Being trapped on a desert island is something that would see the majority of us question life. How would we survive? What would we do first? Would we go looking for food or spend time building a much-needed shelter? The journey of the marooned has been documented brilliantly in many ways, from Robinson Crusoe to poor Tom Hanks and Wilson in Castaway. But what would happen if the deserted island you found yourself on was frequented at night by demonic spirits who will kill you if you don’t surround yourself by firelight? This new survival game puts you in that position, before asking many questions – the main one being, can you withstand the Isle of Spirits?
Isle of Spirits, developed by Silver Bullet Games, is a self-described casual survival game that puts a male survivor on a randomly generated island, with no instructions and no pointers as what to do next. In the left-hand corner of the screen, you have four gauges that start the game on full but unnervingly quickly begin to plummet. One is a health bar, another detailing food levels, a third focuses on your tiredness levels and when you need to sleep, and the last is that of the temperature gauge. Keep these up and you might survive the day. Just.
To help in your survival quest is a limited inventory for gathering items, and a craft menu. Here you can see a list of items available to craft, like a small wooden room, an axe, fireplaces, and a collection of items to make a small vessel to escape. But you need several items to make these – things like wood, rope, and fibers. Your first job will therefore be to wander around the island and collect the essentials; bits of sticks, some food like carrots or leeks growing in the ground, or fibers from shrubs. From there, I would wholeheartedly suggest you craft an axe – if only so you can start chopping down trees to get more wood as soon as possible. You see, wood is good for making a makeshift shelter with a bed to sleep on and a chest to store valuable resources inside. You can then combine this with fibers to make rope, which eventually can be combined to ensure the creation of a raft of sorts to escape this island. The problem is, your time could be limited because food is constantly running out, so you might need to also grow your own potatoes, leeks or carrots. And to do that, you need fresh water. All these decisions are vital to your survival, and time is of the essence in the Isle of Spirits – especially when the sun goes down and night comes.
You see, at night the world quickly turns dark, so dark that you won’t be able to see a thing. To make matters worse, when night falls the spirits from the title of the game arrive, and should you not be prepared they’ll consume you without a second thought. What they look like is unclear, but the sounds of them wailing will give you chills. Your protection is fire, and that could possibly take the place of a fireplace in a shelter. You’ll need to be careful though because you only have a limited time before the fireplace will run out, and unless you have another primed you will find yourself in real trouble. The other option – at least for the more industrious amongst you – is to craft a torch onto a tool belt so you can go out into the world at night, continuing your resource gathering. What is quite challenging with this – and where the excitement is found – is that there are no indicators or clocks to signify night rolling in, nor when your fireplace will run out. You could well be on the other side of the island and have to belt it back in time when the light starts to dim and before it gets dark.
As you would expect from any survival title, there are other obstacles in your way to stop you from escaping the island as well. Tornadoes will arrive, or an earthquake might rock in and separate the island, leaving access to your shelter and storage unusable. There is also permadeath at play here, so when you die, from whatever action, Isle of Spirits starts again from scratch; it is here where hopefully you will use your knowledge to progress further in the next playthrough.
Everything about Isle of Spirits in terms of the visuals comes across as nice and simple – it feels very cartoony in its design. The menus work well though and everything is presented nicely, but it’s certainly a game that wouldn’t look out of place on a mobile. The same has to be said for the sound design. Yes it comes with some nice effects and a rousing soundtrack, but it’s all a bit basic.
Honestly, it took me a little while to really get my head around Isle of Spirits on Xbox One. The permadeath was initially annoying and the look and design was just too simple for my tastes. But after a while, I began to enjoy the casual island life, beginning to understand the ways of survival on these randomly generated islands. In the end I grew to love the crafting systems, and found intrigue in the way the dangers rocked up with no warning. There is a refreshing element to things as well, with no tutorial or instruction about how to proceed. When you do make progress it happens to be very satisfying. I do find the price a tad high, but if you’re looking for a relaxing survival game then Isle of Spirits could be the one for you.