Eastward Makes A World Worth Fighting For | Best Games of 2021
2021. It’s been “a year”. We’re celebrating this collection of sun rotations by looking at the top 2021 games. Next up: Eastward.
Eastward features many familiar elements from other successful games, including The Legend of Zelda’s combat and environmental puzzles and Dragon Quest’s turn-based battles. Earthbound’s quirky charm and The Last of Us’s grizzled dad/plucky, young chosen one dynamic. This is fine by itself as many media borrow and repurpose elements from other stories. Eastward makes all these familiar tastes feel new and fresh. Eastward is, despite sharing a common DNA, unmistakably its own.
Players control John, a silent man, and Sam, a precocious magical child. They experience a world that has survived incalculable destruction to rekindle life. After hours of hard labor, miners meet at the bar to celebrate harvest. A small mountain community celebrates the harvest. And a group of monkeys makes movies that no one except them will ever see. Eastward is a place where life is everywhere. Everywhere you go you will find a fully-realized community.
The story of Eastward is charming. It bounces between charming characters and quiet moments in reserved melancholy. Sam is one the most beloved child characters in video games. Some players may be annoyed at the sequences in which Eastward becomes more of a life simulator, but I enjoyed these sequences. It’s worth taking a little time to relax before you start cutting through the monsters.
Eastward also achieved the remarkable feat of using the Switch’s HD Rumble feature in any meaningful way. Although this may not be enough to win Game of the Year, it isn’t like any other Switch games are using the HD rumble feature in any meaningful way.
Holy hell, this game is a testament to Eastward’s technical accomplishments. Technically, it’s pixelart, sure. But, it’s pixelart in the same way that impressionist paintings are technically painted with ink on canvas. Each character’s design communicates their personality and is not a placeholder. Every environment is a visual feast that crams personality and detail into every corner. Music is another highlight of the year. It’s full of triumphant, soaring arrangements and moody, adrenaline-squeezing creepers. Eastward is like playing Earthbound. Eastward isn’t just good, although it is very good; Eastward has significance. It is a game that takes every move and introduces every mechanic with absolute confidence.
Eastward challenges us to be present and keep our eyes on the prize. This is just another year in a long string of years when the future feels like a terrible, dark chasm from which no light can escape. It sounds great to save the world in abstract terms, but it is even more important to remember the people who live there. All of us hope for tomorrow. Our families, friends, and communities as well as all those we may meet tomorrow are all in this together. Eastward understands that and wants you too. It’s also fun as hell, laugh-out-loud-alone-in-your-flat funny, and stunning. Eastward is one the most popular games of 2021 and does so with style.