Published on November 17th, 2020 | by Michael Newman0
The wonderous world of virtual reality has been a blessing since the days of lockdowns and Covid restrictions. For those lucky enough to have a VR headset, it allows a way to escape the real world without ever actually having to leave the comfort and safety of your house. Over the past several months I’ve been able to get in a daily workout in my own private VR gym, or liftoff to another planet to explore a place that in some ways feels less hostile then the current world we live in. With the arrival of Spellpunk VR, a virtual reality wizard game from Incineration Productions, which allows you to take the roll of a punk (at least in artistic design) wizard and wage battle against AI bots or online opponents.
The concept behind Spellpunk VR is simple, you draw rudimentary shapes with your controller to symbolize the type of spell you want to cast at your opponent. For example, drawing a triangle on screen will cast forth a fireball spell, a lightning bolt symbol casts lightning, etc. The game does an okay job at recognizing what you want to cast and allowing you to point and shoot at your opponent. There are various spells to choose from both offensively and defensively which you utilize to damage your opponent with the victor being the last one standing.
Gameplay is simple, yet I found myself constantly utilizing spells that were the quickest and easiest to cast, without there really being much to distinguish one from the other. Since drawing a triangle and launching a fireball attack was the quickest and easiest, there was little reason for me to cast ice (the second easiest) or a lightning bolt (which I felt was the hardest for the program to identify). The defensive shield spell worked well enough, but it tended to take a while to draw, so I found myself focusing on casting as many offensive spells as I could to destroy my opponent’s first, versus blocking spells coming my way.
The art style works well in VR, it has a very futuristic, graffiti laden vibe which is colorful and not overly complex. It’s minimalistic, but vivid enough to be interesting in the VR world your wizard lives in. Sounds are serviceable, with nothing completely memorable, but also nothing that gets in the way or distracts from the overall feel of the game itself. The spells are not flashy but are easily distinguishable from one another and if VR was old enough to be considered “retro”, then I’d go as far as to call it a “retro” game.
Unfortunately, that leaves me with the biggest problem with Spellpunk, and games that it shares a similar fate with. The game is meant to be played on-line against live opponents. There are casual games and competitive ladder games, but literally no one online to play against. I sat for minutes waiting for any online game to materialize and never once was anyone around to play against. Sure, there are offline bots you can battle, but those never felt challenging or interesting enough to play against for any length of time. That’s the problem with games that essentially are designed with an online main component. Online games in general suffer from their own success or failure, and independent games I feel are the ones who tend to fall on the losing end. VR games in general are a very niche group, and games that are VR and Online focused widen the gap even further. My experience with many VR multiplayer games is if they are lucky, they have a big following upon initial release and drop off steadily after that. In cases with a game like Spellpunk, while it’s concept is interesting, and it’s controls serviceable, when you are the only wizard in the castle with no other wizards to compete against, it makes for an experience that is quickly forgettable and one that you move on from quickly.
While the game can be reviewed on Its other merits, such as style and gameplay mechanics, its fun factor and purchase recommendations are based on it’s ability to appeal to it’s core audience, which for Spellpunk is an online player base that sadly is non-existent. If you have a group of friends and are looking to pass the time casting spells against one another, you certainly could do worse then Spellpunk. However, if you are looking to play this game against other players, or simply don’t have enough friends invested in VR, then this is a purchase that you are best to pass on. Spellpunk isn’t a bad game, and I certainly can see its appeal, but without a core audience to back it up, its shelf life is surprisingly short
What I liked: Interesting game mechanics, Quick and Easy to pick up and play.
What I liked less: It’s less Hogwarts and more Tombstone
2.5 out of 5 stars
The game was reviewed on an HTC Vive with a Deluxe Audio Strap