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[PS3] Folklore – What a wonderful game that I had completely overlooked

I recall encountering gameplay videos during the PS3-era, and immediately thinking about how beautiful the game looked. It was always on my 'pick it up eventually' list but never entered my library during that generation. Skip to 2020 where I began to collect older video games during lockdown, I was able to snag a copy for $40 (fun fact, the price jumped to $120 recently).

I just completed the game and I have to say, it was phenomenal. I know it hasn't been THAT long since the PS3, but I do want to say how well this game held up. Perhaps its my affinity for under-the-radar games, but this one really did impress me. I don't think we'll ever see a sequel (especially considering events going on over at Sony) but I think the game could remain as one of the PS3's overlooked classics.

Soundtrack: I don't normally get in to soundtracks but the stoic soundtrack really helped the atmosphere. There were some tracks that really caught my attention.

Gameplay: You play as two characters throughout the game and alternate between them, essentially playing each chapter twice with varying storybeats that often intertwine. You play through a mystery during the day, talking to residents and gathering items; and at night you enter Folk realms, which have fairly linear level designs and a final boss at the end. You will enter various realms, fight creatures called "folks", and capture them which enables you to use them against other folks, a'la' Pokemon. Not a ton of reliance on type-advantage (although there are elemental folks) but this does occasionally come up. Many of the boss battles play like puzzles that you have to figure out with some hints provided gathered throughout the level. Ultimately, the gameplay is fairly linear in terms of its level design. You won't be exploring a whole lot here – unfortunately. Lastly, there were some significant frame rate issues when things got hectic on screen. I mean framerates so bad that I thought my game had frozen for a second.

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I wasn't initially a fan of the alternating characters, I thought I'd get fatigued with all the backtracking but the levels never outstayed their welcome and once you complete it once you can finish it a second time rather quickly. I do wish the two characters had more gameplay variety – they generally fight the same with one character having a Hulk-like transformation and playing more close-combat; and the other as being more long-range. You may encounter different folk to collect depending on who you're playing but I didn't find the combat difference significant enough to get excited for a second playthrough each level.

Story: The story plays out like a mystery with a dark fantasy backdrop. It's engaging enough to want to continue to play. The scenes contain comic-book style frames with texts and the occasional voiced cutscenes. It tackles some rather interesting elements such as death, fear, hate and meaning. I haven't fully explored other potential existential elements but I was interested enough playing through til the end. Ultimately, I was satisfied with the ending.

Characters: The characters each feel as if they have a fleshed out personality. Considering you remain in a small town, you really get to know all the townsfolk. Both protagonists each have some depth to them but nothing that would rock the world. I will say that initially, you're introduced to the Folklore at night while everyone is sleeping, and there a strong setup of a very imaginative and vibrant world of Folklore – bursting with personality and quips. However this falls very short throughout the remainder of the game as you uncover the mystery of Doolin, and towards the end the Folklore all feel as if they're simply tools.

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World: My God, this is probably my favorite thing about the game. The world is beautiful – contrasting the mysterious and dark town of Doolin to the vibrant and magical Folklore realms. Each realm have a theme with their respective folks representing the theme rather well.

Collectables: There isn't a whole lot. There are varying outfits, enemy hint pages and folks you can collect to extend gameplay. Furthermore, each folk have a criteria of battle requirements that allow them to extend their power in battle. I'd categorize this as an action-adventure game. No major RPG elements (character levels, more HP etc…) so generally you're in it to see how the story plays out. One major flaw here is that it's one of the few games that do not support trophies on the PS3. This was very unfortunate considering the few collectables available were fairly simple to obtain which could have made for a great game to Platinum.

Post-Game Content: Just because there aren't many collectables doesn't mean there isn't some post-game content. You have some quests that you can play through aside from the main campaign. They're fairly short and don't outstay their welcome. Furthermore, there's some DLC content including extended story missions which I haven't played yet. Generally though, not a lot of replay value here and I imagine a completionist run could take between 15-20 hours. My playthrough without engaging most quests, collectables or DLC took about 11-12 hours.

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On a more objective scale, I see why this game garnered 7's and 8's across the board when it was released. However, it's become one of those games that captured my imagination enough for it to feel like a masterpiece despite its flaws. I would highly recommend this gem before it gets lost to time. It does not currently have a digital version available and the price of the physical versions have jumped up recently.

I would absolutely love if Sony would remake this game. I think it lends itself well thematically to modern gameplay elements. Larger realms, more folks, fully voiced story and a more intricate battle system would really go a long way here.

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