There have been a few times where we were wandering through some of the more exotic locations of The Elder Scrolls Online and wishing that we could admire the view without getting harassed by an endless stream of hostile creatures. It would seem that the developers of Eastshade, a first-person adventure game without any combat, had the same idea. Instead of a traditional combat-oriented character, Eastshade casts players in the role of a painter who travels to a peaceful island. The purpose of your visit is to paint four scenes in honor of your recently deceased mother who loved the sights of the island. Apart from a rocky start that sees you getting shipwrecked and wash up near the small port town of Lyndow, the rest of your stay on the island involves plenty of exploring, painting, and friendly conversations with the inhabitants.
Although the four scenes that you need to paint are your only real objectives on the island there are plenty of other things to see and do during your stay. In fact, Eastshade features more than 50 fully voiced characters who you can talk to and most of them need some sort of assistance. Dotted around the -1.1 km² island are plenty of breathtaking sights and you can paint any of them, provided that you have the materials. Thanks to a rather basic crafting system Eastshade requires players to make their own canvasses by combining wood and fabric. There’s usually a plentiful supply of these scattered about if you search long enough, but eventually, you can also purchase canvasses using your hard-earned glowstones. The act of painting, however, merely consists of selecting the area of your screen that you want to commit to canvas and then pressing the “E” key. The paintings are basically screenshots, but with a filter applied to them so that they look a little more artistic.
While you can paint for fun most of the painting that you do in Eastshade will be to progress quests or fulfill commissions for money. There are 29 different quests in the game and although you don’t have to do all of them they are worth the effort. Although your brushes and paints are seemingly unlimited, there is one more resource that you need to worry about apart from canvasses, and that’s inspiration. Each painting you make cost inspiration and it is something that can only be replenished by completing quests or discovering new areas. We never found ourselves short on inspiration, but players attempting to paint everything in sight might have to show some restraint.
Eastshade is an indie title, but it is clear to see that a lot of attention has been lavished on the visuals. The island is lush and green with plenty of rivers, lakes, and wooded areas. The inhabitants of the island are also anthropomorphic animals, which avoids the uncanny valley effect of having to deal with humans. Having said that, the animations in the game are rather basic and the physics can also get a bit wonky, to say the least. We also noticed quite a few low-res textures in places and the frame rate falters at times for inexplicable reasons. Nevertheless, watching the sun filter through the leaves of a dense forest while butterflies dance around in the air is a beautiful sight. The island also has an eclipse at the same time every day which is a sight that never grows old.
Apart from combining wood and fabric to create canvasses, there are also a few other things that can be crafted in Eastshade. From a campfire and tent to keep you warm during the bitter cold evenings to various teas and even rafts to get you across many of the streams and lakes on the island. Some resources can also be sold for glowstones that can then be used to buy essentials such as a jacket to keep you warm when outdoors at night or a bicycle that provides a nice speed boost when exploring. The island isn’t exactly huge, but it can be annoying to backtrack if you have forgotten to do something in an area, especially as your map does not feature any waypoints or even show your location. Thankfully it is possible to brew teas that can help with fast traveling, which is a neat feature.
Since Eastshade is such a peaceful game it makes sense that the soundtrack is also very calm and relaxing. Not all of the NPCs in the game have something to say, but the ones who do mostly sound decent. There is the odd dodgy accent or two, but nothing that really detracts from the experience. The controls are what you would expect from a first-person title with WASD for walking and the mouse for looking around and interacting. All your quests are tracked in a journal and you have a seemingly limitless backpack for storing all your crafting materials. The game only has one save slot, but we recommend saving often in case something buggy happens. We mostly had issues with the fishing rod bugging out or the raft doing odd things, so we were especially cautious about saving before attempting to use either.
Eastshade is not a game for everyone, but it is nice to play something relaxing where you can just explore without any fear of danger. The closest thing to danger in the game is the cold at night, which will send you back to the nearest safe inn instantly unless you have a campfire or warm jacket to ward it off. Apart from that, it is impossible to get hurt or attacked, so players can focus on solving the puzzles or discovering new areas. Apart from Lyndow the only other major settlement is the capital of Nava, but there are plenty of other areas of interest on the island. One of our favorites is an inn on a small island in the middle of a lake where we had to solve the mystery of a stolen book during an intense storm.
Overall we enjoyed our time with Eastshade, but it’s probably not a title that will appeal to players in search of an action or survival experience. The game was designed from the ground up to be peaceful and relaxing and its world is inhabited by people mostly sitting around reading, fishing or gardening. The painting element of the game is nice but very basic, so it’s really the exploration that is the big draw. Hopefully, the technical issues receive more attention from the developers as they can be annoying. Eastshade is still a very unique game, though, and one we recommend for all players in search of something with a slower pace.
- Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: Intel i5-750/AMD Phenom II X4-945
- Memory: 6 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 560 Ti/Radeon HD 6950
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 3 GB available space
- Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system