I’m in love with Eastshade’s portrait of a sunny island paradise. It’s a place of adventure, where unearthing every rock or combing through each blade of grass can lead you to new discoveries. It feels so connected to nature, where you can detour off the beaten path to go sightseeing across watery creeks and up twisting hilltops. All the characters are personified animals, with bears, monkeys and even birds making up the populace. They are wholesome folk and you can’t help but grow attached to them.
You are a travelling painter and have come to the magical land of Eastshade to capture the world on canvas and sample everything it offers. This includes painting the scenery, rafting along the river, exploring the hidden caves and crevices, and helping out the various residents dotted around the island.
In Lyndow, the first town you come across, there’s a quest that teaches you how the painting mechanic functions by having you help a child realise their artistic vision. It works wonders for helping you become immersed in the moment. You assemble your easel and canvas, set up a shot somewhere in the world and paint away. It captures a perfect image that you can then give to another character or keep for your own enjoyment.
Eastshade’s best and worst qualities come out together: it often feels displaced in time. It’s a vibrant, colourful world with wholesome character interactions and lots of quests to do. It reminds me a lot of exploring Tamriel in early The Elder Scrolls games. The lack of a quest marker or waypoint is also one of its strongest merits, meaning you must remember directions or the locations of specific characters. The more you explore, the easier it becomes to memorise the geography of the island. In these ways, the game can sometimes feel like it was made a decade ago rather than this year.
On the technical side, things are less fun. Testing on a PS4 Pro, it’s hard for a console to keep up with graphics that are constantly pushing the limits. If you’re playing on a high-end PC, Eastshade looks incredible, but on this version, I was met with constant framerate slowdowns, texture pop-ins and frequent crashes. There were many points during my playthrough where the game would come to a standstill, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs while I waited for any sign of recovery. There were bugs too, when characters walked through walls and items disappeared from where they were supposed to be. The PlayStation 4 version even uses Xbox controller prompts in certain contexts.
There’s also a bit of a rocky start when you initially reach the island. It’s a toll bridge that appears just outside of Lyndow, a barrier that limits you to a tiny area and prevents you from exploring the rest of the countryside unless you can pay enough coins to pass. While the game actively encourages you to explore and immerse yourself through its graphics alone, limiting you in this way disrupts the flow of those opening hours and feels wholly unnecessary. This also applies to the crafting system, because this is 2019 where that is a given in any open world video game.
I’d say it’s the world that impressed me the most. I’m not fond of Eastshade’s RPG elements, which feature obstructive crafting and currency systems that can hamper the flow of the game, but the rest of it is incredible. Wandering through a peaceful countryside isle, speaking with residents and painting every vista you come across can be a relaxing, therapeutic experience.
Tested on PS4 Pro
Also available on Xbox One, PC
Developer Eastshade Studios
Publisher Eastshade Studios
Disclosure a copy of Eastshade was supplied by Player Two PR