Impressions: In Verbis Virtus

You’re a wizard, ‘Arry. At least, that’s what In Verbis Virtus wants you to think and, by and large, it succeeds. If you’re one of those people who shouted out the spells along with Harry Potter or spent hours yelling “FUS RO- OH GOD I’M LONELY” at Skyrim, you might just want to join me in giving In Verbis a go.

The main conceit, as you may have picked up through my sly hints, is that of voice-controlled spells. Despite my initial concerns, it’s actually a conceit that works well: the sheer immediacy and the feeling of power that comes from shouting spells into existence is one that can be quite heady. Holding down left-click raises your character’s oddly leather-bound hand and starts the game listening for a command, with “Let there be light!” summoning a handful of light to guide you through the dark passages of an ancient temple. It’s no small boon, given the unending (and instakill) pits that pepper the corridors. It’s complemented by several other spells, my personal favourite being “Mind over matter!”, which when used on very specific objects causes them to lift as if held by unseen forces or a gravity gun; holding left-click again allows you to tell the object to come to you or go away, although it is a digital change in distance, not an analogue one which makes the objects occasionally stutter through the air. The spells are very well implemented though and discovering the runes for a new spell carved into a pillar in an empty tomb is a moment of wonder and excitement for the new possibilities.

The spells however sit as a means to an end. The game is a first-person puzzler, although the puzzles shown through the demo are not as much fun to play with as the spells themselves. In one puzzle, focusing a ray of pure light onto a stone-bound eye opens a door for a short period of time. After spending a while moving crystals into the right position to bend light into the eye, the door opens and you’re forced to sprint with occasionally inexact controls through a small s-shaped corridor, using your telekinetic power to move one of the crystal-bearing pillars out of the way; it took me several attempts to get through in enough time, as aiming at the exact part of the pillar that responds to the “follow my will” spell (which moves non-physics objects) while sprinting to make it through in time is problematic at best. A puzzle further through involves moving blocks to hold up doors and there too, the off-putting aiming foiled many attempts to complete the puzzle.

It’s such a great concept, with the spells themselves making you truly feel like a sorcerer. Seeing the environment react to your voice in such gorgeous surroundings is a truly breath-taking experience and the small flaws in the puzzles shouldn’t put you off giving it a try. Find a downloadable demo right over here, vote for it on Steam Greenlight here and plug-in your microphone; it’s worth it.

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