Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Rogue Spirit is an interesting combination of stealth and hack ‘n slash, all packaged in an interesting roguelike state now available as Early Access. As a spirit, you must posses the bodies of your foes, moving from body to body in order to defeat the evil spirits that are causing trouble across the land. Can you help the spirit in his endeavor, or will the lands be forever infested with demons and evil spirits?
In Rogue Spirit you take on the role of the Prince of the Midra Kingdom, resurrected by a group of monks in order to combat the evil that has taken over the kingdom. But how can the Prince do this as a ghost? Well, turns out that, as a ghost, the Prince can posses corpses. It is now the Prince’s job to use the body offered by the priests to beat up other baddies, and then take over their bodies if they have better statistics. That’s right, the roguelike element is actually the enemies, which then can become YOUR body.
Each enemy you possess has different stats assigned to your primary attack, secondary attack, and health. The Prince also has a Spirit value, which allows you to heal when you swap bodies, if you have any left. As you swap bodies, your spirit will heal you, but you’ll lose your spirit, and will need to recover spirit if you want to heal more. Each enemy has their own style of attacking, such as the ranged knife throwers, or the more melee slashers. In addition to the normal enemies, there will also be elite enemies that you can possess that have significantly better stats compared to the common mobs. There are also demons that you cannot posses, as well as bosses that you will need to fight every so often that you won’t be able to possess either.
As you defeat enemies, you are awarded with money and spirit gems. Money can be used when you run across a monk selling perks for you, whereas the spirit gems can be exchanged on death to purchase permanent upgrades, such as faster movement, or a better starting body. One rather effective method of finding money and spirit gems, at least early game, is to be on the lookout for treasure chests hidden in each map. These are generally hidden in bushes making them hard to see. As a spirit though, the chests will glow a little, making them easier to spot.
This brings us to one of the aspects I enjoyed the most in Rogue Spirit: the ability to swap between spirit and physical body. As I’ve mentioned, the main objective of the Prince is to possess powerful bodies to help stem the tide of evil. Well, once you’ve possessed a body, you can swap between the two freely, provided there aren’t enemies up in your face. As a spirit, the entire feel of the game changes.
So what’s so different between spirit gameplay and physical body gameplay? Well, in a physical body, it’s basically a hack and slash standard formula. As a spirit though, you become harder to detect, and get to see a range of detection for enemies. This allows you to sneak up behind enemies to land some critical hits (which seem rather finicky in the early access build) or to bypass them completely. Additionally, if you float into the outer range of the enemies vision, the will go towards you to investigate, but not alert their friends. You can use this to your advantage by drawing out enemies one at a time so you don’t get swarmed. If you do get surrounded, there is a dodge and parry mechanic, although you still take damage if hit while dodging, so maybe get used to the parry, or turning every fight into a one-on-one.
As you are roaming around maps, beating up baddies and searching for the exit, you may come across either stone monuments, pillars, or item caches. The stone monuments will provide a boost, generally elemental, to help you out for a limited time. An example would be the power of ice, which slows enemies affected. Very helpful. Pillars are destructible, and upon destroying one you can examine its remains to receive a perk. Some perks are quite good, such as increasing primary or secondary attack by a decent amount. Others I found absolutely useless, such as destroying items for a chance of summoning a projectile that does 3 damage.
The item caches are full of money, spirit stones, as well as blueprints, but require you completing a challenge to unlock, such as defeating a bunch of enemies while only doing damage if parrying. If you win, you can get access to abilities through the blueprints. Both abilities, and pets, can be unlocked through blueprints, with abilities being acquired through challenges and pets if you discover one and touch it while in spirit form. You can then purchase them from your starting hub, and bring two abilities and one pet along with you every time you go out adventuring. There are even sub quests for upgrading them you can complete! These tools will help you save your land!
That being said, there are certainly still some key issues I had while playing. First of, you have a map you can bring up to keep track of merchants, monuments, and areas of key interest that you can fast travel to. Seems nice, but the problem is that there are almost always areas of the map that don’t fill in properly, making it look like there’s an unexplored path, when really it’s just blocked by a rock, or a wall that just didn’t update on the map properly. Second issue is from the boss fights, or perhaps after them.
If you go to enter a boss fight, a barrier appears preventing you from leaving, or enemies from coming in. All is fine until you beat the boss, where I discovered that the game thinks the boss is still alive, and I can’t pick up the spoils, because the enemies that followed me make me “in combat”. I had to rely on my pet to shoot a miniscule amount of damage in order to kill the enemies, allowing me to both pick up my loot and leave. Occasionally I also found the player character clipping through objects or corners. While this doesn’t really impact gameplay, it certainly isn’t pleasant to see.
That’s all for my purely technical issues, but there were a few notes on the gameplay side that I found a little lacking. Possessing bodies is a great idea, but the body type balance is pretty awful. To give a brief overview, enemy types can be broadly divided into: heavy, light, and ranged. The ranged characters have that extra reach, but their attacks tend to be fairly unwieldly or awkward, and take a lot of getting used, not to mention the associated bodies are generally weaker than their contemporaries.
Heavy enemies are slower, and you would imagine they’d be bulkier and hit harder, right? Well, not really. I found their stats to be similar to the light enemies, just with the added detriment of slower attack speed and movement speed. The brings up another issue with possessing bodies: you want to covet what you get. What I mean is that, if you find a really good body, suddenly you don’t want to fight anything anymore in order to preserve health, something that I found myself feeling the longer I played for.
All in all, Rogue Spirit is a refreshing twist on the standard roguelike fare. Combining stealth and hack and slash elements certainly isn’t something I’d immediately think of, but I’m glad to say it came out quite nicely. There are are a lot of elements that need refining, such as possession target and perk balancing, but I quite enjoyed my time with Rogue Spirit nonetheless. While the title is still in Early Access at the time I’m writing this, I am really hoping the developers use this time to flesh out what could be a great title. I’m looking forward to what they do with it in the future.Score: N/A for previews