Thursday, October 24, 2013

Destiny of Spirits beta quick play

Bad Luck, oh thanks for that. If I was superstitious I'd stop playing this game beta right now. But that's what I got just for entering my age (old) and location (knackered old country) into this global online myth-based battling game. On the other hand, my lucky element is 'wood', so at least some Americans will get a chuckle from Destiny of Spirits.

The actual game sees you try to conquer the world via competitive battles against sets of darker creatures, with your party of up to six mythical creatures battling in online contests. You can have three beasts in a fight at once, and they use elemental and skill relationships to boost each other's abilities, tilting a fight in your favour. If a beast or your team die in battle then it takes half-an-hour for them to revive, so you'd better develop a strong bench.

Building a strong party is clearly the key to success and collecting Spirit Points, Summoning Stones and Destiny Orbs, won after successful battles, will help to boost your forces, with the last item used to summon super-creatures. You can also merge creatures to create more powerful ones, which should provide plenty of thinking, especially when trading with other players. Spirit Points are rare and needed to boost your health, guess where the currently inactive Store will come in handy?

As you can see, its all neatly, drawn, although there's next to no animation in the battle scenes, and it looks like once the game goes live, some Sony celebrity characters might enter the fray to liven things up. I can't find PvP in the beta, not sure if that will be a feature of the final game, but it would be a great diversion to the main mild co-op based play.

The tutorial and beta offers a quick look at a slickly presented game that may just be a touch stat- and skill-heavy for casual gamers. Spirits and gifts can be traded with other players to open up the social aspect and friends can be drafted in to add support for big Boss battles, at a cost. You can also go hunting for new spirits using the GPS (or WiFi location).

My only outright concern at this point is the near constant game-halting "communicating" circle almost every time you tap something. Developer Q? Entertainment need to sort that out, I know an always online game needs to regularly update to the server, but it can do it in the background without slowing down the player. There's also too much hopping to the message screen, pop-ups would help sort that out.

Another gripe are some currently dumb interface decisions. For example, it will let you send a friend request, and only then will it tell you "You can't send any more friend requests!" Exclamation marks appear on a main menu item but when you tap that menu, none of the sub-options have the mark so you don't know which one has something urgent to tell you.

Also, Spirit selection for your party should be drag-and-drop, that's why we have touchscreens! You shouldn't have to tap through multiple menus, when you could slide along the list of reserves and drop them into blank holes or to replace tired/KO'ed characters. Similarly, the Mailbox needs an Accept All option as wading through a day's gifts/bonuses and credits takes too long.

As its a beta, there's also lots of failure to connect messages and other dropouts, that had all better be fixed by launch (unlike Killzone). If Sony get enough players into this, and as a free-to-play title it should (unlike Ridge Racer and PlayStation All-Stars which are now die-hard-fan only territory) then this could be a vibrant alternative to Pokemon or the endless mobile battle games for the Vita.

See the recent beta trailer and the original E3 announce trailer here, anyone else playing the beta, what are your thoughts?

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