Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: 10tons
Release Date: May 23, 2017 (US), May 24, 2017 (EU)


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PS4 Review - 'Spellspire'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 8, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Spellspire is a mash-up of word game and action/role-playing game. Blast fiends by spelling words, and collect gold dropped by slain monsters. Buy more powerful gear, and power through tough encounters.

Buy Spellspire

Word puzzle games are appealing to a wide demographic. It explains why games like Scrabble have endured and why the crossword puzzle is a staple of the daily newspaper. By comparison, RPGs are more niche. The idea of leveling up and referring to enemy hits by points is more widespread, but the genre may not instantly appeal to a casual gamer. The idea of creating a word-based puzzle game with RPG elements isn't new; last year's Letter Quest Remastered proved that it could be done very well. This year, the team at 10tons has decided to give it a go with Spellspire, a word puzzle game that takes on a similar but different approach.

You play the role of a nameless wizard who's been tasked with climbing a tower where monsters are only harmed by the power of words. Thus, it's your job to ascend the 100 floors of the tower, defeating monsters along the way, and then descending the 100 floors of the tower's dungeon to do the same.

Each floor plays out exactly the same way. You're given a batch of 10 randomly selected letters and a batch of monsters to deal with. You approach each monster automatically and start fighting them off one at a time with words you construct from the 10 available letters. The letters don't change once you create a word, but you are barred from reusing the same word on the same floor. The strength of your attack is dependent on the number of letters used to construct the word, so while simple three-letter words work fine, going for longer words will ensure massive damage.

While trying to find the long words from a limited letter pool is going to be fun for word puzzle enthusiasts, you aren't given much time to mull things over. Each enemy has a timer that dictates when they can attack you, and the amount of damage inflicted depends greatly on the element type and whether they're a boss. As such, winning is largely dependent on bringing a rapid barrage of words as opposed to pondering and trying to construct larger words for more devastating attacks.

The RPG elements are few but paramount in giving you an edge as you reach the later floors. Each enemy you defeat and each chest you get gives you coins, which allow you to purchase items like new hats, robes and wands once they're available through other criteria. Those items will provide bonuses like elemental damage and protection, and they can all be upgraded to give you more health or deal more damage. The coins also help you get power-ups, like potions for a health refill or dictionaries that'll automatically get you long words in a pinch. The coins also get you backpacks that let you hold more power-ups at a time.

For the most part, Spellspire is quite breezy, and even though you'll find yourself stuck on a pattern of resorting to singular and plural versions of the same word to get those hits, the focus on speed makes the levels exciting even if the objective rarely changes. You'll find yourself stuck on some stages due to some overly tough bosses, but that's where the juggling of different wands comes in, so there's a chance for some strategy beyond just being lucky with a good set of letters. For those who want to use brute force, the provides you with a bit of leeway, as you can replay stages to get extra coins for shop items. You are given a challenge per replayed stage, but since that challenge is to get through without taking damage against slightly faster monsters, it doesn't change the game's dynamic too much.

Like many games of this type, this is something best experienced in small doses. This is mostly due to the fact that the gameplay rarely changes, regardless of whether you're on the second floor or the 75th. Add in the fact that you'll need to grind things out to get past later stages with better equipment, and you'll really want to take breaks after every few levels. No one can complain the game has no content, as it'll take quite a while to finish everything it has to offer. It also does better than Letter Quest Remastered in a few areas, namely much faster loading times and the fact that it has a Platinum trophy.

Spellspire also happens to be a Cross-Buy title between the Vita and PS4, but it doesn't have any Cross-Save capabilities, so you can't port a save file to quickly earn a second set of Trophies. The game controls well on a controller, but the Vita version is the way to go, since touch makes the letter and item selection go much faster. It also helps that the game was originally developed for smartphones, so the Vita is the natural choice.

Like many games from 10tons, the presentation is quite simple. The Flash cartoon style for enemies and backgrounds animates nicely, and the bold colors and lines make it look good despite the inherent simplicity. Even the effects look simple but bold, so it looks nice despite not being a stunner. The music and sound effects are fine and functional but not particularly memorable.

In the end, Spellspire is a fun game that's best played in short sessions. The focus on speed is exciting, and the RPG elements make it so that you're forced to put some thought into each of your fights. It can feel rather repetitive since you're always stuck with 10 letters and the monster roster per stage doesn't change. Having said that, it's perfect for the Vita and is a complementary title for those who've already played Letter Quest Remastered.

Score: 7.5/10

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