Sorcery! Review

It can be hard for non-gamers to understand how something like a videogame can be so engrossing and so captivating that most outside concerns take a second seat to the screen in front of our faces. We’re not entirely sure if Sorcery! from creator Steve Jackson is the game to convince them, but it’s a good candidate for the job. It’s an elegant, thoughtful and spellbinding adventure.

Sorcery! is an interactive storybook adventure that follows a lonely knight on a desperate quest to save an even more desperate kingdom from a terrible fate. Visions of a crown of kings haunts his dreams as he travels throughout the vast land fighting monsters, visiting villages, helping the kingdom’s citizens and learning the plight of the land and the rich history of the places he visits from the various inhabitants. He makes a few allies along the way, and some foes, all in the service of reaching his goal and uncovering the secrets to this mission.

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From the very beginning you know you’re in for something a little different and unique. The very map of the land itself, from which you’ll do most of your playing, is presented like something that would be hanging in a wizards study amongst his dusty scrolls and vials of potions. It’s lush-looking and marked with names of places that are hard to pronounce, but you feel a need to visit and explore.

You travel through those lands by tapping on a location on the map and having your little miniature warrior move there. Every location presents a choice, and those choices present more choices, which then lead to even more choices until some kind of resolution is reached. Sometimes you’ll end up helping a villager tend to his crops for a reward of some bread, or maybe you’ll help a father find his child who got lost in a cave, or maybe you’ll end up getting poisoned by an unassuming old woman who happens to be a powerful witch.

Whatever happens, the game luckily doesn’t put you into too much of a corner as it has a unique “rewind” feature that allows you to undo whatever just happened. Did you not want to go through those abandoned buildings and instead wanted to go through the mysterious forest by the road? That’s cool. Just hit a rewind button from the previous point, and you get to make a different decision. But everything you do has consequences that will reverberate from that point forward and affects where you go and how people react to you. You never know what will happen and what those consequences will be–and that’s half the fun of the game. This is a title that pushes you to take chances and explore.

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Combat is simple. All you do is slide your finger from left to right to adjust the power of your attack or your defense. There is a bit of strategy, though, as different enemies have different weaknesses and different fighting styles and you have to figure out what works best. It’s effective and to the point, and the text commentary that accompanies your battles makes it feel like there’s a bard following you around and taking notes to sing a song of your heroic deeds.

Ironically enough, the one weak point in Sorcery! is the magical system. It’s awkwardly utilized and poorly explained, and we found ourselves only using magic once or twice in the game. It makes sense in the context of the game, where spirit animals and celestial signs are important, but in actual gameplay it doesn’t work all that well.

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Another sore point is that the game can be rather short. In our first time through, we ended up getting to the rather abrupt ending in about three to four hours only to get a prompt telling us to wait for chapter two to come out. But this is a game about choices, so you can easily play it again and have a fairly different experience.

Sorcery! is an enchanting game. The stunning artwork, wonderful soundtrack and captivating storyline will have you entranced the whole time. We wish this chapter, which promises to be the first of four, was longer, but what Sorcery! does have is something very special indeed.

2 thoughts on “Sorcery! Review

  1. I finished this over the weekend — was really neat. I’m going to play it again making completely different choices (I played as a “nice, polite guy” the first time around)

  2. Hah! I just completed the game on my very first go, without dying once! But enough with the self-satisfaction.
    Sorcery is just a great game. If this becomes part of the future of mobile gaming, instead of just the endless horde of match-3-crap, physics puzzlers and enless runners, the future looks very bright indeed, my friends.

    The presentation is absolutely gorgeous, with a simple but beautiful 3D-map taking up most of the screen time, engrossing ambient sounds, wonderful music, and beautiful illustrations. The game is truly about storytelling, which has pros and cons. On the one hand you’ve got excellent writing, scenes that keep your interest, and a tale that really takes you along for a ride, instead of bothering you with all the statistics “under the hood”. On the other hand, the game is still very much a book: if you’ve made your choices in a certain scene, that scene is over and the story moves on. Don’t expect to revisit villages you’ve been to before, or walk back to a certain weapon’s dealer. So while the story itself and the vivid descriptions of what’s happening, including your own mental and physical state, truly immerse you in this world, the way the game unfolds still has its boundaries. Still, I was strangely okay with that: being in a gameworld where everything matters brings much more significance to your actions and choices, compared to just roaming some sandbox RPG.

    There were just two gripes I had with this game.

    One, it’s too forgiving. I get that some gamers will be pleased to be able to go back to every decision they made in the game, just to see what the unchosen path might have brought. But in my opinion this seriously decreases the aforementioned feeling of significance: nothing really matters, because in one tap you can “re-choose” another way. I seriously advise new players to stick with their decisions. Trust me, it’ll make your experience so much better, and your sense of accomplishment so much greater (Did I tell you I finished the game in my very first go without dying once? I did? Sorry…)

    Two, it’s really short. Maybe I should have waited for all four books to have been released on iOS, like I did with the Walking Dead game, so I could have had a more continuous experience. Then again, the sense of yearning to find out what happens next is the biggest compliment a storytelling game can get.

    Highly recommended!

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