Forget beat poetry, in Verses of Enchantment you have to win magical duals by beating each other with poetry.
When Verses of Enchantment was doing the press release dance there was a heavy lean on the super-cool procedural generation that was at play behind its incredibly fun, poetry output system. However, it wasn’t worded like that — in fact, maybe it’s not like that — instead it got the ‘AI is cool’ treatment. It’s true, AI stuff is quite cool; however the game’s industry has reared back at it, largely because it could, in the hand of bad actors, result in the loss of a lot of jobs. Perhaps that’s why Verses of Enchantment has slipped and slid under the radar, which is a shame because proc-gen has been a major part of gaming for generations, and it’s being used in a really fun way here.
Imagine a world where people toddle around a fantasy twist on late 1800s England, beating each other up with words. Verses of Enchantment has you assemble a deck of 15 cards and then use them in groups of three against opponents in magic poetry duels. A lot of the card concepts and mechanics, as well as the combat, will feel familiar to CCG players — with the cards split between five groups (in this case, Ego, Passion, Nature, Brilliance and Gloom) and each with simple rules that play out once you commit your turn. There’re effectors in here, but rather than being things like SWIFT, or OVERRUN, you’ll be rejuvenating, breaking hearts, casting soulburn and breaking the spirit of your rivals through your pretty prose.
The cards themselves are concepts, things like Dawn, Rain, and Tears; each with their own synonyms coded in. It’s a turn after you’ve committed them that those concepts (themselves part of one of the five groups) get spun into a poem based on them. For example, Dawn, Rain and Tears are Brilliance, Nature and Passion respectively; however, the poem that follows contains 1 Nature, 1 Ego, 2 Passion and 2 Brilliance words. Cards use these as modifiers (example: Spirit (Ego), If your last poem contains mostly nature words select 1 card from your discard pile) and so by stacking up your deck with specific cards, or playing smart, you can create some fantastic combos.
There’s been some very clever balancing work put into play, with it being incredibly hard to build a two-group deck due to how much interplay there is between things like soulburn and dispirited, it’s very possible, however it’s incredibly easy to turn your character into a glass cannon that — even with decks as small as 15 cards — can be shattered by an opponent who has cards that react based on your own rather than their own.
When you beat an opponent in a duel you have a choice between getting a card from their deck — and most characters have an archetype — or getting some cold, hard cash. Sliding around the map to fight people feels very Monkey Island Insult Sword Fighting, although you do have to stop off to buy supplies. All in all, there’s nothing quite like mugging off the first, proud old man you meet for a card or 100 gold; That’s anything from eight to twenty-five day’s worth of food for smacking some dude about with a few moody poems.
However, that’s about the depth of it. There are a lot of cards to choose from, and you can take tuition (a poetry-based word-association game that nets you a card of your choosing, if you can find it) at certain points, however the story is paper-thin (you’re a non-magic entity who has learned magic and are questing to prove that not only was your father right about this, but that you’re super cool) and poem/combat runs at its own pace, which feels just a bit too slow.
Perhaps these flaws are down to it being a CCG, I mean, you can just keep rebuilding your deck without moving, while continually fighting people who share your space until you have their cards – and even once you’ve beaten them, there’s nothing stopping you taking an almost endless amount of cash from them with your turbo, anti-them deck… it feels like it needs some work in balancing.
But, all of that said, the onboarding is great, all of the art (each location has its own art that you battle in front of) is great, and the concept is great. Verses of Enchantment just needs a little bit more magic to be truly exceptional. At the moment it’s more of a very good idea, executed well.
Verses of Enchantment is available now for Windows PCs via Steam.