This is a good game that many people will enjoy. Well, that was easy. Wow, writing about video games as a career sure is a walk in the park. I should just do every review like that. Can I get my paycheck now? I feel like I deserve it for solving games journalism.
If only my job were that simple. I’m starting this review off with that sentence as a sort of preface as to what I’m going to say throughout the rest of my review of Eagle Island, because this really is a good game. A lot of care and attention has clearly gone into making Eagle Island look absolutely stunning with a unique combat system to boot. I also won’t shy away from how deeply flawed I think Eagle Island can be at times. At its core, this is a game that’s selling itself on being a mashup of Metroidvania and rogue-like genres, uniting the two to satisfy two different markets at the same time. It’s ambitious to say the least, combining genres that have some similarities yet are fundamentally different at their very core. It’s this ambition that sadly lets Eagle Island down as it suffers from a severe identity crisis in offering up both experiences simultaneously.
Largely because the game isn’t a combination of Metroidvania and rouge-like playstyles, but rather both styles roughly stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster. I know that might not make much sense, but hear me out. You’ll play as Quill, who alongside his owl Koji who doubles as your weapon as you fling him with reckless abandon at enemies, must escape the titular Eagle Island. The overworld plays out like a Metroidvania style experience, with certain paths being inaccessible until certain upgrades are discovered. These unlockable skills are at the end of several dungeons which function as the game’s rogue-like element. The dungeons are randomly generated, you’ll find loot to give you unique abilities when exploring them and after beating the boss at the end you’ll be rewarded with the upgrade needed to explore further.
Eagle Island never really feels like a fusion of the two but rather two separate games pasted over one another. Both genres are wholly distinct, never bleeding into one another except for the upgrade found at the end of a dungeon. If anything, it reminded me more of a Zelda-like dungeon with an overworld separating these explorable spaces. Am I making my point here? It’s like…fraternal twins. They were born at the same time but unlike identical twins they looks so different that it’s really easy to tell who is who from the get-go. It doesn’t flow or meld, and I found the disparity between the two experiences rather jarring. It feels like two parallel lines drawn on the same chalkboard; Sure, they share the same space but they both exist on their own, never touching.
Which is unfortunate because I can’t help but feel that Eagle Island started out as a single genre and just became weighed down by constant tweaks and suggestions that were added to make it stand out. Honestly, the game could have stood out as a rogue-like alone. The combat, although finicky at first, is unique. You can only aim your feathery projectile in so many directions and Koji can only fly so far. So there’s a real emphasis on positioning made even deeper by the inclusion of several unique powers Koji can imbue, such as explosive damage, electrical damage that can hit multiple targets at once and an ice attack which does exactly what you’d expect it to. The buffs found in each dungeon are a little disappointing, as there’s a great range of them but none of them feel super impactful. Yet I still enjoyed exploring every dungeon, often multiple times because it may not look it but Eagle Island is tricky. That might be because it took me a while to get the targeting down, but it was always satisfying to defeat the final boss and earn a new upgrade.
But then you get to the overworld and it’s just…nothing really. The thing that makes for a great Metroidvania is the feeling of constant discovery, the ability to get lost in a world and then have that “Ah ha!” moment when everything clicks and you realise where you are. Eagle Island never has that. The Metroidvania sections often feel far too linear, with the upgrade you just unlocked often being the only way to progress and nearly every path eventually leading to another rogue-like section. There’s no discovery, no wonderment at what you might stumble upon. It’s formulaic and easily the worst part of the game.
Which sounds incredibly harsh, I know and probably makes my first sentence sound a little strange. Despite all these issues in the game’s core design, Eagle Island is still an enjoyable experience. The combat has a higher skill ceiling than you’d expect, the enemies are varied and require multiple strategies to effectively deal with them and there are even some neat timed puzzles. I kept trying the dungeons over and over again, adamant that I’d eventually make it to the end this time. And then when I did, I paced through the bland overworld as quickly as I could to get to the next dungeon. Look, at least I can say it was fun, but when you include a segment that really doesn’t add much to that fun and exists entirely separate from it, you can’t ignore the effect it has on the overall experience.
As I said, Eagle Island is a good game. If anything, I recommend it to someone who wants an entry-level rogue-like to get them started or to a person who’s never heard of either Metroid or Castlevania, as their first Metroidvania experience. It’s just a pity that the selling point of the game, the unity of two disparate genres couldn’t be better implemented. You know what it’s like? It’s like taking a glass of cream soda and a glass of Fanta orange and mixing them together. The end product is still drinkable, and you’ll be able to make out the different flavours, but it’ll never be as good as a single full glass of either drink.
Last Updated: July 11, 2019