Destiny of Spirits Review
Sony PS Vita
The phrase “free-to-play” gets thrown about quite a lot these days in the gaming industry, but to most, those three little words act as a great big warning sign attached to games that effectively run on micro-transactions. Destiny of Spirits is a PS Vita exclusive that manages to insert this increasingly common form of payment type into the traditional active-time-based style of role-playing-game. It might therefore come as a surprise that there’s quite a bit to enjoy without you spending a single penny.
Bordering somewhere between religious and downright supernatural, the story is surprisingly wafer-thin. Our world is on the cusp of being invaded by monsters from a parallel dimension, and the only way they can be stopped is by taking the fight to them. Upon arriving in the spirit world, you’ll be granted with a number of inherently good spirits to aid you on your quest. It’s a storyline straight out of the pages of My First RPG, but one that serves as a perfectly functional backdrop for a game that’s more interested in promoting its technical accomplishments.
That’s not to say it doesn’t look the part. The menu designs and music all help it improve its status as a fantasy role player game. Each spirit you encounter in the game, whether they’re bad or good, has been treated with the same care and precision as any role-playing game character. That also goes for non-video game RPGs, as Destiny of Spirits is more like a digital card game than a traditional computer game. However, unlike Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, or even Final Fantasy, you don’t need to be a wizard at RPGs in order to get to grips with Destiny of Spirits.
Even for the novice role-player, the battle system is a pretty straightforward one. Once you’ve completed the game’s opening tutorial missions, all it will take is a bit of forward thinking ahead of the fight to determine which elemental character types you’ll be taking into the next battle. In fact, the spirits will attack automatically, with the player only able to choose which enemy they attack, or whether or not they use a special attack when these are available. The active time-based attacks combined with the rock-paper-scissors strategy makes the action all rather boring. That is, until you realise the task you have ahead of you and that perhaps you’ve underestimated this Spirit realm.
Given that the game takes places on a different dimensional plane to our own, the world map is planet Earth. Starting in their current location, players can move from square to square, vanquishing the creatures that inhabit each on and liberating it on behalf of both the good spirits and human race alike. Each square usually has around four or five battles facing creatures roughly around your own level, before facing something of a sub-boss. Defeating these tougher, slightly more unique creatures liberates that square and opens up the adjacent ones. This is where the game gets truly addictive.
It won’t take long before you realise your starting spirits just aren’t up to the challenge anymore. The strange thing is, they don’t level up after each battle, or even gain experience, despite there being an EXP bar in amongst their stats. Winning battles gives you Summon orbs which in turn allow you to unlock new, albeit rather common spirits to add to your collection. These can be added to your party roster or quite literally absorbed into your existing characters in order to level them up. Finding new creatures becomes an addictive challenge in itself, particularly when you’re trying to create a team of spirits that covers all the elemental bases.
One of the more interesting quirks in this game is hunting for spirits via your GPS location. Selecting the Hunt option from the menu opens up a compass, highlighting which direction you’re more likely to locate new creatures. Trouble is if your Vita isn’t 3G-enabled, you’re obviously restricted to areas containing WiFi. Some spirits are also tailored to reside in specific geographical areas as well, particularly if their mythological background is from that part of the world, so unless you’re planning on becoming the Destiny of Spirits equivalent of a Pokémon master and embarking on an around-the-world trip, you’d better start making some friends.
This is where the game’s social method comes in to play and it actually is quite a promising concept. Ahead of each battle, you are given the chance to rent a supporting spirit from another player. It comes at the cost of abundant blue Spirit orbs but it’s a small price to pay. These orbs are the most commonly found type of in-game currency available, considering they are awarded after each victory. Getting that extra bit of support from another character, without your party cost (or wallet for that matter) taking a battering really can turn the tides of war in your favour.
So far, Destiny of Spirits has quite a lot to offer in terms of simple, addictive gameplay and we’ve yet to mention the cost of the game’s associated microtransactions. So what exactly does your hard-earned cash buy you? The answer is Destiny orbs. Aside from an initial kitty of around 100 orbs, and any bonuses the generous admin may throw your way from time to time, Destiny orbs are otherwise purchased in packs via the PlayStation Store.
Unlike Summon orbs or Spirit orbs, these golden Destiny orbs aren’t quite as throwaway. Just like the Summon orbs, they can be used to summon new spirits, albeit ones that are rather more powerful and a hell of a lot rarer. The addition of limited edition spirits, such as themed characters from Sony titles like Knack or Gravity Rush, means that creating a truly unique party can be yours for a price. It’s all a bit FIFA Ultimate Team, but given that Destiny of Spirits’ target audience is perhaps a little more choosey about how they spend their cash, finding your star player is a much easier, much cheaper task. However, Destiny orbs have another role to play beyond that of creature hunting.
Should your party fall in battle, you’ll have to wait fifteen minutes before they are revived, and that’s before their health has even started to regenerate. 10 Destiny orbs will restore your party back to full health instantly. They prove handy particularly for the special raid events, or if you’re just one battle away from liberating a whole area from evil spirits. Otherwise, waiting for half an hour to try again is a small price to pay. There’s no real sense of urgency in Destiny of Spirits, so switching off your Vita between train journeys is all you really need, unless you’ve become totally addicted within the game’s opening few battles.
In keeping with the dynamic nature of this being an online-only game, the game will constantly be updated with special events, known as raids, meaning that new objectives and spirits will feature in the game regularly. Raids last for a few weeks and contain battles that are tremendously more difficult, yet add to the overall addictive nature of the game, in a similar way to Dark Souls. The only thing standing in your way is the constant downtime the game seems to currently be facing. Within the game’s opening few weeks, there has been plenty of maintenance down time which either points towards Sony’s support for the title or the game isn’t quite up to standard. It’s frustrating given that you’ve can do anything with the game until it connects to the server.
As far as role-playing games go, Destiny of Spirits may come across as sticking to the essentials. However, the GPS and social features are a nice touch, if not one we would have preferred to see in a DS Pokémon title, rather than a free-to-play Vita title. Still for anyone who is always on the back foot when it comes to games focuses on micro-transactions, it may come as a shock to hear that Destiny of Spirits technically can be played and even enjoyed for zero cost, provided you have the patience for it.