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I came, I saw, I conquered: Spiritlands review

It’d be safe to say that growing up most children want to enter serious professions like law, medicine or teaching. But not me, I wanted to rule the world. I wanted to have my own country with an army. I wanted to have my own national football team that I could play in. I…pretty much lived in a dream world, and if I’m honest, people who know me would probably say I still do.

Thanks to video games though people like me and you can now live out dreams like that. Although, if you do still have those dreams in real life you’re probably best keeping them secret. I mean when has anyone trying to take over the world ever really worked out?

One such game that offers you this opportunity is the newly released Spiritlands, developed by the one-woman army at Prey Interactive. Inspired by games like the earlier SimCity titles and Banished, this city-builder is set in a time where the world is in despair. Wanting to escape the turmoil, you set off for the fabled eighth continent known as the Spiritlands, in the hope that what you might find will mean a fresh start.

Now, before you jump into the game it does recommend that you go through the tutorial if you haven’t played before, which having visited I can say is very detailed and offers up a lot of information. But, I wanted to play the game, not sit there reading about how to play it so I just dove straight in at the deep end. Something that I thought made the game more enjoyable as it created a bigger challenge not knowing the purpose of everything, what certain icons did or the significance of the different resources.

There is still some in-game assistance though as multiple windows show things such as population and how much of certain resources you have in your stores, although at times these didn’t populate properly, especially when switching between multiple camps, so I had to keep closing and reopening them in order to get them to show what I wanted. If that wasn’t enough though there is also help in the form of a cloaked woman who pops up and offers you advice on what some things mean, and why you can’t complete certain actions. Personally, this would’ve been a better system to use for the whole tutorial, doing it live and showing/guiding people what to do in-game rather than making them read it, have to remember it (as there is a lot of information) and implementing it, only to have forgotten because like me they have the memory of a goldfish.

Like I say though, I just ran in head first like I do with most games and fortunately on this occasion I didn’t end up dying due to lack of paying attention. I think that was partly because the game uses simple click and drag mechanics so it is easy to get the hang of, and once you learn what all the different buildings do and the benefits of mining certain resources, everything slots into place pretty quickly. Starting with a small tent, you can expand your population by building houses, create farms, lumber yards and mines to gather what you need and assign roles to your workers to increase things like defence and productivity. Before you know it your little hamlet has become a thriving town.

Once you establish your main base of operation, you can start to expand and create more settlements. This is done by setting up campfires which you can upgrade into proper settlements to establish new towns, as long as you’re ten tiles away from any other main settlement. The ten tile rule does create some issues though because it meant that on my map I could see tiles that offered a bonus if you set up operations there (this is marked by a yellow star) but due to only being able to build so far from your camp, I couldn’t build on some of the more valuable ground. There is that much available to mine though it doesn’t pose too much of a problem.

You do however have to be wary of enemy camps when expanding though, which will be revealed as you explore the area around you. Once revealed you can either pay them off to avoid trouble or attack and defeat them so you can build new camps in their area. Revealing them on the map doesn’t just mean you can attack them though, it means they can attack you as well. Plan ahead before you explore though and this becomes the easiest of tasks as it takes no effort to build up your forces and defences to a reasonable size once you have the foundations in place to gather adequate resources. Then it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game as you see your troops march across the screen to certain victory.

There is also another way to get rid of the enemy too, but it does take time as it means setting up a shrine and assigning workers to pray. This over time gathers faith points in the same way you gather wood and stone, and like them, you can spend your faith points to activate certain bonuses or, if you have enough, to wipe out an enemy camp. This makes faith an integral part of the game and one that you’d be a fool to not start working on from very early on.

Once I had mastered farming materials, bulking up my defences and expanding my towns, I found it rather easy in all honesty, and the game lacked any real challenge afterwards. It was still enjoyable as I did find contentment in living out my childhood dream, conquering the Spiritlands with ease, but I could see it causing some people to put the game back down after playing it a few times. Maybe offering different levels of AI or even enemies outside of your view attacking you could combat this though as it would make the game that bit more challenging, and the unknown location of your enemies will force people to explore more and possibly earlier than they would have without the prompt to do so.

Overall, Spiritlands is a well-built game that can give you hours of fun thanks to the endless possibilities the game creates. The way the game incorporates different systems such as faith, which you can use to your advantage to give you boosts, or how it lets you choose between being an aggressive or peaceful leader is well-balanced and means that it is suitable for all manner of people who have different playstyles. That’s not to say there aren’t still bugs that need ironing out or things that could be improved upon, but taking into consideration that this game was made by a single person, it really is an impressive indie title.

The TL;DR:

  • A fun city-building game that you can get lost in for hours
  • A variety of different systems offer you multiple ways to grow and survive
  • Lacks any real challenge once you get used to how the game works
  • The text-based tutorial is well detailed but a live interactive tutorial would be better

73%

Spiritlands is developed by Prey Interactive and has recently been released on Steam following 13 months in Early Access. If you like what you’ve read and want to check it out for yourself, you can head over to the Steam store by clicking HERE.

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