Spirit Oath is going to be a game you want to check out. Its oddly unique take on the RTS genre is as interesting as it is aesthetic. Elderwood is in danger, but do you have the cunning to fight back against the darkness?
Spirit Oath – What The Hell Even Is It?
Before I had even started playing, Spirit Oath looked like a game I would find both intensely enjoyable and rather infuriating. I always go into strategy titles thinking I know what I am doing but quickly find myself at the mercy of my own poor decision making. My time playing XCOM and the Iron Harvest Demo have been the most recent pieces of evidence highlighting this. Still, I am a sucker for a strategy game, and Spirit Oath’s unique take on the genre made it a game I just had to try out.
Although basic, the storyline of Spirit Oath does raise some interesting questions. You ultimately play as a Spirit Guardian, although you almost never see this form. The narrator (whoever she may be) has called upon you to fulfill your oath to the forest and protect it from evil. Although it seems all pretty straightforward, it raises the question as to whether the Guardian Spirit actually wants to do that. For the sake of the review, I assumed that the Guardian Spirit was ready to step up and fulfill her oath, though.
Spirit Oath is a tile-based RTS which has you summoning your units via patterns.
When I first read this, I thought it sounded very mobile game-like. Which, I admit, had me a little skeptical. Thankfully, Spirit Oath is anything but as shallow as a mobile title. The game is as much a puzzle game as it is a real-time strategy title. You only get a limited number of rune tiles per level, and you have to use these strategically to summon the correct units, then you have the RTS part, so even if you’re adept with the stresses of RTS combat, Spirit Oath might prove a challenge for you.
“In Spirit Oath you play as a forest Guardian Spirit, returning to consciousness and facing dark foes. Use Rune Tiles to rebuild the land and create patterns to summon Spirit Warriors to help you save your siblings and cleanse the forest of the dark forces which stuck roots in it.”Spirit Oath Steam Page
You really can’t restrict Spirit Oath to one genre. The basis of its gameplay is a blend of card game mechanics, tile-based puzzlers, and real time strategy. Add the spells you get and its fast-paced combat means you could argue that it’s an action title. On top of all this, you then have the use of static base units which would afford it justification of being called a Tower Defence game.
The Rune System In Spirit Oath Is Its Stand-Out Mechanic
Don’t get me wrong, Spirit Oath as a complete title is pretty fantastic. I have to talk about the Rune Tiles separately because it is by-far the best mechanic Triangle Square, the developers, use.
The RTS combat you engage in throughout is fun, as is the spell-casting. Both offer you flashes of fast-paced action which make or break your successes in a mission or skirmish. However, I surprisingly found these moments weren’t the ones I was enjoying. I usually adore the combat of an RTS, particularly the troop management and strategic movements on a small basis. That’s, in part, my problem with RTS titles. The elongated unlock pathways to get to the more-powerful units often take, in my opinion, too long. That’s why I find titles such as XCOM and Gears Tactics so captivating. Remember Full Spectrum Warrior, too? Anyway, I was taken aback by how tiresome I found the combat in Spirit Oath. If the game was purely based on these moments, I feel this review would be very different.
I admit there’s only so much you can do with RTS combat, especially when you consider Spirit Oath’s tile-based level design, undoubtedly to accommodate the Rune Tile mechanic. It feels much more one-dimensional than its counterparts. I found it reached that ‘attack en masse’ finale in each level far too quickly. I know this contradicts what I said before, but I think there needs to be a balance. You don’t want to struggle getting all the units, but you also want there to be more strategy than just ‘select all and attack’. In that respect, I am thankful Spirit Oath doesn’t have any sort of armour or tanks. These units all too often dominate RTS titles given their strength against early game units, but thankfully there’s more to the game than just this.
The Sound Design Is Well-Suited To The Game But Not Unexpected
This may come across as a harsh comment to make, but it’s true. It may not exactly be the style I would choose, but the backing track for Spirit Oath is fine. It’s atmospheric enough to pull you into the loose story the title is built upon and simple enough that you don’t find it distracting. However, other than that, it’s kind of same-y. It is all stuff you feel like you’ve heard before. This, in part, means it works well for the title and its genre, but when you have a game that has mechanics and gameplay so unusual… I just found myself hoping for more. Perhaps this is my fault.
However, I did find myself enjoying the narrative voice. Although the narration the voice gives isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, it is still good. The narrative voice is unique and captures you when it comes up. You want to know what she is saying. You do seem to get a glimpse of the face behind the voice in the trailer below. It also highlights how crazy the gameplay can get.
What Issues Did I Have?
Thankfully, in a way, the main issues I had while playing Spirit Oath were to do with the actual performance of the title. On several occasions, I found the game got caught on a loading screen. There was a border to the otherwise-black screen, so I knew the title was still running. It also, somehow, would let me open up the pause menu. This meant I could open that up and restart the level, which would fix the problem for a while.
However, then I came up against issues where my mouse would disappear. Now, I am not sure whether this meant the whole game was frozen or not, but I couldn’t open up the pause menu during these times. Unfortunately, this would lead me to completely shut down the game and reload it if I wanted to continue. I don’t have the best machine, but I know that it should be able to run Spirit Oath comfortably. It does, for the most part. However, these intermittent performance issues did tarnish my experience playing. It became tedious when I found it a recurring problem.
Another thing I want to mention is the limits in place when placing tiles. This is a two-part problem, for me. Part one… You can only put blank tiles in one-space gaps. I can see why this feature is in place, but it does make things annoying sometimes. It adds further degrees to the strategic thinking you need to put into placing tiles. However, when you have a one-tile gap to fill and you consistently get rune tiles, the game becomes overly stressful. It becomes very easy to be overwhelmed.
Spirit Oath‘s gameplay is what makes it stand out. Its storyline works well with its aesthetic, though. Spirit Oath‘s fast-paced strategy make it one worth playing!
Spirit Oath is currently in early access and you can purchase the game on Steam for £11.39.