Enjoyable, If Ultimately Unspectactular
Faster than you can say: “hey! Get those smudgy fingers off my screen”, we have another iOS action RPG teasing us all to smear-up our once pristine glass. Kabam’s Spirit Lords is a lot like all of those other games you’ve played - namely Torchlight and Diablo – but this time you can control affairs ala Tom Cruise in Minority Report; and that’s cool, right?
It’s always hard to sum up a game such as this latest iPad romp because it’s so desperately inoffensive we might as well be summing up the relevant merits of this shoe I’m holding in my hand (trust me, I’m holding one and typing). Neither is particularly exciting, sure there’s a nice bit of aesthetic gone into the craft, but in reality, it’s just there. Existing.
Storm Lords kicks off with a bit of small-scale character creation. You can both choose barbarian or sorcerer, and select a beard or two wherever applicable. From here you’re treated to the regular story of epic proportions where you must save the yada-yada-yada with an excessive amount of monster slaying in the interim.
The central mechanics of the iOS game are solid enough. Tapping on an enemy will send your character either barrelling through into melee charge, or instead send out a few dispatching magic spells. Being the butch type of guy that I am, I chose to play as a hairy psychopath as my digital alter ego and let him loose upon the world in a hail of maul swings and double-tapped jumping.
Special abilities in the game are engaged by either dragging on the screen, or by deploying the aforementioned double-tap. Mechanically, everything fits and is well crafted, reducing the need for a flurry of finger-prodding by implementing a smart auto-attack function once combat is engaged, while also adding something a little extra in the way of special moves.
And while it all may sound a little same old, same old, where things really shine are in the visual department. Despite its rather humdrum nature (more of which later) Spirit Lords is a good-looking game. Although very reminiscent of Torchlight’s colourful style, there’s an impressive amount of detail that has been dragged out of the iPad with some clever textures and some wonderful world design.
Also adding a little more flavour to proceedings are the titular spirits. Instead of pure skill upgrades and weapon grind, as seen previously in your last instalment of ARPG, spirits are introduced as a catch-all character improvement device. By completing levels you will randomly loot spirits, or, presumably, rend them from the oozing corpse of your elite victim. From here you can add these spirits to your various attacks, increasing their potency.
While this is really only an aesthetic twist on the usual gem socketing and rune enhancing adventures of Diablo 3, there are also some interesting quirks in the ability to then power up your equipped spirits and evolve them once certain criteria are met. Revolutionary it isn’t, but kudos to developer Kabam for at least trying to innovate within their linear genre.
The rest of the hack-and-slash odyssey is nothing more than retelling of games you’ve already played. Levels, despite their imaginative graphical drive, are often all-too brief or simplistic. You’ll club to death whatever bad guy is thrown out at you and loot their lifeless corpse ad infinitum. Every so often you might team together with other finger-prodding champions, but other than a mild distraction, it’s hard to totally recommend Spirit Lords as your latest mobile beau.
And without trying to sound like one of the cool guys smoking at the back of class, it does feel as though developer Kabam may have had a slightly different audience in mind. Despite a fairly generous, but none the less eager to pitch for sales, pay wall, this can feel a little bit like my first ARPG. There are a few nice twists and turns here and there, but it feels like a little bit of a box ticking exercise. Loot. Grind. ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ spirit catching.
But perhaps I’m being a little harsh. To return to my earlier refrain, Spirit Lords is simply inoffensive, solid and admittedly fun for the most part. For a quick bit of iPad escapism, it’s a great candidate, and will undoubtedly offer you enough hacking and slashing on the go until you can get to your PC or console to boot up the really hard stuff like Diablo, Torchlight and Path of Exile.
Enjoyable, if ultimately unspectacular, this one might be for the younger generation or those who desperately need to dispatch a few critters whilst on the move.
Polish 8/10 - Despite a few issues with performance on earlier iPads, the game runs without fault and with some crisp world design and a few fancy menus chucked in, Spirit Lords is a polished iOS offering.
Gameplay 5/10 - The game is an ARPG, albeit with inclinations towards being a Fisher Price product. It’s simple, not too inspired, but definitely fun. Spirit collecting can provide an engrossing side attraction and brings a little more to the table than most ARPG offerings. Solid if nothing else.
Visuals and Sound 8/10 - Spirit Lords is an aesthetic treat. Colours pop, combat animations excite and the world looks like a colourful, I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Torchlight treat. Not much in the way of originality but an achievement for the device it’s on.
Longevity 7/10 - Like most ARPGs, there’s plenty of loot, grind and spirit wrangling. Levels can be replayed and multiplayer can be sought out.
Value 7/10 - Although there’s the faint echoes of in-app purchases reverberating throughout, there’s a very fair slice of content available without any cost.