The Spirit Engine 2

RPGs really shine, for me, when the writing is good. Planescape: Torment is the perennial example, lousy combat, magnificent story, and it's an all-time classic.

Then it's no wonder then that a lot of the charm of The Spirit Engine 2 comes from it's great characters. Instead of the usual D&D-style free-form character creation you can build your 3 person party from 9 characters, each with their own interesting backstory to go with their skills. There are no Gimli-analogs or standard knights in shining armor, instead you get a neurotic angel with molting wings, a knight that dreams of running away from his estate and marrying a waitress back home, and a troubled priest who never removes his unnerving blank white mask. The world is a strange mix of magic and European Renaissance: in a genre as standardized as fantasy it stands out as unique.

Combat is similarly interesting. Each party is placed in a line - usually the person in front takes all the damage for that turn. Each character can learn many skills, which gives them 3 actions they can choose from during combat. When the timer goes off everyone takes their action simultaneously. Then the timer resets for the next turn. You can also swap your guys around in your line. It's simple, but offers a lot of depth.

The music and artwork are top notch, the game looks gorgeous. Selections from the soundtrack are available for free on their site.

Why You Should Check This Out: If you like RPGs, or great characters, or epic stories, or interesting combat, this is a game for you. It's a great fantasy RPG while it manages to avoid all the usual fantasy game ruts. It's fun, the demo offers a lot of gameplay, and it satisfies my RPG itch like no game I've played in a while.

[size=20]Download Demo Now[/size]

Comments

Sorry there's no direct download link, if someone finds one let me know and I'll slap it in there.

I'll definitely check this out when I get home. Your brief write-up made me think back to Suikoden for the PS1 (also now available in the PSN Store). That was a big favorite of mine. I suppose it still is. Thanks for the heads up on this.

Too many games. Too little time. Another great-looking game goes in the pile.
Sigh.

Just wanted to let all the interested know that the first Spirit Engine is now free and is also a fine game.

Wow this looks really cool. Too bad it's not Mac compatible, I'd be all over it. I have bootcamp, but it is just a pain. I might have to try this out though.

I got a ways into this, but the combat when approaching a particular enemy fort got ridiculously time-consuming. There's no real mana, just energy, which regenerates quickly. Enemy groups with healers become very difficult to kill, because at least with the three characters I chose, I could just _barely_ outdamage their healing. Plus, monsters don't stay down after you kill them for very long, so between not being able to keep them down, and them healing themselves, ordinary combat becomes hellaciously time-consuming. There were trash fights that were literally taking twenty minutes to win -- and then you'd run forward one screen and have to do it all over again.

I was always able to win the fights, but it took so long that I got bored and gave up on the game.

I really enjoyed the demo when I checked it out last month.

What Malor says about long fights is true, but I think that's part of learning the system. It gets faster as you learn more abilities and figure out how to chain them for best effect.

I've been playing TSE2 for the last couple of weeks.

I've described it as a 2D, side-scrolling, strategy party-based RPG. And, I agree with Pyro that it's the interactions between the party members and the way they interact with the storyline that's probably what I enjoy the most about this game.

The combat is realtime with three speed settings as well as pause. Your team and the opponents individually need some amount of time to build up enough "juice" to perform the next action to perform. You can specify sequences of actions, but I find that I'm always choosing a single action for each member of my party of three. If someone is knocked down to zero they temporarily faint, but aren't dead; they'll pop up again after some time if the current battle is still happening. If you win (having managed to get all the opponents down at once) your party is immediately healed, although there are overarching positive or negative effects for your party or certain members at various points through the storyline.

Your characters advance in level in lock-step. At each level they each get one point available to assign to skills/actions, which cannot be raised to more than 1/4 of the character's level. What's different with this game's approach is that you can move these assignments around at will, limited by up to 50 "take away" points, which are earned by defeating opponents.

So I'll end up finding a set of skills for my party that match reasonably well the opponents in a particular area but then will need to reassign things -- often pretty radically -- in order to win the boss fights. This means that I approach assigning skill points differently than in typical RPGs where I usually accumulate and hoard points until I get a clear indication of where it's best to use them, and even then only spend some of them. In TSE2, I find that I'll often end up assigning all or almost all of my available points, since I expect to be able to reassign them later.

I started with the demo version and after I purchased the full game I was able to continue from the demo's saved games. And, speaking of which, games can be saved (with a fixed set of around ten slots) only at save spots, and there's at most one in any separate part of a region, typically two or three for the whole region.

The region's regular opponents regenerate when you come back to location, but the special ones (like the bosses) don't. You can use this regeneration to grind up levels, but only so far, as once your opponent's level is too far below your party's, you no longer get any experience from the battle.

I've yet to complete the game with my original party. I get the impression that there may well be some real replayability through different choices of party members, which also includes some different potential skills.

I'm actually about halfway through this game as we speak, and so far it's been pleasantly surprising. Besides the combat, I'm really impressed with how, despite some rather JRPG influences, the BioWare-style personality dynamic between the specific characters you choose for your team really shines through. I'm not the type who tends to play games a second time regardless of the replayability considering how huge my backlog is, especially when it comes to time-sinks like RPGs, but I am left curious as to what the dialogue would be at certain points if I had chosen a different party member.

The combat can be annoying, as is the case with some JRPGs, where it's occasionally difficult to actually know what skills to have available until after you've gone into an encounter and discovered which ones won't work, forcing you to reload and change them around. But for the most part I thought it created some real tactical thought, as you can't just min/max your personal favourite skills and grind through everything. You have to be comfortable with everything.

An amount of polish is in this game I was not expecting.

Once I figured out the battle system it started eating time out of my day. Best experience so far is when priest (Mericious) tried to give the little girl a pistol so she could participate and the other other party members criticized him. His retort was fantastic: "What are you afraid of Charlotte? You're title of being the most useless member of the party in jeopardy?".

You are forced to grind somewhat in order to have enough of those do-over skill coins, though.

Full version is $18 is anyone else was wondering.

Buy. This. Game.

The interesting dialog (in which, contra Bioware, you have no options to choose from) is the only thing that might keep you playing, but the (literally) linear story progression through endless frustrating combats will likely make you quit.

Where this begs comparison to Japanese games is the "cutscene reward" game, only with dialog. Complete X number of combats like a good monkey, and you get more dialog. It's possible to consume a fantasy storyline and observe scripted character interactions without having to grind through bad gameplay--it's called a book.

Purchased.

On sale for $7.50 on Impulse right now. Not sure how long it will be there at that price. I might pick it up. At $5 I almost certainly would, $7.50 isn't that far off...

Just go for it. It's worth the extra $2.50 and I doubt it'll be on sale for $5 anytime soon. At the very least pick up the demo and see if you hate the combat system or whatever.

I liked the demo back in January. I know I don't have much time to get around to it now, but that's why we all have piles, right?

The Spirit Engine 2 has now been released for free by the developers.

They are still accepting donations and have links to send people to BMT Micro and Impulse and list what cut those digital download services take.

I hope it will run on this netbook with no GPU - we'll see. And I'll be giving them at least my $5.

Scaphism wrote:

I hope it will run on this netbook with no GPU - we'll see. And I'll be giving them at least my $5.

I'd be surprised if it didn't, but I'd like to hear your results. Graphically, it isn't powerful at all. The art is well done, but it's hardly going to tax any graphics processor.