Code provided with many thanks to Gentle Giant Games.
Spiritfall is a 2D action rogue-lite game which appears to take some inspiration from some of the greats in the genre, including Hades, Dead Cells and… Smash Bros? Yeah, we’ll get to that one a little later. Spiritfall has now been released to Early Access, and I have some impressions to share. If you love this genre or are dipping your toes in for the first time, this is worth adding to the wishlist.
You play as a warrior chosen by the spirits to fight against ‘the blight.’ An evil essence is corrupting and destroying the land. With the help of the spirits and some useful allies, you might just be the flame to ignite some hope. It’s a pretty simple premise but it gets the job done. The game makes a good first impression with its ancient setting and smooth animations. Levels come in various biomes; the starting area is a desert-like wasteland filled with bug-looking enemies. This is then followed by a luscious forest with cursed animals, a biome which I think I would have preferred to experience regularly over the wasteland, considering you’ll be seeing it a lot in repeated playthroughs.
Spiritfall’s gameplay has a heavy emphasis on fast-paced combat. You can use a standard attack, and a heavy attack called your launcher. This move can be charged up to smash enemies far across the room, doing further damage if they hit the wall. Or, as the game likes to call this phenomenon, the ‘wall splat,’ which is now one of my new favourite gaming terms. You also have a projectile move which is recharged regularly, and a dash to attempt to avoid enemy damage. There is plenty of flexibility to combat, and experimentation is very much encouraged. When encountering an animal spirit, you can buff your moves with elemental effects like freeze or burn. When presented with these options, the animal appears to you in an extraordinary presentation, almost like they are jumping out of the screen.
When you begin, you have access to a big hammer. A weapon that delivers slow but powerful blows to enemies. After a few runs and provided you collected the right runes, you can unlock additional weapons, including a bow and four floating fists. The bow works better for long-range attacks, and the fists for up close and personal. Each weapon has its own feel, and it likely won’t take long before you settle on your favourite. My choice was the fists which surprised me as I’m usually all about the hammer.
The Roguelite Way
From there, the template is similar to most action roguelikes. Enter a room, defeat all the enemies, and collect your reward. I loved how, upon completing a level, your character performs a satisfying fist pump.
On entering the exit portal, you can choose the next room you enter with an indication of the reward you might receive. If the item you need is not directly available, you can observe a few rooms in front to help you plan ahead. So if you’re running low on health, you can focus towards those rooms.
Secret Bonus Room
Sometimes you will be surprised with a secret bonus room. It’s here where things take a Smash Bros turn. In these rooms, you encounter a dark spirit which can only be defeated by hitting it outside the level borders. Much like the famous fighting game, the enemy has a percentage meter to indicate their fragility and when to deal that final charged blow. These moments were a pleasant surprise giving the game a more unique feel than other titles in the genre.
Death will inevitably come. For me, it was those tough-as-nails boss fights. But any runes, gems or scrolls you collect can be exchanged with NPCs back at the sanctum. Over time you can unlock new abilities and weapons, buff your stats and add new features to future runs. There is plenty of content drip fed to entice you into another round.
If the difficulty or fast-paced combat doesn’t suit, you may be pleased to hear the game offers accessibility options that let you tweak the damage you take and the speed at which the game runs. The latter is pretty helpful for old goat gamers like me who are losing their ability to press buttons quickly.
Spiritfall is up against some tough competition in this genre, and I wish the developers all the best. Spiritfall has a lot of promise in its early state. A roadmap is available, so this looks set on a steady course of content drops, including new weapons and biomes.
The developers also appear keen to listen to feedback from the players, so if you decide to jump in, tap on the feedback button in the options; it may just steer the game in more positive directions. I will certainly be keeping my eye on Spiritfall, and if you want to support the developers and observe a game as it grows, be sure to check it out. But if you want to wait, consider wish listing the title, as this also shows them some support.
Spiritfall is available now in Early Access on Steam.