By Marisa Alexander / May 31st, 2017
|Release Date||May 23rd, 2017|
|Genre||Word game, Action RPG|
|Platform||Mobile, PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita|
|Age Rating||E 10+|
Ahh, Scrabble. That brings back childhood memories. I would play it alongside my mother at her computer and just have a good time. Not exactly the best at the game myself but I still had fun. So once I saw Spellspire by 10tons, I developed an immediate interest in it. It’s been a number of years since I last touched anything related to the game, after all. After going through the entire main game, how was it?
Well, at first, it was rather addicting. Chaining words together from a grid, with the aid of rather useful items, was rather satisfying to defeat tough opponents. Especially if I got myself a bit stuck and just concocted the perfect string of words to victory right before an enemy would attack. Also, it’s a good idea that even though longer words are stronger, short words can help by stacking wand effects. Plus, it is nice to use gold to get better wands, robes, and hats to help you out as well as upgrade equipment. What is even better is that robes and hats are not necessarily better from the last. They just have different effects so you can plan out your approach. This is rather important since enemies can be rather quick and have a lot of health but are slow or resist certain wand aspects.
Speaking of wands, they mainly come in four types. Two of them are effectively the same, where fire and poison just do damage over time. There is the ice wand that stops the enemy attack timer to a standstill for a couple moments. Then there is the wand that leeches a bit of life to heal you. Since enemies can resist certain wands, it’s best not to upgrade one single wand so you don’t have a hard time on specific floors.
All of this was fun and great, until a certain point where I took a step back and felt something wrong. Thinking on it for a bit, I figured out why. While the execution was fine on a technical level, the concept itself felt rather undeveloped. After floor 50, I only cared about enemy resistances. This is mainly because I used the pyromancer hat that negates 15% HP right away and the robe that drains 1% of the enemy’s HP per second. Other equipment just felt rather bare in comparison, outside of the blue hat that is useful against bosses as it would double their time to attack such as from 20 seconds to 40. Speaking of bosses, they become regular enemies later and lack any unique attributes.
Another issue is actually the upgrade system. Much of the time you don’t want to upgrade wands since there are just straight up better tiers for them. Wands don’t follow the same pattern for robes and hats in having new effects. After a certain point, I neglected to upgrade robes since HP increases just did not cut it. The only hats I upgraded to max was the blue hat and pyromancer hat. You can upgrade base HP and base attack except, it felt like the latter did nothing at all.
Then there is the issue of padding. Two types of padding actually. See, if you complete a floor, you can do it again on the condition of completing it at full HP and against 10% faster enemies to get a star. Stars help unlock equipment and 90 stars are required to get the wand that is essentially required to defeat the final boss. So, instead of 100 floors, your playthrough will be 190 floors. Remember, I said that I did not bother upgrading HP and 10% faster enemies honestly rarely mattered. So I had to replay 90 floors just to beat the game.
Sadly, there is some grinding that since you might come up short on gold to buy a necessary wand. Not too much but it is noticeable when you suddenly have to replay levels you did twice before, just to perform the necessary damage. To be fair, this can be mainly mitigated by the star levels but even those are not enough. It doesn’t help that item pick-ups are completely random so you can not fully prepare yourself.
Lastly, presentation-wise the game is just merely average. Again, everything is fine on a technical level but it just lacks spirit. The music is well-composed and on point. It fits in tandem with the game’s tone. Yet it never felt memorable as it is rather generic. The music could have more of a wizard-like feel to it instead of the generic adventure type of approach. There could also have been more compositions as there are a half dozen tracks available.
The visuals fall into the same trap. It is fine but lacks any impact. All monsters are distinct including their sub-species. However, they rarely have any personality to them. It is an issue amplified as animations are incredibly simplistic. The only enemy line that has anything to them is the Knight line as they wield fish. Environments are lackluster as well and just serves as a backdrop to the floor you are in. The only floors that had any interesting aspects visually were the ones covered in spider webs. Even though spiders are not a regular enemy, at least you can feel their presence. However, that is it.
Spellspire was a nice experience. However, at the end, I just wished there was more to the package. Maybe if poison both damaged and slowed the enemy down to give variety or balance enemies more so other robes and hats have more of a point. At the end of the game, you have a lower dungeon that you face random enemies of a certain set with quests. I mention this now since I think it would have been better to have those quests pertain to the stars so there is actual variety. In the end, if you enjoy word games, give this a shot. Yet it may beg the question… why not just play any other word game?
Review copy provided by publisher
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