Evoland 2 was always in for a struggle after the original game plundered every corner of the RPG genre for its inspiration. But developer Shiro Games clearly realized this and, after a shaky beginning, this through-the-ages RPG manages to deliver a more interesting and complete game than the original – even if it doesn't feel as fresh.
Evoland has evolved
The first Evoland's premise was incredibly enticing. It took players on a journey through the evolution of RPG games, with graphics, systems, and sounds all changing as the game progressed. Occasionally this could demand hard shifts in mechanics that upset the game's flow - but you forgave this thanks to the core concept.
With the material already exhausted, it would be impossible for a sequel repeat the magic. So, when Evoland 2 starts off almost identically, I started to worry. However, a quick shift in scene reveals that this is a dream/tutorial and my hero awakens in a 16-bit world. But the game has not forgotten its time skipping escapades, and within minutes my actions activate an ancient monument that sends me back through history.
Initially I visit the past, with the visuals shifting to resemble the 8-bit era. But as I continue to try to find my way back to 16-bit, I am flung through time at the game's whim – while also altering time to save the present.
This allows Shiro Games to create a far better story than the original, despite it lacking the fluid movement through history. Now the developer can manipulate time freely, utilizing this to enhance the tale. This stops the era hopping feeling like window dressing or unnecessarily forced by the genre's timeline of development.
Still some gems to find
Shiro Games has taken this opportunity to shift more rapidly through eras with tiresome mechanics. Or at least it feels like it does, thanks to its improved level design and the increased variety in tasks - including one situation where I had to sneak through a prison to escape guards, rather than just fighting my way out.
The writing has also improved. Evoland 2 is happier to draw on all kinds of games for humor, rather than limiting itself to RPGs. One of these scenes required I pick a gladiator name for myself – with choices like Morio and Solid Snail on offer. Trust me, it's funnier in context.
One final surprise is that Evoland 2 does manage to dredge up a few game homages that didn't make it into the first Evoland. The most notable one of these is the side-scrolling platform sections from The Legend of Zelda 2. Not fantastic in itself - the gameplay in the source material was never great – but it is nice to have it represented.
But, bar these changes, the game adds little to Evoland. Many of the same eras and styles are visited, both of which alter the gameplay and aesthetics in exactly the same ways.
Technically better, but not as special
The comprehensiveness of Evoland meant than any sequel would be left picking over scraps. Yet, somehow, Evoland 2 manages to shift the focus in a new enough direction. This keeps the game involved and stops you realizing that, in many ways, it is really just a polished remix of the original. The novelty is gone, but this is the better game, both mechanical and artistically.