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Spells & Secrets Review

Spells & Secrets Review

Congratulations! You've been selected to join the prestigious wizarding school Greifenstein. Partake in first-year student activities, like learning spells, fighting against an almighty evil organisation that has terrorised the castle and overtaken it, solve puzzles... You know, first-year stuff.

Spells & Secrets is a wizarding roguelike where you'll jump into the castle to fight back to retake it. It won't be so simple, however, as the castle's defences have also activated, and it has turned into an endless maze — to save Greifenstein, you'll need to reach the Spires.

The story isn't the most innovative you'll come across, and sometimes the writing can feel a bit off. I did appreciate the unique reasoning as to why you are the only person who can enter Greifenstein and fight the boss back, as the teachers standing in the courtyard waiting for you to complete everything would have felt uncomfortable otherwise. There isn't too much dialogue, and considering it's a roguelike title, I didn't feel it was out of place. 

Instead, you'll be jumping into the castle to complete runs time and again, and what ensues is spell-hurtling gameplay where you can choose three different incantations to have equipped at any given point. As you progress through the game and complete each floor of the castle, you start unlocking new professors who teach you new, higher-grade spells to use. These tend to correlate with abilities you'll see scattered throughout the floor, and some even work as your new "basic attack", working as a great offensive skill to use.

The gameplay loop then revolves around going into the castle, fighting enemies to collect Experience, and spending those on various spells that you can buy and upgrade. The combat is fun, though enemy variety is relatively poor, and it's a fairly easy game, with me reaching the final boss on my first attempt (though I promptly panicked and failed to defeat them that same run). That said, the difficulty isn't really a bad thing — I liked feeling powerful and using combinations of spells to defeat enemies or exploiting their weaknesses. Additionally, you will be traversing the castle past your first defeat of the final boss, and the game gets slightly harder with each successful run.

And there's a lot of variety in terms of battle — you can equip three different spells (with your third one working as a Flex Spell, which lets you cycle through them), have one potion, and unlock various artefacts throughout your run that affect your spells. The offensive abilities all feel great within their own builds and have different purposes, so it isn't rare to change mid-run to another one if you feel it'll work better against any given foe.

Combat is also where one of my only complaints of the game is, however — you have too few choices to have slotted at any given moment. With so many great abilities that work offensively, defensively, and even tactically, having three that you can use quickly feels like too little. This stopped me from using the tactical spells too much, as instead, I opted for anything that would ensure I could deal sufficient damage or mandatory attacks that make the game much more manageable (like Levitate). Since I thoroughly loved the spell-hurtling gameplay that encourages you to try different combinations, I felt this was a fairly major gripe.

I did try the split-screen co-op with my wife, which led to a lot of laughter as we moved each other around with telekinesis or made the other levitate constantly. While she and I are always looking for an enjoyable title to play together, Spells & Secrets was a breath of fresh air as an enjoyable title, but that isn't without its flaws as well. Mainly, the game is borderline unplayable on the joypad in contrast to the mouse and keyboard, as aiming with the right joystick and casting spells with buttons meant that you were forced to use the lock-in mechanic, which isn't the greatest.

Player one also can't play with the mouse and keyboard, as both players are obliged to play on the controller regardless — if you don't have two lying around, you are gated from playing split-screen co-op altogether. If online co-op was an option, this would be one of my favourite cooperative titles to play, but as it stands, both players being forced to use the controllers and its integration being bad makes it difficult to love.

Aside from jumping into Greifenstein time and again to fight back the forces, you have a couple of other things you can do. Mostly, this consists of challenges that you can complete for cosmetic rewards, joining one of the four houses and getting their house-specific spell, and maxing their reputations to get their cosmetics. Ending a run always felt very gratifying because there are a slew of challenges to complete, and spending your Experience in the Courtyard to master your spells felt like genuinely enjoyable progression.

Its main issues aside, Spells & Secrets is an absolute joy of a roguelike that I had fun with. Completing puzzles scattered across Greifenstein and going through the floors is some of the best spell-based gameplay you can get in gaming right now, and with a severe lack of magic-focused titles, I'd say this is a pretty easy no-brainer.

8.00/10 8

Spells & Secrets (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

My only gripes are predominantly mechanical and slightly limiting options, as otherwise, Spells & Secrets is an easy no-brainer for magic lovers and enthusiasts looking for a wizarding home.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Artura Dawn

Artura Dawn

Staff Writer

Writes in her sleep, can you tell?

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