Spectral Souls is a tactical RPG that gets a lot of things right, but stumbles with its combat
Smartphones have essentially supplanted traditional gaming handhelds for all intents and purposes. Why carry around multiple devices when one will suffice? Sadly though, the complexity we used to enjoy on those platforms hasn’t totally made the jump, and we’ve been left with mostly simple, albeit excellent, bite sized games. Spectral Souls bucks that trend for sure, but is it good enough to stand apart and make itself known?
Spectral Souls is a tactical RPG where you’ll follow a war between humans and demons in a pretty clichéd storyline. In a nice twist, you will play on both sides of the conflict, which is pretty unique. It’s actually pretty refreshing to not just have the standard tropes of demonic overlords and the human upstarts, but to be able to switch back and forth as to which side you’ll control in any given battle. For the most part you can switch around as much as you’d like between combat, but there are sections called “historical events” where you need to choose a side for the duration, so you can influence the timeline of events.
Outside of that unique element, the game fits nicely into the RPG standard practices. You’ll fight for XP, level up, and visit towns to buy and upgrade items. There’s a cool ability to upgrade and create new items at workshops in the towns as well, which after some experimenting can yield pretty interesting results.
While the storyline doesn’t break new ground for a tactical battle game it, really doesn’t need to. So long as the fighting is good, that’s more than enough to keep your interest the whole way through.
…so long as the fighting is good.
Unfortunately, that’s sort of the problem here. Spectral Souls is a tactical battle game, which means that it’s turn-based like a traditional RPG, but you’ll be moving around a map to get yourself into position to fight and defend. The stalwarts of this genre are Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea, so it’s hard to play a tactical battle game and not compare it to these two giants.
Most of Spectral Souls battles devolve into using two different abilities, and once you figure that out, the game turns pretty cookie cutter. While I loved the display of win conditions at the start of each battle, and the bonus conditions to strive for (like killing a certain number of enemies), once a battle started I would just tend to get bored.
It’s a shame too, because production-wise, the game is top notch and really unlike anything I’ve seen on a phone up until now. It’s of little surprise that it started life as a Sony Playstation Portable game. It really shows, and standing side by side with the PSP original, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. Of course, that also goes for the file size, since this bad boy takes up 1.5GB of space. But you can see where all that memory goes.
I don’t mind paying good money for good games, but Spectral Souls is just ok. While perfectly satisfactory, it doesn’t really excel in the gameplay department. And for that reason, not the price, it’s hard to fully endorse this game. If you dig tactical battle games you may like what you find, but you’re really going to need to love the genre to get your money’s worth.