Spirit Stones review: a puzzle RPG with a touch of TCG
Xairylle | On October 17, 2013 at 11:00 am
Upon reading in an announcement earlier today that Spirit Stones, Gamevil’s latest game for Android, is a “Puzzle RPG with a TCG twist”, my curiosity was immediately piqued. How is that possible? The only way to find out was to give it a try.
Gameplay: Do not let the colors and simplicity fool you
Truth be told, the main gameplay mechanic is easy to understand. Although it makes use of the turn-based RPG concept of having characters in a party battle enemy players or monsters, you attack using puzzle gameplay. It’s basically a matter of sliding your finger across the screen to connect three or more colored spheres that issues an attack command to a character with the corresponding color. The total damage is the attack power of the character multiplied by the number of spheres you were able to connect. So the more spheres you connect, the higher the damage. There are also other objects that affect your gameplay aside from spheres such as bombs, healing potions, swords, bows, hammers, and dynamites to name a few. You will discover more of these things as you play the game.
At this point, if you are thinking it’s another copy of Candy Crush or Chuzzle with a slight hint of RPG and TCG, hold it right there. Remember that you have enemies that can attack you, too. And if you are not careful with the combinations you connect, you will end up dropping. In regular puzzle games, you can get away with just connecting a few blocks to make way for other blocks. In Spirit Stones, that is not such a good idea because that’s like wasting a turn for your entire party.
Now to make things a bit more challenging, the game throws in some TCG ideas. Each player has a set of cards. Each card represents one character, which can be one of any four classes — Warrior (Red), Mage (Blue), Archer (Green), and Thief (Yellow). You may choose up to four different cards to form your party. Players may also enhance their cards by enchanting them or combining them with other cards to form new cards.
According to the announcement, the game has 400 unique characters, which means there are a lot of different combinations and possibilities for players to experiment on and play with. And don’t worry about running out of stages, as there are currently over 500 stages in the game.
When I started playing, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I’m pretty bad at trading card games so I expected this to turn out rather horribly for me. That was not the case. I actually found the game interesting and was determined to come up with a better strategy after the first time my party got wiped out. Yes, it’s a puzzle game that requires you to have an attack strategy and I think that’s great.
However, I encountered several problems while playing this game. I first installed it on my phone, where it kept on crashing. Wondering if it was a device-related problem, I switched to my tablet where the crashes were minimal, but it kept on telling me my internet connection (which was fine at the time) was fluctuating. I had to reconnect and restart a lot of times, which ruined most of the game experience for me.
Audio and visuals: Why do the cards look different? Was the sound supposed to disappear?
Like in regular TCGs, each card has its own character design. In Spirit Stones, however, while the character designs are great, they don’t feel uniform to me. For example, several designs are detailed and have depth, while the others feel rather flat and cartoony or anime-ish. Even the coloring styles are significantly different. While I understand that a game may have a group of different artists or designers, I believe it is important to have a unified, if not entirely similar art style. This aspect, however, doesn’t affect the gameplay and probably won’t matter to the player who is more concerned with gameplay than design.
As for the layout, Spirit Stones is easy to navigate for a game that has a great deal of content. The menus are properly arranged and classified so you know where to go. Also, the buttons are large enough and properly spaced so you won’t end up tapping on the wrong icon. With the labels and button designs, you won’t end up mindlessly figuring out where or when to tap to get to the next page or instance.
The audio was okay and provided a good ambience in terms of sound. It was surprisingly loud at the start even when I lowered the volume. I ended up playing with earphones. The only problem I had with the audio is that it just suddenly dies out during certain instances like getting a card or after combining cards, for example. At first I wasn’t sure if something was wrong with my earphones or if I accidentally muted it.
Spirit Stones is for both the casual and the hardcore gamer granting that they’re willing to pay attention to detail. The number of tasks in the TCG system will give you some variety so you won’t end up getting bored doing the same thing every time you play the game. Since it also allows you to play with or against other people, it also appeals to those who love games with social interaction. I know I would have enjoyed this game had it not been for the crashes and connection problems. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who experienced this so if you found a solution, had the same or entirely different experience, share it with us in the comments section.