Game Reviews

Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires

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Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires

Simplicity is the hallmark of a good smartphone game. The reasons for that are fairly obvious - complex games demand protracted periods of concentration.

Spectral Souls is a bus stop-missing game, not because it's hard to put down but because you'll still be picking your way through the menus preparing for your first battle as your office whips past the window.

Introduce yourself

Resurrection of the Ethereal Empire is a port of a PSP tactics role-playing game, which was itself a sequel to the original Spectral Souls, which was never released in Europe.

It’s confusing to begin with, and it becomes more and more convoluted as the story of the warring Humans and Demons attempts to hold itself together, with the story admirably swapping between both sides' points of view during the course of the game.

Up to 84 characters pop up throughout, and none but the first handful is ever properly introduced. While you’re still trying to figure out who one person is and what he does, another eight characters will wander in at once and announce themselves.

The game allows you to play as multiple armies, switching between them at will and pursuing all threads of the story at once. It’s a novel idea and it gives the impression of there being no good or evil sides to this conflict.

But with so many characters and so much to follow, it becomes overwhelming. It’s like watching three different soap operas at the same time, all playing at twice the normal speed.

Wait your turn

Battles give you control of up to five characters. Each can be equipped with different weapons and skills, depending on their class and fighting style (Knight, Light Mage, Magic Warrior, Giant Dragon Thing).

It’s mainly a matter of placing your ranged and magic units behind your close combat fighters and then punching or slashing all round you, healing frontline units whenever necessary, and carefully avoiding encirclement.

Graphically, the battlefields are impressively detailed, with 2D animated characters placed on a 3D environment, but the default isometric view means trees and structures often get in the way of the action. Thankfully, you can rotate the view and zoom in or out by swiping the screen.

Would you like to see the menu?

Navigating endless menus using the on-screen D-pad and buttons also doesn’t help with the game's geriatric gait.

Complex menus are probably to be expected in such a JRPG-tactics hybrid, but Spectral Souls will push even the most ardent fan of the genre to his limits.

For example, in the world map’s many (but identical) market towns you have to 'register' items found on the battlefield if you want to buy more. But doing so loses you the item, meaning you have to go and buy what you have already found. No game should boast a system of bureaucracy as a gameplay feature.

Spectral Souls is admirable in that it commands a lot of attention, thought, and levels of micro-management, unlike most Android games (and at over 1GB in size and £9 in price, you’d expect it to).

It definitely improves as you get used to the menus, and it delivers a certain kind of wonder. But all too often it’s a wonder born of vexation.

Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires

Spectral Souls is a unique Android dish that has few peers on the platform. However, the slow pace and confusing narrative end up making it an acquired taste
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