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Spellsworn Review: A Mostly Magical Experience

Spellsworn screenshot

Pulling its inspiration from the ‘Warlock’ mod of Warcraft 3, Spellsworn is a quick, skill-based PvP arena brawler/MOBA hybrid. While it has charm, it’s not entirely enchanting.

By combining the haste of a brawler with the gameplay and skill system of a MOBA, Spellsworn manages to be both chaotic and structured. The premise is simple: purchase a handful of skills with different properties, jump into one of the few available arenas, and cast your spells until your opponents are no more. With a rather simple control scheme and approachable learning curve, it’s easy enough to get the hang of the game. Mastering it, however, may take you some time. But nonetheless, the short duration of the matches, plethora of build options, and free-to-play nature of the game make Spellsworn an alluring, fun game to add to your library.

Spellsworn screenshot

Matchmaking isn’t so magical

Once you log onto Spellsworn, your options are rather limited. You can quick search for a game, or search for specific lobbies/create your own. The lobby system is very frustrating, and it’s made even worse due to the low player base. I couldn’t find any clue as to how to create a private lobby with bots, just so I could do something, as the game gives you no indication.

Most players leave after one game, making lobby retention non-existent which is made worse by the fact that I could not once successfully find two lobbies in a row without first closing the game and reopening it. This really got on my nerves – I enjoy playing this game, but it feels like it’s constantly trying to keep me out. But once you do get in, it’s a really engaging, fast paced experience.

But gameplay is worth waiting for

Games begin with you selecting from a large number of spells. Your currency is equal to every other player, regardless of performance, which I highly appreciate. It creates a balanced feeling not often seen in MOBA games. You can buy, sell (for a full refund), and upgrade your spells. Those upgrades can be rolled back, and each spell can be upgraded twice. The variability in the spells, and how you keep/maintain/spend your currency allows you to be extremely flexible during matches.

If you play a round and feel like you upgraded a spell that isn’t doing the trick, you can roll back that upgrade to get your money back, or sell it completely to try something else. I like how no build you create feels like it ties you down, since you can switch everything between rounds. Spells are broken into sections: Travel, Utility, Area, Defensive, and Offensive. Each section has limits, to prevent overloading, which I think is a great addition to Spellsworn.

Spellsworn screenshot

The gameplay itself is generally smooth but does suffer a bit during larger battles. As Spellsworn relies heavily on reaction and planning, any sort of latency drastically affects your ability to succeed. Sound effects accentuate each spell and arena, while character customisation (available through progression-based loot boxes) allows for individualisation and personality. It’s a vibrant game with great colour. No aspect of Spellsworn necessarily blows you away, but there isn’t much here that disappoints.

‘Accessible and enjoyable’

For a free-to-play game, Spellsworn does everything right. It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and doesn’t suffer from any pay-to-win mechanics. Though quite difficult to master, it’s approachable and engaging for any player. The variety and personality you can put into your build/character adds to the personal freedom the game creates. Though the low player count, latency, and lobby issues still persist, Spellsworn certainly excites when it’s running optimally. Without being overly flashy, Spellsworn aims to be accessible and enjoyable, and it nails that when everything is firing on all cylinders.

Spellsworn is available on PC.
Matt has been an avid gamer since he first ventured to Zebes in Super Metroid. If he's not there, he's probably racking his mind over a puzzler, running through a JRPG, or grinding Dark Souls again. You can find him at your local bookstore, disc golf course, or friendly Smash Bros. tournament otherwise. With a background in Linguistics and Creative Writing, he loves writing about anything from gaming to semiotics.