Spellspire from 10tons promises to mix word creation with RPG style mechanics. Now, those two things separately aren’t going to appeal to all, so making a game that mashes them together is surely putting things on a back-foot before we even start. But if truth be told, I love a bit of scrabble, 10tons are one of my favourite indie developers and I don’t mind fiddling with my gear in order to make myself stronger. I should therefore like Spellspire.
And you know what? I do. I like it a lot.
If you’re familiar with any previous 10tons titles, then you’re going to know roughly what to expect with this one. You’re going to get cutesy graphics, simple gameplay and tons of replayable content. And Spellspire delivers all three of those staples in spades. But what it also does is makes you think, it makes you shout and it makes you sit on the edge of your seat as you struggle to pound out the biggest words you can think of.
Spellspire is a simple game. It is up to you to help your wizard dude stroll his way through the levels of a tower, defeating monsters and collecting coins as he does so. In order to do this, it’ll be up to you to create as many words as you can from a random 10 letter grid – the bigger the word, the greater attack power you’ll be able to fire the way of the evil doers.
With a minimum of 3-letter words delivering damage, and those which reach eight, nine and ten letters in length bringing about huge amounts of power, you’ll need to be quick as you ping your way round the grid searching for the best words possible. Do so, and defeat the monsters frequenting the level, and you’ll move on up to the next – one that comes with a greater variety of opponents.
Every ten levels sees a one-off boss style fight in which you’ll get yourself acquainted with a new super powerful monster. You’ll need all your wordsmith skills, and a ton of luck, in order to defeat them before they fight back with vengeance.
You’ll also need to be quick because each monster has its own set attack time, damage quota and health meter. Get hit, and you’ll see your health being wiped away faster than you can find a cheap 3-letter word. See your health completely diminished and you’ll be left to lick your wounds before trying again, with a whole new set of letters on hand to help you out.
So, that’s basically it for the word skills side of Spellspire, but the RPG elements which make it hugely enjoyable mix things up even more.
For each monster you hit and kill, you’ll be rewarded with coins which can be spent in a shop. These allow you to purchase and upgrade additional wands, robes and hats, all of which will bring your wizard dude new abilities. Is the latest monster susceptible to burn damage? You’ll want a wand that delivers fire. Do you need to drain their health over time? Poison and life draining options are open to you. Are you being attacked too quickly? Freeze those darn monsters on the spot with a freezing wand.
Robes and Hats bring about similar skill sets and it will be up to you whether you choose an item that allows you to deal more damage with words that begin with a vowel, or slow down any overall attack time. Similarly, if you need to protect yourself from the poisons that the monsters deliver, then you can do so. It’s simple to change your equipment levels, and you’ll constantly find yourself delving back into the shop in order to fight off the hordes successfully.
And it is due to the variety of enemies which will see you scrabbling around with different equipment at all times. Some are quick in their attack and need to be strategically removed before you get whacked, whilst others are more powerful, slower affairs – a steady stream of smaller words is normally enough to take them down. More still will be weakened by fire, whilst others may resist it and see you needing to throw poison their way. Being able to check out the lie of the land before you go into a stage is a more than helpful option.
You can also take numerous other items into battle with you – health potions, spell scrolls which pick out the most powerful words, and other magical items. You will stumble upon these on your journey, or will find them helpfully gifted your way with the opening of a treasure chest in the shop. With this resetting every eight hours, Spellspire will drag you back in on a daily basis – if only in the hope that the secrets found within the chest will help you out against some stubborn monster.
With 100 levels to the tower in place, and then the opportunity after that to go down into the deepest depths of the dungeons for more wordplay fun, there is no debate that 10tons have delivered a game with a load of content. When you think that each level, once beat, also comes with a ‘one-shot challenge’, delivering more cash and a ‘challenge star’ should you manage to defeat the inhabitants without getting hit, then you’ll find even more gameplay and enjoyment to be had.
It’s not all perfect though. In fact, there are times when Spellspire is hugely frustrating.
Much of this is down to the omission of certain words from the game database. Now, whilst each set of letters usually comes with a good few hundred available words (something which is shown should you win the stage), there are a few that are missing. With a serious need for fast fingers and fast paced word creation at all times, just because any pause in your thoughts could well spell disaster, it’s hugely annoying when you create a word (a word that you know should be legal), only to see it not recognised. Sod’s law sees this normally happen at the most inopportune of times and you’ll be left frustrated on a good few occasions.
Spellspire isn’t going to be for all either, as it’ll only really appeal to a certain gamer – one who is happy to expand their vocab throughout. It’ll never be able to draw in the hardcore gamer who refuses to look anywhere other than the latest blockbusting titles for their gameplay pleasure. But if you are looking to grab some achievements and gamerscore, then it’ll suit you down to the ground.
Should you drop in on the tower of Spellspire, then you’ll no doubt enjoy what 10tons have created. It’s good fun, it’s hugely addictive and it comes with enough content to have you still playing some months down the line. If there was a larger variety of words included, then it would appeal some more. For the price though, if you think of yourself as a bit of a wordsmith and wish to mess around with some RPG mechanics, then you could do much much worse.