Spirit Engine 2 is a near perfect RPG. It combines the kind of gripping story and dialogue that you find in interactive fiction with the character advancement and monster bashing of RPGs. The graphics are simple pixel art yet stylish with a hint of Japanese Anime flavor. Even better is the music; many indie games don't even have music, but for Spirit Engine 2 the talented Josh Whelchel, composed fanatastic soundtrack that weaves emotion into the dialogue. The story is well written, but almost completely linear--to the point that plot-altering choices may be an illusion. However, you forget about the linear plot, because you become focused on the the characters and how they deal with the problems they face.
Spirit Engine 2 uses a skill-based RPG system similar to the pencil-and-paper RPG GURPS or its derived cousin, the Fallout games. You beat monsters for experience points, and leveling up gives you skill points to spend on different skills.
Two reasons why you should play this thing:
The dialog is deeply engaging; you are never tempted to click your way through without reading. You can play from nine pregenerated characters that are thoroughly fleshed out, each with a unique background, and and each reacting differently to every situation. Each character keeps a diary, and it is fun to read how each character sees and feels about what is going on. Spirit Engine 2 has the most believable and well-developed characters I have seen any RPG; on top of that, the story is completely unpredictable.
Spirit Engine 2 is a resource management game. The skill points allow you to specialize or diversify in specific skills. Unlike typical skill-based RPGs, you earn Skill Refund points along with your experience points that allow you to take skill points away from one skill to enhance another. This enhances the resource management element; you must shift skill points to increase skills that are more effective against specific enemies, such as a boss. This breaks suspension of disbelief to a degree -- how does one unlearn a skill and master another skill in the same day? -- but the loss is forgivable, since resource management adds another layer of interesting strategy.
The only thing that keeps this game from perfection is that even on "Easy" setting, I have a hard time beating some of the bosses.
Spirit Engine 2 was once $15 but has become freeware since February of this year -- a great price for the 2008 Game Tunnel RPG of the year.