Spells of Gold is a game that sets itself for greatness from the comments made on its box. The exact phrase is 'in the greatest open-ended trading game since the 1980's classic Elite.' For those of you not familiar with Elite, it was a game that changed the industry, amazing open ended gameplay and an immersive feel, and Spells of Gold is better, according to their marketing people. I'm going to be honest, whoever wrote the quote above is either a liar or was horribly drunk at the time, this is one of the worst games I have ever had the misfortune of playing, it truly is awful.

The game is a fantasy, isometric game involving trading and combat, many games have done this before, yet none of them have done it this poorly. The idea of the game is to travel from city to city, keeping an eye on the prices of goods so you can make cash by trading with the various shops. Outside of each town is a small area that contains enemies for you to fight, fighting is simply a matter or clicking on an enemy as fast as you can til they die. This gets boring very quickly. Most towns have a school where you can learn new skills to progress your character, early on you have access to magical skills such as healing. With combat experience your characters gain levels, which allow you to increase your base statistics, which in turn gives you access to additional weapons and armour. Towns folk will ask you to deliver letters for them, and will pay you a small amount of gold. This is where one of the big problems lies, delivering letters appears to be the only mission in the game, and you'llfind yourself travelling from town to town delivering letters and picking up new ones to deliver elsewhere. Quite soon you get forget about the trading element of the game, as you can make a lot more gold from these simple deliveries. Also combat can be completely avoided and so you can probably guess how boring the game becomes.

Graphically the game is diabolical, animations are very, very poor. With 3d games I'm willing to forgive the odd animation being out of place, but this is a 2d game. It's not just one animation, its every animation, some characters look like they have three legs and most people walk asif they have soiled themselves. Backgrounds are fairly nice, but they are static images, so nothing moves. Now picture this, a three legged man, who has just soiled himself, walking along a static background, can you see why i'm annoyed with this game. Three or four years ago I may have let this slide on a game, as long as the gameplay was there, but with SOG the gameplay is atrocious.

Sound, like the graphics, is poor, an effort has been made with the voice acting, but in many places it falls well short of the expected mark.

As for replay value I would say that there is none at all. You'll be that boredwith everything the first time around that you won't want to bother with a second attempt.

What annoys me most is that this game is an insult to the genre. Normally I would be a touch more lenient with this type of game beacuse many of the trading games released become classics and have massive amounts of replayability 5 or 6 years after release. For a company to release a trading game and get it so, so very wrong is a great shame. I came to the game hoping to have a new challenge,something to absorb me for hours, instead Igot boredom For the £20 that this game costs you could buy way, way better. You could pick up four or five classic real time strategy, trading or roleplaying games from the budget section of your local games retailer, or buy a decent second hand game.If your very lucky you could buy an old amiga off E-bay and play the original Elite or its sequel, there are lots of possibilties, just please don't waste your money on the game.