I don’t do Game of the Year, but I can do the games I enjoyed the most this year. This is the second of four.

There’s no argument that Eastshade (Eastshade Studios, 2019) is a beautiful game. It isn’t beautiful all of the time, no. It’s not great at close-ups, nor panoramic landscapes. But get Eastshade in the right mood and, boy, you can screenshot a Twitter thread for six months.

Pitched as an open-world game based around painting vistas, it morphed more into an open-world game with fetch quests. Which makes it sound more like your regular open-world game. But that forgets Eastshade has no violence. Frankly, you’ve got nothing else to do except wander around and paint pictures, so why not help the occasional local with their problem? Is Kai at the apothecary a bad ‘un? Who is the thief at Sinkwood inn? Who is responsible for the drumming in the forest at night?

Eastshade is like spending the time inside a children’s book; few of the characters you meet are villains and most times people are just misunderstood. Thus Eastshade isn’t big on moral quandries but it has a few – I rejected one quest outright as I wanted nothing to do with it. It’s more about a sense of place, doing good and embracing community. It’s not perfect because it never truly engaged me and for a game about painting it did a great job of sending me off on errands that didn’t involve painting.

But Eastshade feels unique and was definitely worth the journey. I will be writing something more substantial about Eastshade in the near future.

Eastshade is available on PC from Steam or itch.io, and also on Xbox and PS4.

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