SpellCraft: Aspects of Valor
for PC

Wandrell:Popular Vote:
Company: Asciiware
Year: 1992
Genre: RPG
Theme: Sword & Sorcery
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 9109
Review by Wandrell (2012-11-25)

Get your spellbook ready, you are going to learn some serious magic. Soon you will be able to mix reagents, chant magical words and create spells to help yourself on the battlefield so, as per usual, you can save the world. Just that this time magic, and not just your sword, will be your main weapon.

A work by Ybarra, some of you may find that Basque surname familiar. No surprise, it's the name of a well known mayonnaise brand. But also you may know it from being a big videogame designer, having worked on games such as M.U.L.E., The Bard's Tale or, the one that tome is his best, Alien Legacy.

All of them are, in a way or another, attempt to mix ideas and genres trying to create something unique. Using Alien Legacy as an example, you get a strategy game where exploration and plot are just as important as developing your cities.

Just that this time the chosen mix was the easiest: RPG and action, along a bit of strategy that never gets along with the rest of the game. It's not like this can't give good results, after all RPGs come from strategy games, just that here things never hit the right spot.

For starters the magic, which is the main point of the game, is a nuisance. To create spells you create a combination of four set reagents and one of several focus. Think about all that could go wrong here, and chances are all those problems are on the game.

The first of all, the question everybody asks himself just by playing through the tutorial. How the hell am I supposed to develop new spells? Not only the possible combinations are too many, but if you don't make one of the right recipes the game punishes you in the cheapest possible way, by killing you.

And no, the tips you are given don't even help. Even in the tutorial you reach a point where you are told to create a new spell, like that, create a new spell. How? Well, you should know, but the clue is that the recipe can be easily found on the manual.

I think the mentor meant it can be easily found on a guide. Otherwise, how could I find out the correct amounts were hidden as the book, chapter and verse numbers of a citation somewhere around the nearly 80 pages manual? Doesn't look as simple to me, maybe it's that I'm not bright and patient enough for being a mage.

And no, having to include a cheat sheet with your game doesn't mean the system works as intended, because with the game came a table showing the recipes for most of the spells nearly completed, each having just a few gaps for you to fill. That tells a lot of what they thought of their game.

That's the backbone of the game, but not all it offers. It's just that the rest is not better. Fighting is a mess, and you can easily get stuck on the enemy and unable to draw the sword, so the monster beats you to a pulp. Traveling to the elemental planes is boring, because it’s always the same. And the characters are little more than shops.

So this ends being a forgettable experience. The idea of mixing and creating spells is not bad per se, but the way it's all done doesn't work in any way.

Comments (4) [Post comment]


I played this game through in its entirety back in the day - guessing that's a quarter century ago at this point. I do remember experimentation being part of the mix, but there were limits to it: you were largely trying to discover the recipe for existing spells. The manual is key, where they typically list some (but not all) of the ingredients. Sometimes you'd get clues to the missing ingredients from the recipe list through gameplay - typically by traveling the world and talking with other magic users.

Once you'd discovered the "base" recipe for a spell, you could alter it within limits. For example: a version of the dragon summoning spell that made your dragon have more HP, or more attack, or to make your levitation spell last longer. There were four primary ingredients most spells used that you could alter to make that happen...I remember "candles" being one of them (and it affected attack), but can't remember the others.

I actually finished this game, which says a lot about it - even other games I loved like the last two entries in "The Bard's Tale" trilogy didn't get finished. This game would be great for a remake, to be honest, with a more expanded magical experimentation system and maybe a 3D world.

Mr Creosote:
This game could have been great if it had actually been about experimenting with spell ingredients to create new and possibly unexpected effects, in the same vein as the tiny genre of species mutation/evolution tried with life forms. When it turned out to be a stupid exercise in repetive ingredient collection tasks and tedious cooking lessons which explicitly forbid any experimentation, I was thouroughly disappointed.
Herr M.:

For a moment I was almost tempted to give this a try, because I like complex magic systems and this one sounds as complex as it will get... alltough it also does sound like a very weak excuse of a copy protection.

BUT what ultimately stopped me from starting it up was one screenshot... the druid. Come on! Whoever came up with that hippie-treehugging nonsense! :P By bristle and bramble! Druids are merciless manifestations of raw and untamed mother nature! :D