Spellspire Review

As a mobile-phone game, Spellspire may pass the bar, but it doesn’t hold up as a full-fledged console game. It unfortunately lacks the depth and variety that engaging and absorbing games need to have. Spellspire is based around word puzzles very similar to Scrabble; the player picks out words from a bank of ten random letters. This mechanic is the entirety of the gameplay and quickly loses its novelty.  This game would be a great time killer to play on the go, but there just isn’t enough meat on the bones to make it worth playing on a console.

Spellspire uniquely has no main menu screen or opening cut scenes. When the app is opened, the game goes straight into the first level without any explanation or story at all. The player is simply tasked with picking out words from a group of ten random letters to move forward. Once the first level is completed, the game will pull out to show that the main character -- a wizard -- is on the first floor of a mysterious tower. Jumping right into a game in such manner is very off putting and it gives the whole game a half-finished vibe. The bland music and lack of gameplay variety don’t help this feeling either.

Each floor of the tower represents a new level with increasing difficulty. Each word that the player finds in the letter bank does damage to the enemies blocking the path. When an enemy is destroyed, the wizard can progress through the level to the next encounter. The levels start out very easy, and it only takes a few words to progress. Eventually, it is necessary to tap out as many words as you can. The issue is that many of the letter banks have the same letters in them, so the player will end up picking out the same three- and four-letter words in every level. It’s not exactly fun or challenging to use the word “toad” over and over again.

The game also allows for the use of plurals, so once a word has been picked out the player can just add an “S” on to the end and use it again. On the lighter side, the game also accepts swears, so feel free to unleash you inner 13-year-old. Sadly, this novelty eventually wears off as well. Once you’ve used the word “shat” to cast a fire spell on a zombie chef, there really isn’t anywhere to go from there.

10tons Ltd., the creators of the game, also added a few RPG elements in, but these do little to add to the experience. It is possible to purchase new equipment in-between levels, and upgrade the equipment to make it stronger. You can purchase a fire wand for, example, to do extra damage to enemies with a fire weakness. On the surface, this is a nice way to spice up the game, but it seems like almost all enemies are weak to fire. The fire wand is also the very first upgrade that the player can purchase so there is little incentive to unlock additional wands. There are also usable items like health potions and protection spells, but they do little to improve the gameplay.

Similarly, the developers have added a feature that will let you replay earlier levels with added challenges. Once again, it’s a great idea on paper, but it turns out that every level has the same challenge: make it through the level without taking any damage. If each level had unique challenges, that would have gone a long way to making the game more enjoyable, but it is another missed opportunity.

In the end, Spellspire feels like a game that was clearly made for mobile devices and was designed to be played very casually. When it is played on a console, the shortcomings become glaringly apparent. With the wide variety of games available on PlayStation 4, it simply is not compelling enough to demand attention.