You are a nameless, faceless character who is honoring the last wishes of your dying mother. In the introduction of the game, you recall a memory of her, imploring you to travel to this wonderful land and experience its beauty. See, in Eastshade, your character is a painter, and what your mother has given you is essentially a checklist of things to paint. But to say that all you do in Eastshade is go to things and paint them would be a misrepresentation of the experience as a whole.
Eastshade is a first person puzzle and exploration game, that has you exploring a whimsical island and discovering the many secrets it hides. In lieu of combat or platforming, you only interact with the world in a handful of ways. You’re mostly talking to the citizens of the world, collecting resources, painting pictures, and using the time of day to solve puzzles and uncover mysteries. On the surface that all sounded like an enticing offer to me, but after only a few hours, my motivation to continue has started to wain.
Right off the bat I noticed that Eastshade doesn’t run well at all. No matter what combination of settings I turned off or on, the game wasn’t able to keep a stable frame rate and would often hitch up. In addition to that, it’s also an incredibly buggy game in general. From NPCs getting caught in loops, to your character bouncing off of the geometry of the world if you step on the wrong piece of it, Eastshade has an overwhelming level of jank. Even things like quitting the game are more complicated than they need to be. Seriously, every single time I quit the game it freezes up, and I have to force quit it from the task manager.
On top of poor performance, the whole game feels disjointed and directionless and often boils down to you doing endless fetch quests for different citizens to unlock more of the map. Even the “painting” part of the game is just you hitting a button to capture what’s on screen at the moment, then that appears on a small canvas next to you. It’s really a glorified screenshot button.
Early on in the game you’ll come across a bridge that nobody is guarding, but requires you to pay a toll of 60 fantasy dollars. You cannot get over it unless you pay, and you can’t go around it because every body of water in Eastshade might as well be a wall. So now you’re trying to figure out how to get 60 fantasy dollars. Luckily there’s a man who will buy feathers off of you for one fantasy buck each. That means you need to scrounge around in the fields looking for feathers, or complete some other fetch quest for someone else in order to pay this ridiculous bridge fee.
But it doesn’t end there, cause once you do that you meet a man who will build you a boat if you bring him some materials. Then you meet a person who needs sticks to build a fence, and person who needs inky mushrooms to make you map. It all feels so antithetical to the initial pitch of, “uncover the mysteries of the island.” I felt like an errand boy more than a mystery solver or a painter.
One of the moments that left me particularly frustrated and confused was when I finally made it to the entrance of a city that everyone was telling me I had to visit, only to be turned away at the gate by a guard. The reason for my denial; I didn’t have any reference letters. That’s right, I needed reference letters that would vouch for the quality of my character before I would be allowed in. The guard even said that the city loved new visitors, but they needed to take extra precautions to make sure that all of them were good people. It was at that moment I had the realization that everything in Eastshade is gated off by some collect-a-thon or MMO side-quest bullshit.
It’s all such a shame considering that Eastshade has some really neat ideas that I wish were executed better. The world is beautiful and has some really unique and interesting locations to discover. The concept of exploring a whimsical world as a painter and dealing with problems through dialogue rather than combat was also super intriguing to me, but this all just feels half-baked. There is a lot of promise in the early hours of Eastshade, and I’m going to try to get a little further in it before I make any definitive statement on it as a complete product, but as it stands right now, Eastshade is a game that pushes me further and further away, every time I play it.
Eastshade is currently available on Steam for $24.99.