Spellspire Review

By Lexley Ford,
Most of us have played some form of word game in the past, be it games like Wordament on our mobile devices, or just a friendly game of Scrabble on a wet evening in a caravan during a family holiday. Many of them follow a simple rule of making words and scoring points. Spellspire from 10tons takes that premise and mashes it with RPG elements to create something a bit different.

Logo

Spellspire puts you in control of a wizard who is climbing his way up a tower, defeating the creature found on each level. These monsters are encountered one at a time and you fight them off by spelling out words to cast spells using a selection of ten letters, it's really just as simple as that.  The longer the word, the more damage you do. Ten letter words are, of course, the most powerful, but two letter words don't count and are useless. You can only use each word once per attempt at a floor, so using shorter words against weaker enemies is preferable so you can save your more powerful words for the tougher enemies. It's this sense of tactical planning that differentiates Spellspire from other word games, although there does come a time where no matter how good you are at putting words together quickly, the enemies are just that little bit too fast or they hit hard enough to kill you in one strike.

Each enemy has a set weakness or resistance that can be checked in the game's Monsterpedia, a bestiary that can be purchased for a nominal one-time fee. One floor might have a variety of enemies that are all weak to the same element therefore making the choice easy, while others might throw out a complete mix of different enemies. Players will need to decide what their biggest threat might be and act accordingly, thinking about the correct gear choices.

Spellspire

Completing each floor grants money that can be used to purchase new equipment or to upgrade the gear you already have. Between each floor you get the opportunity to visit the shop. Purchasing additional wands or upgrading them will add more damage to your attacks as well as giving you access to extra effects, such as burning or poisoning that add a little bit of extra damage over time. Hats and robes can also be bought and upgraded and will add to your defence, allowing you to take a few more hits from your foes or add bonuses such as earning extra gold for each enemy you hit. Upgrades actually feel useful rather than just being tacked on.

Every tenth floor pits you against a boss creature. Unlike previous floors, this monster appears by itself and is more powerful than those you've faced before. Like many RPGs this is the time where you'll have to replay already completed levels in order to grind out extra gold to beef up your arsenal. Once defeated, Boss enemies will grant you with a nice hefty chunk of cash. These creatures will then be added to the roster of enemies and appear on normal floors, but by the point they do you will have amassed an impressive enough arsenal to deal with them as you would any regular creature. That is of course until you reach a future boss that will once again add more of a challenge.

Spellspire

It is a very repetitive cycle: defeat creatures, reach boss, improve gear, eventually beat boss, and repeat. The fact that all of the levels are really all just the same thing doesn't help either. Apart from the style of the background to each floor and the enemies encountered, every level is pretty identical to the others, and there is next to no variation in gameplay. Spellspire has certainly missed a trick here, boss levels could have introduced some more interesting mechanics, such as having to end words with “-ing” or “-ed” in order to deal damage, or a shield that drops once a certain number of smaller words have been spelled, thereby allowing you do deal massive damage with bigger words. Unfortunately, this isn't the case and every level follows the same simple “cast spells using a selection of ten letters” principle.

The move from mobile to console does come with a few annoying drawbacks, the most noticeable being that typing in words using directional buttons to select your letters isn't anywhere near as intuitive as it would be with a touch screen and rectifying mistakes can often be more time consuming. When having to deal with a time limit where shaving off a few seconds can be the difference between success and failure, controllers will never be able to match the speed and precision of directly tapping the icons you want with your finger. Selecting usable items with the shoulder buttons and selecting them with the Y button works fine for most occasions but is, once again, not as quick as with a touch screen.

Spellspire

The achievements in Spellspire are pretty straightforward, awarding achievements for defeated the bosses every tenth floor as well as for casting spells using seven, eight, nine and ten letters without the help of an item. There are also two for owning certain high level equipment. Once the main 100 floors are completed and players get access to the dungeon, there are a few more achievements to tackle but nothing that should prove to be very difficult.

Summary

Spellspire takes a simple word game and spices it up with some interesting RPG elements, adding some tactical thinking to the usual “spell big words to win” formula. Upgrades actually feel useful rather than being tacked on and don't end as an afterthought. Unfortunately there is very little variation in the actual gameplay and the move from mobile to console does come with some drawbacks, mainly when it comes to inputting words quickly and precisely. It is, however, a fun game to play in short bursts; with an entire tower to climb, there is plenty for people to sink their teeth into here.
6 / 10
Spellspire
Positives
  • Simple gameplay mechanics
  • Upgrades feel useful rather than tacked on
Negatives
  • Controller not as intuitive as a touch screen
  • Very little variation in the gameplay
Ethics
The reviewer spent approximately 10 hours casting spells and collecting gold. He unlocked 10 of the game's 22 achievements along the way. An Xbox One code was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
Lexley Ford
Written by Lexley Ford
Lex has been gaming for nearly three decades and has been a Newshound for TrueAchievements since 2011. When he’s not writing news he can normally be found immersing himself in a good story, both written and in-game, or just blowing stuff up (only in games).