Spelling, Spells, and Sheep Shearing: Previewing Spellirium
I was recently given the opportunity to play the alpha build of Untold Entertainment’s upcoming game Spellirium. I had not previously heard of the title and had little background knowledge to work with, so my adventure into the world of Spellirium was a journey into the great unknown.
This unknown turned into a funny, challenging trip through a world where reading and writing have been outlawed. A writer myself, I found the prospect of these two cornerstones of my life being banned terrifying.
Spellirium puts the player in the shoes of Brother Todd, an apprentice Runemaster who learns about the world’s illegal letters in secret from four wise men. Runemasters study ancient “relics” of the past – street signs, license plates, etc – in order to preserve the gift of written language for future generations.
Todd is kept in a remote cottage, unaware of the scope of this ban until one of his teachers is killed in a horrible accident. Thrust into the unknown, Todd takes control of the Spellcaster, a powerful multi-purpose device that does everything from shearing sheep to fighting powerful enemies.
Harnessing the unique abilities of your Spellcaster is essential to progressing through Spellirium. An energy bar rests on the top of your device, which lowers as you move letters around the board to create words. The farther you have to move a letter, the more energy it takes away. Balancing the energy bar with your pursuit of high scores will take a little time to get used to.
Spelling words on your device has different effects depending on your goal. While some scenarios ask you to spell words that relate to your goal such as “cut” or “shave” in the sheep section, others will require you to make color-coded words to fight themed monsters. These monsters will attack your Spellcaster as you move letters and make mistakes, making the preservation of your energy even more important. Multipliers for color-coded words, “scare” words which can drive enemies away, and item drops for high scores add layers the player must take into consideration.
For an alpha-build, there is a lot to like here. The humor and sarcasm flow perfectly, with characters coming close to breaking the fourth wall as they address cliché concepts of the RPG genre. Our hero Todd is chock full of witty one-liners that make his first trip outside of his cottage seem like a walk in the park.
Spellirium’s art style is well-done, with beautiful backdrops and quirky character models. Despite being a budget title (available for $15) in alpha, the game looks good and plays well. I experienced little to no graphical hitches during play-through, an encouraging sign for a game still in the developmental stage.
Not without warts, the biggest issue right now is the almost complete lack of sound in Spellirium. Outside of a few cut scenes, I was draped in silence as I maneuvered through this new world. It took a little of the edge out of Todd’s biting sarcasm and made it hard to get completely attached to the characters. Seeing as this is an alpha build, the exclusion is understandable, and I look forward to dialogue eventually taking its rightful seat as copilot in the Spellirium journey.
For those who love brain-twisting challenges, this is a game I would recommend investing the $15 in right now for early access. Untold delivers fun characters and better gameplay to their audience as they continue to hammer out the kinks in development. More cautious gamers might wait until a more finished product is available to assess, but Spellirium appears to be in very capable hands. Check out the trailer below and join in on the word wizardry.
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