By Christopher Livingston on June 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 pm.
Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, yelling spells (and other things) in In Verbis Virtus.
I’ve been talking to a video game all day. It’s okay, I’m supposed to: the game requires me to cast spells by saying magic words into a microphone. I’ve found that having to talk to a game has resulted in me talking a lot in general, though. “Ah-ha!” I yell when finding something. “Nice try,” I say to a statue hiding a secret rune. “YEAH! TELEKINESIS!” I bellowed at one point. I was using telekinesis. It excited me. I won’t apologize.
All I knew going in to In Verbis Virtus (the title, by the way, I have to look up and confirm every single time I write it), was that it was an FPS game where you cast spells by saying magic words into a mic. In my head, I guess I pictured it like, I dunno, Skyrim, where goblins or whatever would run at me and I’d yell “COMBUSTIS MORTALIS!” into my headset mic and then my video game hand would reach out and a bunch of goblins would die of fireballs.
Well, I was mistaken, at least so far. There is, I’ve heard, a fireball spell in the game, though I haven’t found it yet. I haven’t seen any goblins, either, or combat of any kind. Essentially, this is a first-person puzzle game, wherein you explore caverns to find a spell, then use that spell to solve a puzzle and find the next spell, which you then use to solve another puzzle.
It takes me a while — kind of a long while, for reasons I’ll explain later — to find my first spell, a light spell. The spell for light is cast using the words LUMEH TIAL, and, after clearing my throat, I tentatively try it for the first time, holding down my left mouse button while speaking into my headset mic.
“Ummm. Lumeh… Tial,” I say, feeling a bit sheepish. On the screen, my hand reaches forward and the bright glow of light comes out of it. Huh, cool. I right-click to end the spell, and try it again. “Lumeh Tial!” I command, this time a bit more confidently. It works again. Magical! Then I have a thought. “Looo-cille!” I bellow. I create light again. Okay. “ROOMBA PEEL!” I shout. Nothing that time. “OOH EEE!” I yell. Light again. So, from my little test, it seems you just have to get the basic sounds out, generally. Magic isn’t super picky, it seems.
And really, would magic be super picky? Wouldn’t magic, like everything else in the world, just sorta mostly work the way it’s supposed to? Evil magic might insist on you pronouncing every single little syllable (see Army of Darkness), but good magic, helpful magic, probably wouldn’t be pedantic.
Walking around with my light spell on, I quickly discover a tunnel I’d missed before, which leads me down to a room that is filled with, (and forgive me if I’m being too technical) a whole bunch of magic stuff goin’ on. It’s not long before I’ve got my second spell, which lets me cast a focused beam of light, activated by new magic words, or words that are sort of close to those magic words. Let’s just say, I can yell HECTOR’S ROOMIE and still get to do magic.
Now that I’ve got a beam of light, I know exactly where to go: a chamber at the bottom of the cave that I found earlier and spent a good twenty minutes wandering around in, which brings me to another facet of the game. The game takes place within a sprawling cave filled with tunnels, chasms, chambers, and magical shrines. Based on how games usually work, I initally assumed that when I found something of value, like a spell from a shrine, I was done with that shrine. If solving a puzzle opens a door, that door is the right way to go to find the next puzzle.
In this game, that’s not quite how things work. You may wander into a puzzle you’re not equipped to solve (which I did almost immediately, and spent quite a while fruitlessly trying to solve it). You may have to return to a puzzle room after you solve it and do something else. It helps (a little) to think of the cave as one big puzzle instead of a series of puzzles. Don’t think about escaping, think about scrutinizing. The best comparison I can think of is Myst, where you search the same areas again and again, looking for what you missed the last time.
Then, there’s the puzzles themselves. Sometimes they’re kind of straight-forward: you have a spell that shoots a beam of light, and you see a giant prism-like gem in a room with a locked door, well, at least you know how to get started.
There’s another puzzle, however, that I never, ever would have figured out without getting a hint from a forum post (there is a clue in the game itself, but it was not nearly enough of a clue for me). And the solution isn’t that difficult, really, it’s just that it requires certain behavior on your part, behavior that hasn’t really been hinted at up until that point. How to explain without spoiling…
Okay, remember in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy is trying to solve the Penitent Man puzzle, and he realizes the Penitent Man kneels before God? And then Indy realizes the Penitent Man apparently also does a forward roll before God for some reason? This isn’t the same as that, but it does have to do with your movement, and that’s all I’ll say, though I’ll also say, what the hell was the deal with the Penitent Man doing a forward roll? What the hell was that?
The side-effect of tough puzzles and a lot of confused wandering is that I get quite excited when I do solve a puzzle, or even just find a hidden rune or make a little forward progress. Combine that excitement with the habit of talking while playing, and I wind up yelling a lot. As I said earlier, I wound up hollering, “YEAH! TELEKINESIS!” I wasn’t even doing anything useful with telekinesis, I was just levitating a pot, it’s just that I HAD telekinesis, and I HAD it because I figured out how to GET it, and that was cause for yelling. Lord knows what my neighbors think.
Excited yelling means often getting magic words wrong, but like I said, magic doesn’t care that much. “Uh, tuh, uh…” I said frantically at one point while staring at a rune carved into a thing that I was trying to do something magical to and had a very little amount of time to do it in. And, it worked just fine! Again, I’m convinced magic would do this if it were real. Magic knows what you mean when you’re in a hurry, look at a magic symbol and say “Uh, tuh, uh…” Magic isn’t gonna make you get it completely right. Magic isn’t a dick. Magic is cool.