I haven’t played many open world games, so I’m probably not the best person to talk about Eastshade, but the idea of an open-world game about painting without any combat at all sounded neat to me. And it is! I don’t love everything about it, but I am completely on board with the basic idea.

The main thing that I’m not on board with is the tone of the game’s quests. Early on, when you’ve talked to most of the people in the first town, your quest list looks something like this: 1) a list of paintings your mom asked you to paint; 2) a mysterious tower to investigate; 3) try to find out something about a person nobody has seen for a while; 4) find 10 feathers for somebody else to turn into writing quills; 5) deliver some food to the brother of one character that’s made out of something that he doesn’t like; 6) report a parent to the police.

So, basically: one overarching story quest, two quests to learn more about the world, and a fetch quest; that’s all great. That fifth quest, though: you’re not just delivering food the other person doesn’t like, you’re tricking the other person into eating something different than what he thinks it is, which really isn’t cool? The characters are brothers, and it’s presented as a sort of practical joke that they frequently play on each other, but still: I have my doubts.

That last quest, though, is horrible. There’s a single father raising a child; and yeah, the child is odd. But he’s not odd in a way that’s hurting anything, or that is a sign that he’s being hurt. (It might be a sign that he’s on the autistic spectrum, though.) Basically, the obvious reading is that the person asking you to report is a horrible person who is willing to use the power of the state against things that make her feel uncomfortable, even if that means ripping the family apart; this is a very delicate subject to handle, but Eastshade just throws it out there as some random side quest like any other one.


So yeah, there’s something tonally off about the quests in Eastshade: that last one is the most egregious, but there are other ones that felt off to me. And, while I’m in a grumbling mood, there were several quests in which I got stuck where, if I were in a situation like that in real life, I’d have an easy remedy: e.g. quests where I can’t remember where a person with a given name is, and where the game doesn’t give me any option to ask around after that person.

But the flip side is: there’s no combat, and there wasn’t a single time in the game where I thought “this game would be better if I were killing people in it”. (Though, to be fair, you do kill fish…) There weren’t even very many quests of the form “gather X items for a certain person” (in fact, the one in my list above might be the only one), and there also weren’t quests that were just using you as a delivery person. So there’s a lot of reason to like the quests in Eastshade: there’s definitely room for improvement, but it also shows that going without combat absolutely isn’t a problem, and there’s other fluff that the genre can get rid of.

And also: it’s a game about painting! Which is a neat idea, and a good fit for an open-world game: it works well with the desire to explore the world, giving you an excuse to look for different features of the terrain. And it works fine as a mechanism for the most basic quests, too: not every quest is going to be an elaborate multi-step main-plot-relevant affairs, and as filler, being asked to paint something is rather pleasant. (And Eastshade gives you some leeway in that, it’s not prescribing exactly where to paint.)


So yeah: more of this, please. Not necessarily something exactly like this identically, but more games that skip violence. And also more games that aren’t overstuffed: Eastshade is a pleasant enough world, and it would be fine if it were larger, but it’s fine the way it is, and I’m glad they stopped with the quests before they ran out of ideas.

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