Spirits of Xanadu
Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 9

Desolate spaceships out in the depths of space always make for good game settings and Spirits of Xanadu is no exception. The game draws its inspiration from titles such as System Shock 2, but obviously cannot compete in terms of size and depth. It is still an impressive offering from a very small team though and makes for an engrossing experience. The voice acting in particular is a highlight, but the interactive environments are also a great touch. If you enjoy exploration based games and creepy locations don’t pass up on Spirits of Xanadu.

Gameplay: The focus is more on exploration than puzzle solving, but still enjoyable.

Graphics: Nothing cutting edge, but impressive enough for a small indie title.

Sound: The audio is decent, but the voice acting is very good

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Spirits of Xanadu

Developer: Allen Trivette , Lee Williams | Publisher: Night Dive Studios | Release Date: 2015 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam / itch.io

Flying alone to the far edges of explored space is creepy enough, but when the purpose is to investigate why a research vessel has gone very quiet it is even worse. Add to that the fact that this research vessel, the Xanadu, is in orbit around a mysterious planet and you’d have to be incredibly brave or stupid to take the job. In this game you step into the shoes of this lone operator who is tasked with finding out what befell the crew of the research vessel and then bringing it back to earth if possible.

Spirits of Xanadu is set in an alternate version of the 1980s where mankind appears to have mastered interstellar travel. The research vessel that you are sent to investigate isn’t very big as it was crewed by only three members, but obviously when you arrive things look rather bleak. The crew is nowhere in sight, the robots and defenses onboard are all set to kill and before you can move the ship anywhere it needs extensive repairs. You have the freedom to go anywhere though and along the way you get to uncover what happened by reading notes and emails or listening to the audiologs that are scattered everywhere.

The game is clearly influenced by classics, such as Deus Ex and System Shock 2, but since it was made by a very small team of indie developers it is obviously a little less ambitious. The developers still crammed a lot into the small playing area and made sure that the environments are as interactive as possible. The game is viewed from a first person perspective and although it features three different weapons I wouldn’t really classify it as a shooter. Enemies are limited to about three different types of robots and if you really hate conflict you can even play in “peaceful” mode, which turn them all passive. Your mission is also very straightforward and with a bit of exploring you can easily power the Xanadu back up and complete your mission. If this is all you do though you’ll be missing out on a big chunk of what makes the game so special.

Spirits of Xanadu actually features three different endings and obtaining all of them will require you to scour every nook and cranny of the ship. The game uses a simple visual style, so don’t expect photo realistic textures. However, the look does fit in nicely with the alternate timeline featured in the game. Options wise you can enable FXAA and SSAO as well as depth of field and bloom. The shadow quality can also be adjusted and you can toggle effects such as motion blur, bloom and film grain. The result is actually pretty good considering the amount of people who worked on the game and thanks to the great atmosphere it is quite immersive.

You start out in the shuttle bay after docking your own smaller vessel with the Xanadu and from there can explore areas such as the engine room, engineering section, medical bay, laboratory, offices, bridge, crew quarters and more. At no point does the game hold your hand, so you are pretty much left to your own devices when it comes to figuring out what is going on. Some people will love this, while others will probably end up missing important clues and wandering around aimlessly.

Despite the spooky premise and creepy location the game doesn’t resort to cheap scare tactics. The robotic enemies in the game can surprise you if you stumble into them, especially the suicidal ones, but you won’t encounter scripted jump scares. Your character can get hurt, but recovers without the need for health packs. If you do manage to get yourself killed you simply respawn back in the brig of the ship. The interactive environments are definitely the best part of the game and I wasted quite a bit of time messing around with the basketball, guitar and zombie arcade game. In addition, drawers can be opened and closed, toilets flushed, food eaten, drinks consumed and you can even smoke so much that your character passes out from it! It is not just audiologs and hidden pages that you’ll discover as you explore either, but also a nice selection of Easter eggs.

Although your character never utters a word, the voice acting in the audiologs you find are very good. These offer a fascinating glimpse into what occurred on the Xanadu before your arrival and range from touching to disturbing. For the most part the game is quite quiet, which allows you to concentrate on the audiologs or keep an ear open for the robots roaming about. The sound effects are also more functional than memorable. Spirits of Xanadu is best played using a traditional keyboard and mouse setup, but if you are really determined, it can also be played using a controller. The latter works best if you play the game in peaceful mode, but if you are used to playing console first person shooters you’ll feel right at home using a controller. The game doesn’t use checkpoints or auto-saves and instead requires you to activate one of the numerous terminals found throughout the ship to record your mission data.

Players who are fans of the games from which Spirits of Xanadu draws its inspiration will find this game to be an enjoyable experience. Personally, I would have liked to see it up the creepiness factor even more as at times the game can feel a bit too sedate. The short playtime is also a drawback, but the multiple endings definitely adds to the replay value. Overall I enjoyed my time aboard the Xanadu though and despite some shortcomings the game is definitely worth checking out.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP2 or later
  • Processor: 2.0 GHz dual-core
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Dedicated graphics card with 512MB of VRAM and shader model 3.0
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 900 MB available space
  • OS: Windows XP SP2 or later
  • Processor: 2.451 GHz dual-core
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Dedicated graphics card with 512MB of VRAM and shader model 3.0
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 900 MB available space

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