LifeIsXbox’s Verses of Enchantment review | I love deckbuilding games, I’m a huge fan of clever ideas and when a new Belgian game releases, I always want to show it my support. I’m excited to play a game that meets all the aforementioned criteria.
I first met the solo developer, Ibe Denaux, at a small local game expo in Bruges (Belgium) and while I normally know about pretty much every Belgian game in development, his clever deckbuilding title had eluded me. It only took a few seconds for me to applaud some of the original ideas that were being used here: the artwork taken from public domain paintings, the AI-generated poetry and then a type of spell-based card game that felt new and fresh.
One year later, I already get to play the finished product and I’ve had a great time with it. Let’s get this review on the dotted road.
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code bought myself (to support Belgian games!) this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Single-player campaign | In Verses of Enchantment you play as a new mage in a world where magic is created by writing poetry. It’s a power only the elite is allowed to use, but you’re here to change that. You travel the world by navigating on a map and going to new places, talking to other mages and challenging them to duels. Sometimes specific criteria needs to be met before they want to face you. The story progresses by collecting new cards, so you’ll have to win some duels to get there.
- Poetry-powered spells | Each turn, you get to play three word-spells from your hand and those words will be used to write a poem in the next turn. Many of your cards will only activate if the poem contains a word from the other categories (Gloom, Brilliance, Nature, Ego, Passion) so you’ll need to plan ahead to do a large amount of damage. There are also passive effects like Heartbreak (can’t heal) or Rejuvenate (heal 7 at the start of your turn) that in turn activate your cards, or your opponents’.
- Highlights | I like how activated cards are highlighted in your hand, which makes it easier to make decisions. If your card only deals damage if the previous poem does or does not contain certain colours, it will have a shiny effect telling you that it’s active. A nice touch!
- Everything is known information | You get to see your opponent’s deck before facing them, so you can build one of your own to counter their tactics, and during each battle, you can see their hand so you can kind of anticipate what they’ll do next. If the opponent is going to throw up a Shield (prevent all damage) then you probably shouldn’t waste time building a combo to deal damage the next turn, because it will be wasted.
- Multiplayer | This solves the multiplayer problem a lot of games like this have in a simple manner; you can simply play against your friends on the same device. There is no hidden information, so you don’t need to hide your hand for your opponent. There is no built-in online multiplayer, however, but you can work around that through Steam’s Remote Play function.
- Random Elements | But the random elements keep it exciting. Even if you only use Gloom words, there is still a chance a Passion word sneaks into your next poem, deactivating a card in your hand because it only works in the absence of those. But it makes sense: after all, Death has a lot of ties to Love in poetry.
- Old feels fresh | The artwork used here are all paintings from the public domain, meaning they are free to use. It’s a clever workaround to having to pay artists for each spell or avatar for an opposing mage, but it took careful moderation to find art that worked well together and that fit the many spells in the game. I could also appreciate the animated scene at the start of the game, where the art came to life. Would have been nice if more of those effects made it into the duels though.
- The novelty of the poems themselves wears of | At the start of the game, I found myself reading all of the poems that were conjured by the AI. But with the recurring words coming back again and again, I soon found myself looking only at the coloured words (spells) and to see what kind of impact they had on my cards. The same can be said for the story: I started reading all of the dialogues with the other mages but noticed myself losing interest in favour of getting to the next addictive duel faster.
- The UI/UX | While everything looks coherent in style and I applaud the game for it, there are some things I would have liked to see, such as being able to change the order my cards are played without moving them back to my hand. A drag & drop system or arrows appearing on either side when you hover over your 3 upcoming spells would have been nice. There are also libraries or schools where you can study to learn new spells, but finding one you don’t own yet needs a ton of clicking around.
What we Disliked
- Resource management | It’s a very, very small nitpick, but the campaign has a system where you need to eat some food or you’ll start battles at 50hp instead of 100. So every now and then, you’ll need to pick gold to win instead of cards so you can buy food at the next town. I didn’t like it because it slowed down the progression a little bit (having to play 1 or 2 more matches where I didn’t pick a card to win) and I felt like it didn’t really add anything meaningful to the game.
- Shields up | As mentioned earlier, one type of passive effect throws up a shield and that can stop entire decks cold, but this is entirely fine because you can include cards in your deck to cancel it or deal some damage over time. My issue is that an active shield turns all visual previews of damage on your cards into (0). And there is no way for you to tell if your spell will deal 10, 15 or 48 damage the next turn even though you’ll disable the shield. It hides the original text on your card so you’ll need to have memorised what your card does.
- Only 100 cards | There are only 100 cards in total and most of them are very similar, a handful (pun intended) of them are simply “deal 10 damage”, for example. But on the other hand, it does mean that you can easily plan ahead and know about every type of deck your opponent can cook up, and make one of your own to counter it.
- Roguelike | There is a mode where you can build your deck as you go after facing multiple opponents outside of the campaign, but because you always start with the same deck it loses a bit of the addictive value that comes from other more randomised card games. I only played this mode 4 or 5 times and grew tired of it. Between this and the limited amount of spells, Verses of Enchantment mainly misses some staying power.
How long to beat the story | It took me ~5-6 hours to beat the story
How long to complete the game | You can probably collect all the cards in ~6-7 hours. (I had 92/100 after 6 hours played)
You’ll love this game if you like these | Magic The Gathering, Wildfrost, Slay the Spire, Roguebook
Verses of Enchantment is a fresh take on the deckbuilding genre that uses poetry to create powerful spells. The artwork, poems and overall presentation deliver a coherent experience that is incredibly fun to play through once, but is not likely to keep you busy for hundreds of hours.
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.