UPDATED: The Perils of a Game Released Too Early

Well, my earlier glowing review of Eastshade has been tempered somewhat by bugs I have encountered, which have sort of ruined the game for me. Frankly, at this point, I’m just going to wait until the developers issue an update with some bug fixes, because it’s just too frustrating to keep playing.

The first bug I encountered was partly my own stupid fault. I built a raft and got stuck on the island where the Sinkwood Inn is located. It turns out I thought I had done all I could do, and I stayed overnight and prepared to leave the next morning. But when I pulled my raft out of inventory, and prepared to board it, the game told me it was too stormy to use it! (And it was clear, sunny morning with a bright blue sky.) Even worse than that, was that it wouldn’t let me pack the raft up again! So I lost that raft. (I did not know that this particular quest, unlike the others, forced you to stay in one place and solve it before leaving. All the other quests you could do in parts, leaving and coming back again.)

I filed a bug report, and I discovered that there was a way to solve my being marooned on that island by using a special command to take me back to the starting point of the game. (Yes, it was a cheat, but the bug report form told me what to do to solve my problem, and I did it.)

The problem with that solution? Every single time thereafter, whenever I tried to build a new raft and use it, ANYWHERE IN THE GAME, it told me that it was too stormy out! I eventually gave up (this happened after four days of gameplay), I uninstalled the game, reinstalled it, and then started over again. From scratch.

This time, after racing around for several hours, I was able to retrace all the key steps to build my raft, cross the river, and begin exploring the other side. Only to come smack up against another bug in the game. In Eastshade, you can build or buy canvases on which to paint the scenery around you, which you can then give or sell to various people you meet. Several quests in the game revolve around this.

Well, guess what? After the first three canvases I built, every time I built or bought a canvas, it didn’t appear in my inventory!!! Eventually, I ran out of canvases, and I again had to give up on the game. (At least I could explore, but I couldn’t finish the game without canvases.)

Let that be a lesson to me. NEVER buy a game just after it has been released, unless you inadvertently want to become one of the software testers. This has been an exercise in sheer frustration to me, and despite the laudatory non-combat nature of Eastshade, and its gorgeous open-world scenery, I can no longer in good faith recommend this game until the developers, Eastshade Studios, fixes a few bugs and glitches which impede gameplay and ruin the game. (Sorry, guys.)

UPDATE March 15th: Well, I played around with Eastshade a bit more and now I realize that the blank canvases I made and bought are still there, but only the most recent blank canvas is accessible. The way that this game handles the canvases in your inventory is confusing as hell. I had thought that I wasn’t getting new blank canvases because I couldn’t see any of them in my inventory. In my opinion, the game needs to handle this better. However, I was actually able to complete the main quests and finish the game.

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Eastshade: A Brief Introduction

I’m not what you would call a traditional computer gamer. I’m simply not interested in most shoot-em-up games and MMOs (although I did get as far as level 20 in Lord of the Rings Online, because I am such a Lord of the Rings fan).

The only games I have ever been interested in have been puzzle-solving exploration games like Myst and Riven. (By the way, if you liked those games, Cyan has released a new VR adventure called Obduction, which I thoroughly enjoyed! They’re also working on a new game called ZED.)

If you like these type of games yourself, I am happy to tell you that there is a brand new first-person open-world explorer game that was just released on Steam last month, called Eastshade. Unlike most other computer games, there’s no guns, no violence, and no killing. According to their press kit:

Eastshade Studios was founded in December 2013 when Danny [Weinbaum] quit his day job as a 3D environment artist in triple-A games to build a weird world (Eastshade). With collaborators sprinkled around the globe, we are committed to building worlds that feel like real places, explored through non-violent mechanics.

In a recently-published interview on GameRevolution, Danny Weinbaum explains:

“We were trying to think of a way to reward the kind of thing we wanted the player to do in Eastshade, which is basically to go slow, relax, follow their whims, and sightsee,” Weinbaum explained. “Eventually we came up with the idea to allow the player to ‘take’ paintings and create quests around the player capturing certain objects, places, colours, times of day, or a combination of those. This works in perfect harmony with wandering, because the slower the player goes, and the more they let the sense of place wash over them, the better they will do at these quests.”

In the game, you play a shipwrecked artist who is visiting Eastshade for the first time. Armed with your easel (the only belonging you were able to save from the shipwreck), you explore the expansive landscape, talk to various people you meet, solve puzzles, complete quests, and collect boards and cloth to make canvases on which to paint the beautiful scenery around you.

And Eastshade is gorgeous! It’s obvious that a lot of time and attention was put into the graphics for this game, and it shows. The best part is, you can wander around freely; you don’t need to stay on the well-trodden pathways that criss-cross Eastshade. You can wander through the woods and follow the rivers (even do a little fishing).

The daily eclipse in Eastshade
The city of Nava

As I mentioned, there are many quests to complete, in some of which you can earn currency which you can use to get lodgings for the night or to purchase more art supplies. You will also have opportunities to complete and sell paintings to various residents you encounter.

I’ve been playing Eastshade for two days now, and I am thoroughly enchanted. Here are a couple of promotional videos for the game:

Eastshade is available on Steam, where it has already been getting rave reviews like this one; please note that this is a desktop (non-VR) game and it is not free (I paid CDN$28.99 for it). You can get more information about the game from their website, their YouTube channel, or their subReddit, where fans trade hints and tips. There’s also an official Eastshade Discord server. You can also follow the Twitter feed of the game’s creator, Danny Weinbaum.

Eastshade is not an MMO; you explore the island and paint without encountering other players, just NPCs with whom you interact. For this reason I will not be including it in my actively-updated list of social VR/virtual worlds. But it is still a visually stunning open-world platform that is well worth a visit. I recommend it highly.