Published on February 9th, 2016 | by Wesley Bogan0
A Map, A Token, and Your Wits.
Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2 is a throwback to the early days of tabletop rpg adventures. Favoring descriptive texts coupled with imagination over slick cut scenes and huge bouts of dialogue, Sorcery asks the player to slow down and immerse themselves in the theater of the mind. A game more in the vein of classic choose your own adventure books, Sorcery is still fraught with adventure, magic, and potentially deadly choices.
So, hero, what will you do?
Sorcery puts the player in the position of a traveler who has promised their aid to a town in need. The townsfolk need your hero to traverse through leagues of rolling flat lands, dark forests, expansive mountain ranges, deep caverns and more in order to get to a large city where, it is told, their salvation may be found. With the back story intact, you are quickly on your way and into your first choice making scenario. At major story points along the journey, a marker will appear on your over world map and your hero will be forced to make a single choice amongst a series of pre-scripted options. After choosing one, the story continues and a new path on your overworld map will appear. You then drag your character token to the next major plot point where you will be placed into action once again. Most scenarios typically revolve around getting into a fight with your sword, conjuring up magic from your spell book, or trying to negotiate your way into or out of things. Each choice will reveal a new path as well as sometimes a new item, some gold, or even a dagger in your back.
Look to the stars or to your sword!
Action in Sorcery! Comes in the form of one on one combat or by creating magic spells from your trusty spellbook. Should your character stumble across some less-than-friendly folks during your journey, you will be moved to a fighting screen where your character’s 2D avatar is placed across from your adversary. The battle options are simple: fight and cause damage to your enemy but sacrifice stamina or block to regain stamina but risk missing an opportunity to inflict damage. If you run out of stamina, your character perishes. When attacking your opponent, you must choose how strong your blow will be based on how rested your character is. If you have oodles of stamina, you can swing for the fences and cause some serious damage but doing so may leave yourself exhausted and vulnerable to a deadly counterattack on your next turn. You can choose to defend and regain stamina but your opponent may over power you and cause serious damage of their own. Balancing out this offensive/defensive system proves to be an enjoyable challenge.
Spell creation in Sorcery happens at several different points of the game in and out of combat scenarios. Spell crafting is enacted by the alignment of fictitious starnames and sometimes with the aid of spell ingredients. Spell effects range widely and you will soon find yourself able to hurl bolts of lightning, stupefy and control lesser foes, grow to enormous proportions, and even summon minions to your aid.
Time out! Do Over!
Traipsing through Sorcery, you inevitably find yourself behind the proverbial adventuring 8 ball. Your choices will unavoidably pit you against nature, monsters, thieves, and in several instances lead you to slow starvation and a cold death in the wild. Rather than penalize a player for dying by forcing them to restart, Sorcery merely asks players to rewind. Rewinding is an option that allows you to choose any plot point marked on your overworld map and return to it immediately, effectively erasing all encounters you may have had from that selected point. Doing so grants you the opportunity to replay a situation and choose a different outcome. You are free essentially at any point during play to return to the beginning of your current encounter or rewind all the way back to the very beginning of your adventure.
Abusing and Choosing.
Sorcery does an exquisite job of conjuring up a classic rpg module feel. The game moves at a quick trot and you, as a player, will find yourself engrossed with the variety choices, the simplistic yet thrilling storytelling, twists, turns, and peril. Sorcery, like olde timey rpg modules, will not hold your hand and make you feel safe. It will do everything it can to make you feel like death and disaster are around every bend of the road. With the rewind option, however, the dark terrors laying in wait just aren’t as terrifying as they might been without it. While the rewind mechanic is arguably necessary to avoid complete frustration of having to restart an adventure every 5 minutes, it can be abused without limitation, so much to the point that your character’s adventure isn’t a heroic tale of survival and cunning so much as it is re-written, segmented avoidance of perils.
There comes another hang up from the occasional inability to choose from all your spells in an encounter. More often than not, you will find yourself helplessly limited to choosing between a handful of spells from your spell book, which are pre-selected by the game, when you could justify the usage of a completely different set of spells. Whether this is meant as a nod to written tabletop rpgs that ask players to ‘ready’ spells ahead of time or simply a lack of oversight in the designers, it nevertheless creates frustrating moments during gameplay.
The elegance of simplicity.
Sorcery’s lack of bells and whistles in game play and presentation is actually its greatest boon. The engrossing story unwinds itself at a steady pace and is filled with action and adventure. It remains true to a very simple yet refined truth of rpgs which is to remind the player that every step and every choice has consequences. This dedication to the act and weight of choosing keeps Sorcery fresh, exciting, and challenging. While it will certainly not appeal to anyone looking for bloody battles, mind-blowing visuals, and a plethora of customization, it does prove itself to be an enchanting tale for those who are looking to enjoy a quiet, gaming experience.
Visuals: 9/10: Sorcery’s hand-drawn, monster manual style pictures are beautiful and enchanting and help the player feel like they are playing through a classic rpg module adventure. The overworld map is also a thing of beauty and players will find themselves staring appreciatively at both.
Controls: 8/10: Gameplay is simple and relies only on your ability to choose directions on a map, moving a character into defensive or offensive stances, and rifle through spell pages to choose the proper star name for an enchantment.
Audio: 7/10: Minor minstrel tunes, guttural grunts, and environmental chatter make a pleasant addition to your travels and adventures. Never overwhelming but it sometimes gets repetitive and obnoxious.
Replay Ability: 6/10: With the ever present ‘rewind’ feature, players may be less willing to play through an adventure more than once when they could instead hop backwards in time to retry part of their own adventure. While there are always a multitude of options during major plot points, there is no real desire to go back and try all of them or to restart from the very beginning.
Over All: 7/10: Sorcery is bound to strike a sympathetic chord with tabletop RPG fans looking for a quick fix of nostalgia. Newer generations of console RPGers may enjoy it out of an appreciation for the genre but won’t be pulled in to become ensnared in its particular brand of storytelling. Sorcery is more a game to satisfy those players who enjoy reading ‘choose your own adventure’ novels versus those gamers looking for deep, immersive gameplay.