It's funny, being asked to take a look at a game like Spirit Tales, one in a preview-only state. As usual, I am excited any time a new game pops up in need of being checked out, but when I am alone on the server and surrounded only by soulless NPCs, I feel a bit like a kid lost in an amusement park. Sure, it's a blast to ride all of the rides, but after the fifth go-around on the ferris wheel, I would be missing some humanity.
I soldiered on, however, and luckily I had some of the most adorable graphics ever keeping me company. Not only that, but my gracious hosts stuffed my tiny widdle pockets with cash-shop money. I blew the bulk of it on costumes for my little avatar and had quite a bit of fun playing dress-up. At first, I thought the game was going to be nothing but a game of dress-up.
Luckily for me, my livestream audience seemed to know more than I did.
When I first started, I rolled my character and happily rolled around the environment. No, I mean that I literally rolled around. As I moved it felt as though the world was actually a ball. Normally, of course, you would not notice the curvature of the planet you are on unless you are floating above it. In Spirit Tales, the world feels tiny and round, but the landscape continued to change as I walked. I enjoyed zooming my camera angle as I played. It felt more like I was sitting back playing a game on my 3DS. People in the chat room during my livestream noticed the rolling landscape as well.
Graphically the game is from this newer, slicker, cuter and more Anime school of design that seems to be growing stronger by the week. I have to admit, I love it. I have absolutely zero issues with the fact that some of these newer titles look better, run easier and are more over the top than before. A lot of those other titles are more wacky than Spirit Tales, a game that really just wants players to get some action while donning detailed and quirky cash-shop outfits.
Watch live video from massivelytv on TwitchTV
I tried on all of the outfits that I could. Forget inventory space used for goods or weapons; I packed my bag with stupid (in a good way) bunny hats, woodpeckers that sat on my skull and tried to peck their way in, and goofy wings. If I was going to go out adventuring, I wanted to have an outfit ready for any contingency. The funny thing is, the combat was fun enough to distract me from my adorable goods. Sure, it was basic stuff; I clicked on a monster and killed it within a few hits, occasionally firing off a special attack that transformed me into a monster, but it all felt surprisingly zippy. I really felt like I was playing an action-based game.
As you would expect, the quest text was almost completely unnecessary. I would grab a quest, click on the auto-walk feature that took me to my target, and ripped it apart. It was a pretty standard slaughter, but it went fast. I call games like Spirit Tales a "soft grind." Unfortunately, I just thought of how silly that might sound as I wrote it, but it's a good description. It means that the game hands out typical kill-blank-whatever quests, but the mobs aren't much of a challenge and everything moves quickly. I hate grinding and generally see it as a boring job instead of a game mechanic, but a soft grind can actually be enjoyable, especially with friends. (Again, I realize how silly that must have read.)
I liked my character's ability to transform into some sort of uber-self, a larger and more powerful buffed individual who cuts down enemies even faster than normal. Still, the transformation was temporary. Handy, but temporary. It all added up to combat that was easy on the eyes and fun. I could only imagine mowing down dozens of enemies with a full section of my buddies.
I did find myself frustrated at one point while I looked for an NPC to turn in a quest. A player in the chat room indicated to me that the NPC had been basically scared off by baddies, and in order to get her back, I would need to destroy the baddies and the totem that kept them spawning in the spot. The mechanic felt like a sort of RIFT junior and gave some real depth to the game. Suddenly the world could be changed and friendly areas could be taken over by the other side. I got rid of the bad guys and destroyed their stupid totem and suddenly my needed NPC was there! I wonder whether the mechanic scales later in the game and whole towns can be taken over by evil? I'm eager to find out.
I liked my short journey through Spirit Tales. I have to be honest, the older I get the more I value whimsy and humor in my gaming. Don't get me wrong; I love a good bit of drama or a bout of "serious" gaming, but much of the newer design in MMO gaming seems to be so similar that Anime-inspired MMOs seem to be some the few that take a chance with art, music and setting. Those crazy Anime designers will make anything -- flowers with wings, giant crocodiles who ride around on tiny cows... just make something up and it will probably appear in an Anime-inspired MMO. A game like Spirit Tales is possibly just another Anime grinder, but so far it looks like yet another step in the direction of games that offer that soft grind, massive customization and stellar looks. I see nothing wrong with that.
Next week I will be taking an exclusive look at Lime Odyssey, another amazing-looking Anime MMO. I'll be streaming my first experiences on Monday, March 12th, on our livestream channel at 5:00 p.m. EDT! Be sure to watch that if you are a fan of the style. Feel free to give me advice in the chat room -- that's how I find out most of the good stuff anyway.
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!