Tobold's Blog
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Word Realms Review

Asymmetric, makers of Kingdom of Loathing, sent me a copy of their new game for review: Word Realms. They said it was their take on the basic formula of Bookworm Adventures, but I haven't played that one. In fact I haven't played *any* word games on the internet ever, not Words with Friends nor any other Scrabble-like game. So the reason why I checked out Word Realms was that it is half word game, half role-playing game. You have a character who is gaining powers by doing quests and killing monsters. You have a world with a village serving as quest hub and to buy supplies. You have loot in the form of gold and gear. Everything is just in simple 2D graphics (albeit a step up from Kingdom of Loathing graphics), but all the elements of a role-playing game are there.

So the main difference is how combat works: You get a handful of Scrabble tiles and must form a word with it before a timer runs out. The score of that word, modified by your stats, gear, and powers, is then the damage you deal to the monster you are fighting. Then the monster spells a word and hits back. And so on. First one to reduce the enemies health to zero wins.

Word Realms has a huge vocabulary. Not only does it know presumably every word that would be legal in an official Scrabble game, it also knows a number of phrases in which the most common words might be found. So if you spell "SWORD", your character will attack while saying "I'll run you through with my SWORD". Cute, although it is somewhat immersion-breaking if you spelled TAXI or some other word that just doesn't fit into a medieval fantasy world.

I didn't find Word Realms to be all that difficult, and could play it perfectly well in spite of not being an expert in word games, nor English being my first language. But I did feel that I could do a lot better. So I tried an experiment: I found a Scrabble cheat program for free in the app store, and tested how much of a difference that would make: The result was a huge difference, me one-shoting average monsters in many cases. I think I'll stay away from online multiplayer word games, seeing how easy it is to cheat. But Word Realms is a single-player game, and everybody can play it as he sees fit.

Overall I found Word Realms cute and educational. It is suitable for children, and fun to everybody who likes word games. It is definitively a skill-based game, but with a very different skill set required than other role-playing games. And at $11 it is certainly worth its money. Personally I'm still not a big fan of word games, but I'd rather play Word Realms than games that don't package the word part into a fantasy game.

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