The Nintendo Switch has seen waves of big releases on the first half of November 2017. Games like Doom (2016), Skyrim, and the indie game Rime swam their way into Nintendo’s hottest ‘it’ item. Surfing in the midst of it all is Spellspire, a fantasy game about a wizard and his spell(ing)s.
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Platforms Available: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 9, 2017
This review is based on a review code provided by 10tons.
In Spellspire, spell’s two definitions come as one. You play as a wizard out to conquer a tall tower with 100 levels. In each level, the protagonist defeats monsters using his magical spells. In order for the wizard to cast spells, you, the player, have to ‘spell’ words from randomly generated letters per level.
But wait, there’s actually more.
Not only do you form words, you can also get gears. What good is an attacking wizard without weapons and armor? And what good are weapons and armor when you can’t upgrade them? Good thing Spellspire lets you visit a shop in-between levels to do these, and to unlock even more of the wizard’s staves, hats, robes, and a bunch of other useful goodies like the monster encyclopedia, 1-gold hint, and life upgrades, to name a few.
All these customizations are not just for show, though. As you go up the tower, new types of enemy monsters show up, and each with different weakness and resistance. This is where Spellspire grows apart from other word-forming video game.
You see, Spellspire is not just a word-forming puzzler, it’s also mixed with elements from RPGs. The wizard has different types of staff at his disposal, with their own elemental/special damage. Monsters come in numbers and in order to win, you have to get ready before the action begins. For example, equip a powerful fireball-spitting staff to defeat enemies weak to, well, fire. You get the drill, rock-paper-scissors. Be sure to check the monsterpedia when you’re having a hard time defeating an enemy.
The damage you deal to the enemies depends on the number of letters of your word. The longer the word, the bigger the damage. Three characters being the weakest, and ten-letter words giving the highest damage of them all. Once defeated, some enemies drop helpful items like health-restoring potions and a ‘word-search’ item, which shows the longest word in a level for you. It’s better to use simple short words for weaker enemies and save the longer words to deefeat the bigger, worse monsters with. Now that’s strategy.
Spellspire on the Switch, when docked, plays the same as on the other consoles. Being played on a controller, picking alphabet characters to form words is hard as heck. It’s doable, but it just feels out of place. Good luck trying to erase a letter as you panic. Sometimes it’s just better to delete all the letters formed and start building the word again. But that takes time. And this game is about speed. Think fast, type fast. This flaw is even made more noticeable every tenth level, during the boss fights, where the difficulty spike rises through the roof.
THANK GOD FOR SWITCH’S HYBRID NATURE.
When playing in portable mode, the controls get better. REALLY better. Just like when played on mobile phones, the Switch’s touchscreen gets the spotlight. Everything is so much faster with your finger directly choosing the letters on-screen.
Deleting a couple of letters get an all-natural feel on the touchscreen, too. Now you just have to tap any character on a word. That letter, and the succeeding ones if there’s any, immediately comes back to the box of usable characters. Just tap away to victory. Wisely, of course.
The game has 100 levels, but with it being a hybrid word-forming puzzler and an RPG, that number will be multiplied to four, or six times even. This is where things get really repetitive. Every level is basically the same but only with different creatures waiting for you to kill them, and they can look a bit bland and boring. Every boss enemy one-hits you, so it’s better to grind your way from one floor to the next for more gold and to upgrade your arsenal. It’s a cycle of kill, loot, and upgrade.
Levels you’ve already conquered can be played again, but this time with additional requirements for extra challenge. Finishing these tasks gives you a star and large amounts of gold. Collecting a certain number of stars unlocks additional weapons and armor on the shop.
Spellspire is the game to play when you need a break from all the current triple A releases on the Nintendo Switch. It practices your hand-eye coordination, and it’s also a good brain teaser, enforcing you to always think and plan ahead. It’s good fun, and it’s best if played in short sessions, because boy, does this game exhaust your vocabulary. In this case, that’s actually a good thing.