Sunday, 5 August 2012

Spirit Engine 2: Game Design Review

Createde by Mark Pay with music provided by the now famous indie game music musician Josh Whelcel, The Spirit Engine 2 is the sequel to the freeware game of The Spirit engine. Both are side scrolling RPGs with a semi-turn based battle system similar to many Final Fantasy games.

If you like the game play of Spirit Engine 1, you'll love Spirit Engine 2 which contains better graphics and better gameplay. The writing is quite solid and I quite enjoyed my time with the various characters in the game.

The biggest and significant change to the gameplay is that it has a slightly improved battle interface allowing you to memories and store attacks together. This allows you to create combos that get unleashed at the same time.

One important point to note is there isn't really gameplay innovation from the first one aside from some new skills. In that vein, I would still like to mention a few minor issues with the game design which I thought hold it back just a little bit.

Limited space in item shop- For some strange reason you can only sell items if the shop has space to receive said item. So if you're like me and like hoard your items and need to sell them off at once you might find yourself unable to do so.

You also can't compared items in shop with currently equipped items immediately (you have to click a button to view the currently equipped items) so you end up switching back and forth between screens trying to compare equipment value. Each shop only has about 7 items on average so it's not a big deal.

Lacks true replayability- Yes you can choose different characters but aside from the dialogue and one or two skills, I'm pretty sure there isn't any real difference. The dialoague is well written but this is quite a lnear adventure. Mind you this linearity also means the balance and variety is controlled and you're never really overpowered and you can easily level up if need be.

However I do think it could use a couple more sub-quests or sub-plots.

Needs more character flexibility and customisation- In my personal opinion rather than having 9 different characters but only able to choose 3 at the game, I think it would have been better to have just 3 characters (knight, rifleman and priest) and then just focus on really developing them or create more levels of the game. Alternatively, a party headquarters where you can swap your characters would be good so for example if you prefer to take on the next enemy with 3 knight you could do so.

Although you sink points into upgrading their existing skills and unlock more as you go on you don't really choose the skills and you don't really know when picking the characters at the beginning of the game what skills they have. Again, because of the linearity, and the fact that you have to pick a knight, priest and gunman type character there is no wrong choice.

Chain system isn't special enough - Basically its a way to program your troops so they act in unison and launch attacks together. It works perfectly fine but I was hoping for a more complicated combo system similar to Chrono Triggers combination attacks. As enemies change tactics occasionally I never really felt the need to use it as manually controlling my troops seemed more effective.

A lot of empty space at the bottom of the screen- I mentiond this in my Spirit Engine review but the 2D nature of the game meant there was as lot of space at the bottom third of the screen. I wonder if something more interesting could be placed there instead. Maybe a map?

I enjoyed The Spirit Engine 2 immensely. For a story driven person like me who prefers story over statistics heavy gameplay found in most western RPGs I have to give it a thumbs up. Considering its now free, there is no reason not to play it.

Personally, I think the Spirit Engine 1 and 2 deserve a special place in video game literature as two very well done indie games. Yes, neither have amazing million dollar production values but like a well written light novel, the tight story, gameplay, graphics, music and unique setting make them well worth your time.

As a reminder, the music is also free and I strongly recommend downloading it.

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