There have been a few games I have played that involved developing a skill tree and level grinding as a way to advance the story and reach new areas. The makers of Skilltree Saga saw other games that had these elements, and decided to cut out all the unnecessary fat like an immersive plot and world exploration and make a game that is nothing but playing with a skill tree and level grinding. Skilltree Saga is an unusual strategy game that takes place in a fantasy world where you vanquish foes with magic powers and a sword. The enemies you fight include but are not limited to giant spiders, carnivorous plants, mushrooms with poor coping skills and anger management problems, gelatinous blobs wielding battle axes, goblins, bouncing boulders with googly eyes, and giant mosquitoes. Killing those mosquitoes were particularly cathartic. I don’t know about what this summer’s mosquitoes have been like where any of my regular readers (all three of you) live, but in my neck of the woods they have been like a Biblical plague of locusts. I don’t think I can safely give to the Red Cross because of the terrible sanguine addicted swarms of pestilence. Whether you believe in creationism or evolution, I can find no good argument for the existence of mosquitoes in either of those schools of thought. Stupid useless vampiric parasites.
The story begins after you select your character’s race, elf, human, or dwarf each with some race specific bonuses. You battle a goblin, lose, and run into a mentor who wants to train you in the various skills that are on the your skill tree. Before each battle you have the opportunity to select your next six actions. You have six slots to put a skill in, slots that are left empty will end up being a simple attack. Each ability can only be assigned to one slot and the actions will be carried out in the order they are assigned. If neither you or the enemy is defeated after six turns, you are given the opportunity to retreat, reassign skills, or continue fighting with the skills you currently have equipped. Some of the enemies follow predictable patterns, so after you get that memorized you can assign your skills to an order that best suits that opponent. Changing the skills around after each battle does get tedious so I came up with a pretty generic skill order that was effective in most situations. At the start of the game there are three areas open to you, though only one of them you can safely enter. You go through battling enemies until you get killed or retreat back to town to resupply and heal because you are on the verge of death. In a nutshell, you keep grinding through a location until you are strong enough to complete all battles in it, and then you are off to conquer the next area. The second location has 60 battles in it, and it is recommended you be at least level 7, however, the first area with only 30 battles I did not complete until I was level 13. To alleviate any confusion, every time you leave an area and return, you start over at battle numero uno. The third area that has a recommended level of 20 has 100 battles so I can only imagine the amount of grinding one must sink into this game in order to become strong enough to complete that area.
The menus in this game are quite intuitive, it was very easy to figure out what each icon meant and how to swap out skills and equipment. The controls are also very easy, right click on whatever it is in the menu screen you want to use or assign. The graphics are the biggest highlight of this game in my opinion. While they are not to the level that is going to require a top of the line new computer to run, they are very colorful and there is interesting creature design. Some of the skills you unlock have interesting animations.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about the game. I found it enjoyable in a very brainless sort of way, watching the character level up and unlock new skills. The biggest flaw in this game is “watching” is a better word to sum up the experience than playing is. You assign the order of your six skills, and then you watch them executed in order while taking turns with whatever monster you’re fighting. This results in very limited strategy. Sure, there are specifically ordered combinations of skills that are ideal against certain enemy attack patterns, but most set ups will get you through the battle provided you are high enough level. The challenge is simply preserving enough health and astral to make it through and area, hoping that you luck out and encounter shops or health springs on the way. With a halfway decent skill set up, you can keep clicking on NEXT after each battle and watch your character battle each enemy as the game plays itself for you. If you could select six skills to take into battle and pick from them each turn or even have access to all your skills but select them in real time would make the game more interesting. I feel this game would work better on a mobile device as a time killer instead of a game I would sit down and play as a main focal point of my free time. But as I said, it is enjoyable in a mindless sort of way so if you can find it on sale, which I currently believe it is, there are worse things you can spend $3.99 on. It is definitely fun for killing time, but I think I would grow tired of it long before completing all 100 battles in one setting in what I presume is the final area. There are several things this game does well and I am interested in checking out other games by these developers, but unfortunately even with a detailed skill tree, quality artistic direction, creative creature design, and an overall interesting combat system premise, I feel this game fails to live up to its potential. Follow me on Twitter