Imagine playing Pokémon, but instead of monsters, you catch and control ghosts while trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. That’s what Ghostlords is in a nutshell, but it still has enough originality and creativity to stand on its own.
Ghostlords is a strategic turn-based RPG developed and published by HelixFox Games.
It centers around the Ghostlords, unique individuals with the supernatural ability to connect their spirit with the spirits of ghosts and because of this can control the ghosts. Each ghost has a specific skill set and type, with various attributes and abilities that make them powerful against some kinds, but weak against others. For example, a ghost that is a fire type will be weak against a water type, and so on. Not every ghost is elemental, though. Other types include Justice, Evil, and Organic.
Unlike similar games in the turn-based RPG genre, Ghostlords is unique in that, although you can capture and control various ghosts if one is beaten in battle, it dies. Well, it doesn’t technically “die,” since ghosts are already dead, but it is no longer usable in battle and you lose it forever. This makes Ghostlords much more strategic than a game like say, Pokémon, in the sense that since you only get one chance with a ghost, you have to plan ahead how to structure your party (a maximum of 3) balancing each ghost for the most powerful combination. Thankfully, if a ghost is beaten in battle, getting a new one for your team is fairly simple. All you have to do is find another wild ghost and beat it for it to join your team. Like in other RPGs, each character gains experience for each battle they survive and as they grow in level, get higher stats and new, stronger moves.
Ghostlords is fairly linear.
This isn’t an open world, free roaming game where you can go to any area you want, or grind a zone to gain experience points. Ghostlords has 5 different campaigns with straightforward objectives, and in each, you are forced you to continue onward, though you are given branching paths for variety. Such approach allows you to plan your route ahead of time, to travel to merchants, healers, and areas where you can catch other ghosts. The different types of areas are also easily distinguished with a color code chart. A green area means it has a healer, orange will have a merchant, and so on.
Ghostlords has excellent art and sound design.
The classic pixelated graphics look right at home with 16-bit systems, and the color palette offers variety. Each detail has a lot of contrast and complementing well the remained of the environment, making each important piece pop out to your eyes. There is also a strong balance between bright areas and dark ones, making you feel that you are in a realistic and immersive world. A ghost’s attacks has its own animation, and all are fun to watch. They add to the excitement of combat.
The music may be its strongest feature.
It fits in with the apocalyptic world and the somber mood the game sets. Of course, there are some clever and witty jokes thrown in as well to balance the tone, whether they be from side quests or the ghosts’ dialogues or personalities.
What sets Ghostlords apart from its competitors, besides its overall good quality, is its replay value. The game sports over 200 achievements, with ones specific to each campaign and ghost type to incentivize replay. Goals for the achievements are also challenging, but not frustratingly so, giving just the right amount of balance between difficulty and reward. Each campaign has a hardcore mode without save points, and once again, the various branching paths, which all together offers the potential of hours upon hours of gameplay and enjoyment.
Ghostlords is a highly polished game with simple yet addictive gameplay, an original premise, and great replayability. Its art and sound design also do wonderfully in supporting the atmosphere, which helps it stand out amongst others.