I've spent far too much of my life zoning out in front of action RPGs like Diablo and Torchlight. Click, click, click; kill bad guy, collect loot, repeat. It's a familiar cycle, one that keeps me coming back, but lately my mouse clicks have been replaced by taps on a touchscreen thanks to Spirit Lords, a new mobile game that boils down the essence of Diablo into something you can play while riding the bus.
Just like Diablo and its like, Spirit Lords is about little more than slaying monsters and gathering sweet new gear. You'll venture through a series of progressively challenging dungeons, each filled with twisted lizards and golems to kill. Clearing out a dungeon will earn you experience, money, and new armor and weapons, which makes you powerful enough to take on the next challenge. It's in no way a unique set-up, but Spirit Lords does it in a way that works especially well on your phone.
For one thing, missions — even those marked as "long" — are incredibly short, and can be completed in just a few minutes. Essentially, dungeons are divided up into easily digestible chunks, each ending with a battle against a beefy boss creature. Similarly, the touch controls are great, letting you pull off a variety of attacks and spells using some simple swipes and taps. It's all just very intuitive, and makes it simple to get a Diablo-style fix while you're on the go.
Spirit Lords also goes a step further, adding in a Pokemon-like element, that has you collecting spirits to further level up your character. Essentially the spirits grant you new abilities, and you can make them stronger or even evolve them by fusing different spirits together. Gathering gear in these games is addictive enough — it's a lot of fun trying to get a complete set of awesome armor — and adding in the creature-collecting element just adds another compulsive layer to Spirit Lords. There's a lot to tinker with even when you're not hacking and slashing.
It's in no way a perfect experience. There are some free-to-play annoyances, like the energy system that limits how much you can play (I can usually get in around 30 minutes worth of adventuring in a single sitting) and a premium currency that is both hard to come by and necessary for getting the best gear and spirits. Spirit Lords also requires a good amount of level grinding, so you'll be running through the same dungeons multiple times.
There's really nothing about Spirit Lords that's particularly original; it plays like a combination of Diablo and Puzzle & Dragons, and it looks like a mix between Torchlight and Hearthstone. But it very smartly pulls the best ideas from those games, and streamlines them so they work on a phone. It's a Diablo you can play in bits and pieces, and I can't put it down.
Polygon Overview: Spirit Lords gameplay preview