Eastshade is an open-world exploration/adventure game from indie studio Eastshade Studios and available via Steam. The company describes the game thusly:
You are a traveling painter, exploring the island of Eastshade. Capture the world on canvas using your artist’s easel. Talk to the inhabitants to learn about their lives. Make friends and help those in need. Discover mysteries and uncover secrets about the land. Surmount natural impasses to reach forgotten places. Experience how your actions impact the world around you.
As you might expect from a game touting you playing as a painter, entering the world of Eastshade is entering a world of lush forests, incredibly detailed buildings, and beautiful waterways. From the smallest flower to the largest tower, every element in the game is lovingly crafted and presented in a way that will make you yearn to pull out those brushes and start painting scene upon scene.
But, before you get too painting happy, your character (whom you name yourself), has to deal with surviving a shipwreck on their way to Eastshade, with their primary goal being to memorialize their late mother. Alas, the accident has left them penniless and clutching nothing but their precious easel. This means you’ll need to acquire your own canvas upon which to paint (though it’s never stated, it seems you do also have a magical supply of every color paint under the sun).
Fortunately, most of the citizens of Eastshade are good folk and are happy to help you out of your jam, whether by providing shelter from the brutally cold nights, throwing a few coins your way, or offering up odd jobs and quests you can complete. Starting with the smaller town of Lyndow, you’ll eventually get the urge to explore further and further afield until you reach the much larger city of Nova. Along the way, you’ll make friends, and perhaps a few enemies depending on your attitude and choices, and have plenty of opportunities for painting for pleasure and profit.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game, spending some eleven hours within it, perhaps more. I enjoyed the little stories of the three dozen plus quests that are available, with several feeding into each other and/or being required to be done to complete the main quest of finding and painting your mother’s favorite views. There are also various paintings you can complete for profit, including commissions in Nova that can help fatten up your otherwise thin purse (and get you a source of unlimited canvas!!)
As far as I could find, there are no limits on what you can paint, other than the obvious one of running out of canvas. In the earlier parts of the game, before you reach the source (and funds) in Nova, scrounging up the parts to make your own canvas is a bit thin. For a game that clearly is designed with you painting any scene your heart desires as a core part of its play mechanism, it could certainly afford to be far more generous with canvas or to even make them as magically unlimited as your paint supply is. Still, I managed well enough with what I found, over painting a few items here and there to earn coin but ending the game with a surplus of canvas by the time I was done.
The peoples of Eastshade being one of four species of animal (deer, owl, bear, or ape – I think chimp, maybe bonobo) was an interesting twist and even was discussed in terms of historical context and how the species live in one particular side quest. What your own character looks like or their species (or even gender) is never stated and there are no mirrors with which to check yourself out anywhere in the world. I suspected the character was female based on the higher sounds of breathing when freezing at night, but they were also referred to as “pal” so could still go either way.
Honestly, there is much to love about this game. The music is a perfect accompaniment to the tranquil scenes you’ll find yourself walking through, and the painting and exploring are at such a relaxing pace that it can be a nice breather from more active adventure games. There were only two major flaws in the game that come to mind as I write this review, the first more minor, the second a bit less so.
First, the tutorial is sadly lacking. While the game does sort of lead you into walking, it doesn’t tell you how it’s just presumed you know the standards keys of AWSD. If you aren’t a heavy PC gamer like me or you play more point and click games, then you may wrongly presume you use mouse movement before getting the hang of it. But really, the bigger issue with the tutorial is what’s left untaught. Figuring out movement was easy enough, but I was eight hours in before I realized my character could jump (SPACE BAR for anyone else wanting to know), and the fishing sub game is completely unexplained as far as I can recall – I had to figure out on my own how to work it, and when that failed I had to turn to help in the Steam community hub. Maybe I’d have eventually stumbled on the method on my own, but for an otherwise chill game, working out a basic mechanic isn’t really how I want to spend my time.
As I said, those issues were relatively minor and were only minor stumbling blocks of my fun of the game. The much bigger one was the bugginess, especially the further into the game I got. The game froze on me more than a dozen times as I played, usually, when fast traveling either using a tea or because I was forced to by the freezing cold. Once such freeze cost me an hour of gameplay time because I foolishly trusted the autosave and hadn’t realized how little it was actually saving. After that, I found myself always manually saving before fast traveling just to be safe, since usually a forced shut down and restart would let me continue on from whatever spot it froze at.
Still, overall, I’d highly recommend this game and really enjoyed my time playing it. (okay, one other minor issue…so many kitties and I couldn’t pet them!!!) 🙂