One of my favorite video game genres is tactical RPG's. The team building of a role playing game combined with in-depth strategy make it the perfect genre for me. So I was excited to buy Spectral Force Genesis for Nintendo DS when Ignition Software released it March 16th. Much to my disappointment the game doesn't offer much in the way of team or character building and the strategy is only as deep as paper-rock-scissors.
In Spectral Force Genesis you start off controlling one country on a continent and the goal is to conquer the whole continent by destroying every other country in real time battles. You control different generals, build defenses, trade resources, and build a stronger army so you can conquer your neighbors.
Spectral Force's gameplay is broken up into different months of the year and each month is either Foreign Affairs, Taxation/Trade, Battle, Human Affairs, or Strategy.
- Foreign Affairs - make alliances with other countries
- Taxation/Trade - tax your people and trade in currencies
- Battle - invade other countries or be invaded
- Human Affairs - find new generals or assign them new roles
- Strategy - build defenses or invest in your people
This sounds like you have lots of control over your country, your army, and your generals but the first issue with the game was a lack of a good tutorial to explain the details of each mode. The tutorial will explain the very basics for each one, but there is no way to find out details like what do all the stats mean for each General? When you go to build walls you need to choose a general to do the building and it shows you a "Fortif" stat for each general, but the results of building the wall seem to be completely independent of this stat. Knowing what you are doing would help a lot in customizing your country and generals.
The Human Affairs mode seemed to be completely useless as far as I could tell. Choosing to "Find Generals" seemed to be a crap shoot and again the stat the game shows on this screen doesn't seem to matter on the success or failure. And changing roles of the generals might be useful but what the different roles are and why someone should be assigned to a different role is never explained.
Taxation and Trade were fun because you can buy other currencies at set prices and then sell them next time the trade month came up again. I simply bought the lowest priced currency each month, usually at 0.4 or 0.6, and then waited a couple months to sell it at 1.6 or 2.4. About three years into the game I had the max currency of 9,999.
The Strategy section is where you spend the money on building walls or investing in people to increase the number of soldiers you countries make every year. Building walls costs 50 and investing in people is free.
Ease of Play
Like most RPG's there is a bit of a learning curve initially as you learn what everything does and how to navigate the different windows. But after about 30 minutes I felt very comfortable using the different screens.
Finding the data I would want to know was usually not on the screen I needed it to be on though. For example, if I want to decide which country to invade I like to know how strong the other countries are surrounding them. But when you are choosing the country to invade you can't see any stats about countries nearby unless they are touching your borders. To find the right information you have to tap through four other screens to see that data, then go back four more screens to actually invade. This is just one example of issues like this throughout the game.
Spectral Force Genesis Battle System
All the battle are in real-time and like manystrategy RPG's they are a modified version of paper-rock-scissors. Each general is either a sword, shield, or magic and sword is good against magic, magic good against shield, and shield good against sword.
You choose three generals for each skirmish and can move them around the battlefield to decide who will go were during the battle. If you make advantageous battles by having your magic general attack their shield general you will have a better chance of winning.
Each general has special abilities they can use during battles if they take a certain amount of damage. Most of these were fairly powerful magic attacks, but it was disappointing you could only use them if the generals took lots of damage.
If you are invading a country and win the battle, you can then attack their defenses. You get three turns to break down the walls and if you are successful you take control of that country. The more soldiers you have going into the siege the more damage you do to the walls.
After three battles and three straight losses, I learned the tactics well enough that I didn't even come close to losing another battle the rest of the game (about 15 hours of game play so far).
Generals and Team Building
Each general has different stats that determine how strong their are in battle and how good they are at magic and then some other stats that I don't know what they do (again more explanation might have been helpful in the game or in the manual). Plus each general can command up to 400 troops. The number of troops is really the only stat you can control and change throughout the game which was a disappointment.
There are no weapons to eqiup, or combinations of generals that are more powerful, and power and intelligence seem to be static throughout the game.
Final Thoughts on Spectral Force for DS
After five hours of playing the game I knew I was going to win. I hadn't lost a battle in about 20 battles, I had more troops than any other country, I had maxed out my currency at 9,999, and I was generating 2,000 troops every taxation mode. I found myself skipping every mode except battle mode without doing anything, but you can only invade one country per turn. If I wanted to beat the game it was going to take another 90 battles or so which would be 30 game years and another 10 hours of my time.
I decided to stop playing instead of going through the motions just to say I had beat it. The game had lots of potential but needed more customization for each battle, more variation to the investments available in your country, and more explanation of the stats the game did have.