By John Walker on June 27th, 2012 at 8:00 pm.
Oh my goodness, this is bursting with potential. Lying somewhere between Scrabble and Minecraft, cross-bred with Scribblenauts, is Quest Of The Wordsmith. A terrible name for a really interesting game. A spell your own survival sim.
Here’s the premise. You awake on an island, in nothing but your undies, and you need to survive. Night is coming, and if you’re going to have light to see by, you’re going to have to be able to spell it. Objects in the world can be destroyed, so long as you have the tools to destroy them. And when broken, they collapse into tiles that spell out their name. Kill a rat, and you get R, A and T, for instance. Take out skeleton from a nearby shipwreck and you’ve then got an N and a K, meaning you could make a tank. Use that to shoot down the bird, and you’ve got a B, enough to make a boat and see what’s on the neighbouring island.
It’s pretty primitive at the moment, the free version embedded in a website feeling extremely clunky, and lacking a lot of obvious words. But wow, I just love the idea. And while you may at first worry that as soon as you have a complete alphabet of tiles, you’ll just be able to spam the game, rather interestingly it only lets you create each object once. Which makes night time a bit scary, when you’ve already used “fire” and “torch”.
Clearly, making something that feels complete means an extraordinary amount of work. Not only do you have to have thought of something for every word someone might try to spell, but also create an image for it, potentially animate it, and then have it follow the physics of the world. It took 5th cell two iterations and years of work before they managed to get Scribblenauts into shape, and that was with the funding of Warner Bros. I imagine that Wordsmith will struggle to get close to its ambitions, but it sure will be interesting watching it try.
I do wonder if the game has even more potential as vignettes, short challenges to survive with careful limitation of what letters you can get hold of. The game feels the most fun when you’re scrabbling to make a word with a limited supply, and less so when you can spell anything. But perhaps that’s one of the directions Cheers Games plans to take things. At the moment the rather inappropriately titled Quest Of The Wordsmith (there are no quests) is free on the website, but it’s designed to be a pre-order incentive for the first official chapter, Night Of The Wordsmith. That costs only $5 to pre-order, and will have new locations, puzzles and “hundreds of new words”.