I may have mentioned my love for an ARPG previously, what with games such as Path of Exile and the various Diablos keeping my interest high. So imagine my happiness when there was a new game announced that promised to mix ARPG ideas with that of Eastern folklore as well as some 90’s styled retro graphics.
The game in question is called Ghostlore, developed by Andrew and Adam Teo, and published by AT-AT Games. As you may gather from the names, they appear to be the one and the same. But can Ghostlore work? Can it distract from the fact that the daddy of them all, Diablo IV, launches very soon? Well, in a word, yes!
Come with me on a journey to the mystical East as we attempt to keep the world safe from ghosts, or something…
The genre that Ghostlore sits in is described as “Eastpunk”, which wasn’t something I was aware of until now. It appears to run as a fusion of various countries’ myths and legends, with spirits and monsters from Chinese legends rubbing shoulders with the creatures from Indonesian mythology and so on. These are well realised within the presentation of the game, and the graphical style is a pretty pixelated version of Diablo, in a nutshell.
The weapons and effects that we can use are all looking good, with some spectacular spell effects in place. The enemies and our character are all lovingly drawn and animated too. In fact, in terms of actual presentation, Ghostlore is very good indeed, and really took me back to the 1990s and the style of games from around then.
Is there a story to go along with this? Well, kinda, is the kindest way to put it.
We are a person who can hunt ghosts and various fantastical creatures, and in the beginning, we have to rescue our master after he went out alone. Once we have accomplished this, he finally admits that he is getting too old to keep hunting ghosts, and so it is now our job from this point forward. What that means is that we are given various locations to go and visit, and missions to accomplish, either alone or with up to three other local co-op players. Whatever, our purpose is clear – stop all the bad guys by application of well reasoned arguments, and a bloody big sword.
Ghostlore doesn’t disappoint in terms of actual gameplay either. There are two halves to the gameplay, really, and these are split into combat and character development. Obviously, one feeds into the other, and vice versa, as killing stuff gets us EXP, which is then given back to us as levels. And what do levels make? That’s right, new powers.
The combat is pretty standard fare for an ARPG, to be honest, and if you have played any of these genre games before you will be right at home. The A button is your basic attack, while B is a dodge move which is very handy when you are being swarmed. The rest of the buttons are all special attacks; obviously these depend on what class you choose at the beginning, and which skills you choose to equip into the skill tree. Of course, as you level up, there are extra classes that you can add to your character, and it is all very groovy.
But, I digress. Running around the huge maps, finding our objectives and dispatching various bad guys on the way (my favourite monsters by far are the jumping vampires, straight out of the classic Mr Vampire film) is a lot of fun. And let us discuss these maps for a moment as not only are they large but they are also procedurally generated, so no two runs will be the same. This adds a large amount of replayability, as each time you visit a map, it is slightly different.
Using class abilities is the main way to do damage, as you’d expect, and my Feral Exorcist has the ability to turn into a Weretiger in order to really bring the pain. Choosing the right skills to use can be an all consuming pursuit, as the ability to not only replace skills at will, but also to link them together, makes a huge difference to how we play.
This seems like a good time to talk about all the stuff that isn’t combat, and there is a lot of it in Ghostlore.
As we fight, as you’d expect, we find new gear in addition to loot, and keeping our hero kitted out is a full time job as well. Using gems to modify the way items work is a big part of this, as is making the gear you find more powerful. You see, while we can find gear with different levels of rarity, and with extra powers, the items that we find are this way because there is a spirit inside them.
Yep, by visiting the Psychic, an NPC in the hub, we can awaken these spirits. As we complete a quest for them, the item they live in can gain new and powerful abilities. This is just one way to make ourselves stronger, and there are many more.
Glyphs are the best way to do this, and these are found either on the corpses of our enemies or in the world. Basically, a glyph is inscribed onto our body, kind of like a tattoo, in order to give us new abilities. As we gain levels, we can have more glyphs in play at once, and so the stronger we become.
There are glyphs to increase HP, or have HP restoring constantly, and similar for MP. There are glyphs that increase our base damage, skill damage or the amount of times we can use skills; matching the glyphs you get to the class you play as is a lot of fun to figure out. And that’s not even mentioning compound glyphs, which have an area of effect in the glyph grid, powering up all the other glyphs in their radius. This is a properly deep system that will reward you the more you experiment.
Each class also has powers that can be slotted into a separate grid, allowing you to use combo skills which utilise two classes’ magic in order to make some pretty powerful attacks. You can also mix and match these skills to make your ideal character, and again, time spent here fine tuning is never wasted. All in all, this is a very good game to play, with a lot of thought having clearly gone into it.
Which leads me onto my only real niggle – but it is a bit of a biggie, to me at least. You see, the worlds and maps we have to explore are very large, but there is no overall map that we can see to check where we have been. There is a mini map in the top left of the screen, and with a click of the right stick it will fill the screen over the action, but it only shows us the immediate surroundings. In one mission, as an example, I had to kill three djinn; I found and disposed of two of them easily. The third? It took me twenty minutes of running around to find it, which was frustrating. A simple world map, showing us where we haven’t been, would solve this problem and make Ghostlore better still.
However, even with this omission, Ghostlore does enough to make a strong case for playing it. It features a refreshing setting that isn’t too common and adds in co-op play; while by no means essential, it does add a little spice to the proceedings. And that’s all without going deep into various other mechanics too.
If you have an interest in an ARPG, and are looking for something outside of Diablo, Ghostlore is well worth your time.