Everything one can say about Snailteeth’s new tower defence/RPG Spirited Soul is colored by the game’s poor localization. The translated game text is usually a bit awkward, lacking punctuation and confusing your and you’re, but some sections are as incomprehensible as only Google Translate can be. The game story seems to be about a peaceful land suffering from the encroaching, uh, something bad, not entirely sure what. You begin in the only village unaffected by the bad thing — maybe it’s a monster plague? I’m not really sure, thanks to the poorly localized game text — and are tasked with stopping the yucky thing, and reclaiming the once beautiful land.
Players begin by choosing a character. The accompanying text is pretty much just a charming character name, unless “magic kiki” and “wing of heaven” are character classes I’ve not previously encountered, so the character art must guide players in their choice. Presumably the fellow in all platemail is a melee fighter,and presumably the young lady carrying a flying staff is an enchantress. All the possible heroes are cute, and all have some nameless, but balanced, special attacks, although I question the practicality of the archer wearing boots and a loincloth ribbon.
Spirited Soul is described as tower defense-meets-RPG, and the combat really is the heart of the game. In battles, players choose their battle sidekicks for offensive or defensive combat capabilities, and then create swarms of these battle sidekicks to fight swarms of enemies. Multiple instances of battle sidekicks pour out of your generation towers, and head out to fight the multiple instances of enemies coming from their generation towers. These large team battles have the same satisfaction of building a huge stack of trebuchets and heading over to blow up Montezuma in an old Civ game, and a red vs blue overlay map makes it quite easy to keep track of your armies.
At the same time, heroes can attack enemies with their nameless special attacks. There’s no instruction on the battle sidekicks’ abilities, and no explanation of the hero’s attacks, but trial and error isn’t a bad way to learn. Animations of supernatural attacks from cute heroes are an RPG standard, and the interaction is a basic click-to-attack, which makes it easier for players to pick up, but adds no innovation to what dozens of similar RPGs offer.
It took me several rounds to develop a strategy beyond piling up phalanxes of battle sidekicks and running them towards the enemy hordes, while randomly button-mashing my hero’s special attacks, but an optimal strategy did emerge, and finding it on my own was the most delightful part of a mediocre game.
Each battle is numbered and players receive one to three stars based on how well they’ve completed the battle. You may recognize this structure from Candy Crush Saga, Panda Jam, or dozens and dozens of other casual games. It’s an effective way to add replay to a game as players repeat a round for a perfect score. Or it was for the first half-dozen battles of Spirited Soul, after that it began to highlight how desperately repetitive each battle is.
Battles become less satisfying and engaging because there’s just not enough choice in building the sidekick teams or organizing battle strategy of special attacks. I agree with Sid Meier’s famous definition fo a game as “series of interesting choices”, and by that criteria, Spirited Soul is terribly lacking.
Instead of a series of interesting choices, Spirited Soul offers a series of interesting loot drops! Successful combats result in the acquisition of improved armor, weapons, and pretty treasure. This is more of a slot-machine mechanic than a strategy game, but pretty clothes that are also helpful in combat is an effective reward.
Spirited Soul offers some lovely scenes, nice loot, and cute heroes, but ultimately there’s not all that much separating this from dozens (hundreds?) of other grind-y RPGs with great graphics and poor localization.
Fans of this genre will enjoy the lovely images and the tower-defense twist on the grindy RPG standards. The battle mechanics are worth trying, but this is not a very engaging role-playing game. Players without a deep love of repetitive combat as they save the generic world from encroaching doom should probably give it a miss.
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