The Spirit Engine 2
All it takes is one event to change your life. That's what you're about to discover in The Spirit Engine 2, a recently-made-free RPG presented in a side-scrolling format. One dark night, you stumble across a prone figure in the middle of the road, and choosing to do "the right thing" could mean more than you think. With nine chapters, nine distinct party members to choose from, and a complex battle system, The Spirit Engine 2 will carry you across a strange and dangerous world. When cults with frightening agendas, violent beasts, and shady characters start roaming the land, the smart thing to do would be to stay indoors. But then, who says you have to do the smart thing? The game is more of an evolution than a direct sequel to the original Spirit Engine, and you don't need to have played the first to pick this one up.
The game can be played either with keyboard and hotkeys or with the mouse, and a lengthy in-game tutorial serves to acquaint you with the finer aspects of Spirit Engine-ry. You'll start out by selecting your three party members; ideally, you'll want to take along a mercenary, a knight, and a healer, and you'll have several options for each class. Read the biographies for each character and pick whoever you like best, since for the most part all characters in a given class will share the same abilities.
While battles are still turn-based, they play out automatically; all you need to do is select an action for each of your characters from a list, and they'll perform it until you choose another. In between battles, you'll soon find yourself travelling with a full party, and each of them is only to happy to share their thoughts on the situation. You can read what they think in their personal journals from the party menu, or you can click on their flashing character portrait when they have something to say. Seen a conversation before or simply impatient to get to the next encounter? Then hit the "Skip" button during dialogue and fast forward through it.
Analysis: I've always believed that linearity isn't a bad thing; in fact, in a setting where you want to tell a specific story as cleanly as possible, it's the best choice. Some players are going to be put off by how the game railroads them through the plot with limited interactivity. The game is well written, if a little stiff in places, and tells a story that feels suitably epic, with a diverse cast to provide depth. The downside is that for the most part, that depth is only an illusion after a certain point. You'll start to notice that regardless of your party members, most conversations are virtually identical, just phrased slightly differently from character to character. This isn't a bad thing, but it is a little disappointing since any replays wind up feeling a bit stale and lacking the mystery of the first playthrough.
It seems like the crippling blow for a lot of indie RPGs is the inclusion of turn-based combat. In an effort to get out from under that label and appeal to a broad audience, The Spirit Engine 2 winds up tripping itself up a bit. The side-scrolling set-up of the game would have been perfectly suited to a real-time combat system such as the one found in the Tales series. What we get instead is at once overcomplicated and a little boring; there's a tangled wealth of customisation available for tactics, but you won't ever really need any of it since you can just set two characters to battle, one to heal, and wander off for a while until you inevitably win. It's especially tedious since even on the highest speed setting fights can drag on due to regenerating enemies. Of course, your party automatically regenerate when they fall too, but it still turns what would be a quick encounter into a drawn out ordeal.
But whatever issues you may take with the game's mechanics, you can't fault its quality. It's a stunner with its rich colours, lush backgrounds, and expressive characters. Visiting each new locale is a joy, and the diversity serves to make the world feel larger and more realistic. Well, as realistic as a world with magically regenerating feathered carnivorous plants can be, anyway. And populating that world is a cast of genuinely interesting characters in a plot that, while slow to start, clearly has a lot of love and thought in its crafting. It's unfortunate that you don't really get a chance to explore it as deeply as you might like, since everything happens on a strict schedule with none of the typical "wander through a town and talk to unimportant characters" fare you might expect from an RPG.
While the game may take a while to sink its claws into you, its a stunningly professional product from a very small development team. Despite a few hiccups in its design, the end result is a big, beautiful adventure that any RPG fan should check out.
Download the free full version
Mac OS X:
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.
I am playing it right now. The tutorial isn't amazing (unless either I suck at understanding it/skipped part of it on accident) but once you figure it out, it gets really good
there is a lot of fun to be had with this and it's much more active than it seems
"there's a tangled wealth of customisation available for tactics, but you won't ever really need any of it since you can just set two characters to battle, one to heal, and wander off for a while until you inevitably win."
What game were you playing? There's no 'inevitable' about battles in TSE2, and it can get punishingly hard if you don't plan carefully and adjust your tactics on the fly.
Still, though, good game, great story, brilliant (just-made-free as well) soundtrack.
I'm glad jayisgames decided to review this - TSE 2 really is a classic! It's very much a labor of love - one guy did the composing, one guy did everything else, and the production values are far, far, above what you'd expect from an indie RPG.
Erm, I have no idea which one of the "main downloads" link I have to click on could someone help please?
You can download from any of the 1.06 version links. They're all the same. :) There are a lot of them so that there are other links to get the game from in case a server goes down or a site exceeds its bandwith.
I didn't actually have much trouble with battles. I don't think this was due to any particular skill on my part. I mainly just dumped points into healing skills and basic attacks whenever I gained a level and the characters did the rest of the work. While some of the battles later in the game can get a bit more complex and challenging, the lion's share of the combat is still very straightforward and required little input from me. (On the default difficulty, admittedly.)
I'm playing on easy and fustated on how the battle goes. I'm on the plains with green ball enemies that can heal themselves to 120% of theirs health. I have finished two of them and have just one to kill-- it starts healing it self like crazy that I can't kill it even with all three characters attacking!
Truly excellent. A tactical RPG with clever tactical combat, some very high quality storytelling and well written characters.
It's almost a shame they had to make it freeware. I'm glad they did though.
Virus in the download file? I downloaded from the atomicgamers (?) mirror, and Avast gives me a positive.
It's incredible that such a work of art can be freeware. The story is outstanding - the writing and dialogue are top notch, and there were many moments that made me sit up in a fit of rapture and want to hug the writer. I wish someone could post the entire story somewhere (perhaps the wikipedia article's 'plot' section) - I really want to read it again. Beautiful!
It's only real failing is the combat system - it's fun at first, but then it really starts to become a bother by midgame. By the last few chapters it almost annoyed me to the point of giving up.
A game of surprising depth that gets 4/5 from me. Kudos, Mark Pay!