Destiny of Spirits is a “freemium” game available to Playstation Vita owners and if you are interested in a little bit of Pokemon-style collecting and battling, with much better art work, and a less interesting battle system, you may think about putting a few hours in. You will not have to spend any cash to get the full experience, trust me.

SCE Japan refers to Destiny of Spirits as a “social strategy game.”  Neither the social aspects nor the strategy aspects are explained well in the short in game tutorial that you go through when beginning the game. You are told to collect Spirits, to battle, and to trade to get new Spirits from different parts of the globe. The nuances of summoning, merging Spirits and creating a good line up for each set of battles is left to looking at guides online, which is never something that I appreciate doing, especially for a game that looks appealing on the surface.

In order to build your catalog of Spirits, you are given three different types of in-game currency: destiny orbs (used to summon good Spirits), spirit stones (used to summon Spirits), and spirit points (used for renting Spirits from friends and for merging). You gain spirit stones and points regularly from battling, but getting destiny orbs requires logging on to the game regularly, or spending real currency on PSN (As of the writing of this review, I have not spent any real money on this game).

Following a CCG (collectible card game)  trope, there are four rarities of Spirits: common (C), uncommon (US), rare (R) and super rare (SR). The probability of summoning each type of spirit corresponds, but also depends on the game’s 'Destiny Engine,' which is a little explained algorithm based on astrology, myth, the calendar, and probably a bunch of other random stuff that the makers of the game keep secret. I have gotten enough rare and super rare Spirits not to worry too much about figuring out what the Destiny engine really does. Getting super rare Spirits does give you that slight giddiness, especially when it happens at random. You can spend Destiny Orbs (if you have them) to do an 'Advanced Summon,' which guarantees you a high-level spirit, but you can still summon R and SR Spirits with summoning stones.

You are given some of each type of currency at the start of the game and you are given a brief introduction to summoning Spirits. The Spirits you have available to you via this method are based on the mythologies of the part of the world you live in: the Americas, Asia or Europe. Each spirit has a 2D sprite that is usually well drawn, but does not have any animations associated with it (think the art on a Magic: the Gathering card). Each spirit has three main stats: hp, strength, and speed. This keeps Destiny of Spirits on the simple side of a strategy RPG, which does fit the pricing structure and focus of the game. Each battle will take only a few minutes, and there is not much strategy except for which Spirits to attack and when to use a special move. A bar in the lower right hand corner of the screen fills slowly, allowing for 'Battle Skills' to be activated. The 'Battle Skill' of each spirit has a different cost, which will be reflected by an arrow over that bar. Each uncommon or better spirit also has a support skill that can be useful if you have the right party setup.

In order to gain a little more interest for current players, Sony has created timed-releases of Spirits from “major” Sony IPs, including Knack, Soul Sacrifice, and Doko Demo Issyo. These summons require Destiny Orbs, so you are likely to need to spend some cash if you want to “collect them all." Though there is the temptation to collect all the Spirits, if you have that completionist bent, there is no in game catalog of Spirits, so you will have to make a spreadsheet if you want to go that far. Since the initial timed releases are finished, you would have to do a lot of trading to get them all, and you have a limit on how many Spirits you can have at one time, which can only be increased by battling. It is important to note that there are UC Spirits in these timed-releases, so you may be spending your precious destiny orbs on a piddly spirit.

Battles are three on three affairs with the possibility of reserves for your party, and the party put forth by the game itself. Each area of the globe will have anywhere from 5 to 9 individual battles before you encounter an area boss. There is a simple elemental system (wood, earth, water, fire and metal, plus light and dark), with easy to remember weaknesses and strengths. You are told which elemental types your opponent will put forth (with some exceptions), so you can plan accordingly. You also have a party cost limit, with each spirit costing 1 to 5 points. You have to budget carefully, and choose your elemental properties to get the benefits versus your opponents. While pretty straightforward once you see it during a battle, this part of the game is not properly explained in the beginning. I spent a few hours just putting Spirits in my party at random, and found myself losing more often than not.

Leveling up your Spirits is performed by merging with other Spirits in your library. Most of the Spirits you merge will be summoned using summoning stones. The basics of merging are given in the tutorial, but the ability to get bonuses based on the type and rarity of Spirits that you merge is not explained, and I threw away a lot of Spirits without getting their full merging benefits. The bonuses come from merging Spirits of the same element, and of merging two of the same spirit together. You can also break through level barriers by merging two of the same spirit, or merging with a Joker of that spirit’s element. Several of my Spirits are level 40 or above now, but I am sure I could have gotten them higher with a better explanation of the merging system.

The trading system is one of the few parts of the game that is straightforward, though it does require patience. Since every action has a short loading time, and you have to navigate through multiple menus, finding a friend to trade with can be a little time consuming. It does not help that you cannot search for wanted Spirits, or even sort through your friends list for only those with Spirits to trade. Each trade has a “travel time” of up to 12 hours depending on how far away you are from your trading partner. You can spend destiny orbs to make it an instant trade, but that is a complete waste in my opinion. It is just another way the game tempts you to spend real cash.

As an online social game, there is no offline component, so each player is subject to the stability of the game servers. That has been one of the most frustrating aspects of Destiny of Spirits (just look at the game’s official Twitter account). Sony apparently did not anticipate the pressure on the servers, especially when the game “day” turns over and there are a large number of logins. You get a lot of error messages and server disconnects, and the servers have been taken down far more than most players would tolerate. To Sony’s credit, there have been in game compensations (mostly Destiny Orbs), each time there has been server maintenance, but for a game that dependent on a good numbers of players logging on, bad servers only means fleeing players. The system has improved somewhat, but I expect more issues in the future if players keep logging in.

Ultimately, Destiny of Spirits can provide a fair amount of fun if you are willing to overlook the server problems and simple battle system. I have never been hooked on a game like this before, coming back daily for a Destiny Summon that might give an SR Spirit, or hoping to trade for a Japanese Earth-type Spirit. I have logged over 120 hours so far, and I might just keep going until I free every zone. At least I have not paid a single cent for it.


Final Score - 5/10

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