Words. The only thing more powerful than sticks and stones. Those break your bones, but words break your soul. Or in the case of this game, make pretty sweet magic spells. Anyway, Spellspire, a new indie word/RPG game hybrid for the Nintendo Switch.
Don’t worry about details, as this game has plot whatsoever. You’re a wizard. There’s a tower to climb, with monsters aplenty. You kill monsters with the power of the English dictionary and that’s about it. The simplest heroes often have the simplest stories to follow. That is, no story.
Spellspire is a mashup of word games and RPGs. Your goal across the 100 levels is to defeat every enemy on the floor and move on. Though not the way you would expect. The playing field has your character walking automatically and stopping when an enemy is in front of him, with no conventional means of attack, which brings us to the main element of the game: Scrabble. Your means of offense is a grid of ten letters used to spell words with. The minimum amount of letters for a word is three. Building longer words increases damage done with your magic, which is critical, due to the fact that enemy attacks are on a timer, and they attack you when it ends. As such, both a quick mind and knowledge of the English language are needed to beat levels, especially on repeat challenges where you can’t afford to take a single hit.
In between levels, the RPG aspects come in as new staves, clothing and upgrades are unlocked for purchase and upgrading. You’ll be visiting often to upgrade your current and past weaponry depending on what the current stage demands strategy-wise. Just because your current gear may be more powerful doesn’t mean you can just stick to it; old weapons and clothing can have certain niches in later levels due to one’s playstyle.
Switching up gear is important, since no matter what you have, the game can become surprisingly difficult depending on your grasp of the English language. Because words can only be used once, it mandates that you improvise fast with whatever ten letters you’re given, and depending on the combination, you may have many words to pick from or little, especially since there can be some very obscure words, as the game will remind you of at the end of every level (and I can bet with almost full certainty that you never heard of the word ‘annealer’ before this review). But it’s not unfun; on the contrary, there are constant rewards for wordplay experimentation in addition to prior knowledge. So while the audience is slightly specific, there’s enjoyment to be had from Spellspire’s gameplay.
Like the nonexistent plot, there’s little to say about the presentation beyond it being simplistic but serviceable, with no performance issues. It does have the fantasy aesthetic down, so that’s good.
Spellspire is unique enough on its own merits and has enough stuff to keep you coming back, but in spite of this, the price point of 9.99 or your regional equivalent is slightly steep. The replayability of the stages means that there are technically 200 levels in the game and the difficulty is high enough that you won’t simply breeze through it effortlessly (unless you’re a living dictionary or a robot). Nevertheless, the game is still a good time, though those not into word games may want to look elsewhere.