Eastshade is a game about exploration and finding beauty everywhere.
Travelling the countryside in search of your next muse, Eastshade has you take on the role of a travelling painter whose penchant for good deeds puts them in a position to help others, both big and small. With a unique art mechanic, where everything in the game world is ready for your artistic interpretation, there’s a lot to appreciate in the fantasy game world that Eastshade brings to its players.
You begin the game sailing on a boat with a few other human-like, yet clearly animal-based, creatures. This scene gives you an opportunity to learn about the game mechanics, such as fetch quests and dialogue between you and other characters. As luck may have it, all that is cut brief as your ship runs aground, the berth of the ship that you happen to be in is breached, and the ship quickly fills up with water.
After a ‘fade to black’ cutscene involving some dialogue from your late mother telling you about Eastshade and her last wishes, you come back to your senses in a cave by the shore. You meet your rescuer, quickly grab your wooden easel (which miraculously survived) and head to town to gain your bearings.
It is from here where the main gameplay loop of the game stems. Being a traveling artist, you often find yourself traveling and making art. First you must find a person who desires a painting. Then you go out to the location they want painted, paint the painting, and finally bring the painting to them. Some want portraits, making the process even simpler.
The whole painting process is done by putting up your canvas and centering what you want to paint. After you finalize your cropping, the canvas automagically comes to life with colors and paints out the scene you selected. It’s a simple process that ultimately ensures that you’re going to get a good result, regardless of how horribly untalented you are. I almost wish that you could at least get some action in on the art by running your mouse along the canvas to simulate the painting process, but it works for what it is.
Beyond that, there are some environmental and context-based puzzles that are simple enough to solve, but add additional mechanics to the game. For example, there are a set of mirrors that you must align to shine light onto a lens, which unlocks a hidden door down into a cave. It’s the extra touches to the mechanics of the game that makes the world feel worth exploring, along with the lively characters that each have their own story to tell.
Each one of the characters within Eastshade is a type of anthropomorphic creature, or an animal mixed with the bipedal stature of a human. This is a bit unsettling as the eyes of most of these creatures seem to give a bit of ‘uncanny valley’ feeling to them, and overall throws off the warm personalities they all seem to maintain. The animation and design of each character is well done, but I couldn’t get past the glassy eyes staring back at me during our encounters. Given the game is primarily about the communication between you and these animals and doing various tasks for them, if you find their appearance unsettling like I did, it will likely start to bother you too.
Thankfully, most of Eastshade has you taking in the sights of lush forests, detailed mountainsides, sandy beaches and riverside trails. Each area of the game has an intense detail of foliage and vibrancy to it that showcases how well their art team loves nature. Every time I set up my canvas to take down another painted masterpiece, I was in awe of the beauty of it all, and overall sincerely impressed in how well these paintings represented my own artistic vision in how I would lay out a piece.
Despite its flaws with the character designs — which honestly may not even bother most players — Eastshade is a remarkably impressive game. It plays well with the puzzle exploration genre and offers up a unique opportunity to paint your own way through the adventure and explore while doing so. The environments are lush with detail, the graphics are impressive and the overall package has a sheen that reminds me a lot of Skyrim in its heyday. Check it out, tap into your inner artist and paint your heart out to discover the tranquility that Eastshade has to offer.