Chucklefish's gorgeous, mysterious magic-school-themed life sim is a bit of an odd one; not because it doesn't look utterly smashing (it really, really does), but because it could still be a good long while until release. In fact, despite the game's recent tease on Twitter, it hasn't technically even been officially announced yet. Nevertheless, new details have emerged, and they're not going to make the wait any easier.
In an extended chat with PC Gamer, Finn Brice, CEO of Chucklefish, has given some insight into the development of Spellbound (as the game is currently being referred to internally), explaining that the project is one of the studio's larger undertakings at present, with a staff of around nine or ten people, and is still very early in its three-to-four year development cycle.
Right now, there are "a bunch of different facets of gameplay" in the works, according to Brice, including magic, crafting, potion making, and farming, and there's a combat system inspired by Nintendo's classic top-down Zelda games. While these are all subject to change, however, the "larger, overarching world stuff" is more fully fleshed out. Brice says that Spellbound's world is already entirely explorable, minus a couple of areas, and is populated by a full cast of characters.
The decision to plot out so much of Spellbound's world so early on, suggests Brice, can largely be attributed to the success of Stardew Valley, "I think the biggest thing we learned from Stardew Valley is that there's an inherent value in [having] a game world that's just charming to be in. Before you even start talking about the gameplay and the mechanics and everything else, am I in love with this game world? How do I achieve that? How do I put together a game world that really hits home?"
One key component in bringing Spellbound's magic school adventure to life will be the possibility of romance. However, "Where other games are inviting you to live out your perfect fantasy in that you can date whoever you want", says Brice, "Spellbound is a little less forgiving. Dates can go wrong, things can go wrong, it's more about that school experience."
The intention it seems, is to create characters with a bit more independence than you might ordinarily see in these kinds of games. Spellbound's cast will behave more like real people, rebuffing your advances, or dumping you, and they might not even be interested in a match-up at all. "We want to hit close to home, but in a way provokes that intense nostalgia."
"But ultimately you're not going to have a horrific time", Brice assures, "and it's going to work out in the end-and you're a wizard right? It can only go so badly!"