Review: Sorcery (PS3)
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6121 MB)
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: The Workshop
Original MSRP: $39.99 (Blu-ray Disc) / $19.99 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Sorcery is exclusive to the PlayStation 3.
The Blu-ray disc version was used for this review.
** Note: Sorcery requires a PlayStation Move controller and either a DualShock 3 or Nav Controller. I strongly suggest the Nav Controller.
You can’t talk about Sorcery without thinking of all the Harry Potter games that have come along in the past few years. The promise of using a motion controller and waving it like a magic wand to cast spells has fallen short on every game that’s tried it, whether it was on the Wii or the PlayStation 3. Built from the ground up with only the PlayStation Move in mind, Sorcery uses freedom of movement, light puzzle and RPG elements and really gets it right.
You play as Finn, a know-it-all sorcerer’s apprentice who’s itching to prove how great he can be. Finn gets hold of a wand and Erline, a magical cat living with the Sorcerer lays down a dare which sets him off on his first adventure. What you’ll find early on is that the controls have been refined to the point that everything’s intuitive. You’ll use the Nav or DualShock 3 Controller to move around while the Move Controller becomes your wand. You’ll mend items and open chests with a flourish of your wand without even thinking about it. Combat flows naturally as you simply flick your Move Controller (wand) in the direction you want to fire an Arcane Bolt and it just works. If you need to hit an enemy hiding behind a wall or pillar, flick the wand side arm to the right or left to curve a shot around the obstacles. It’s an amazing feeling firing off bolts with the precision we’ve all dreamed of in a game like this.
Things would get pretty boring if that’s all you had, but you’re a sorcerer’s apprentice after all and you’ll discover more magic along the way including spells to cast Fire, Wind, Ice and Lightning. These four go along with the Earthquake and Arcane Bolts that you have from the start. Each of the spells can be cast in two ways, straight shots and sweeping side arm motions for a secondary shot. For instance, use the sweeping motion with Wind to create a tornado or with the Ice to create a sheet of ice in front of you which will slow enemies. You can also combine the spells for greater effect. By setting off a tornado and quickly switching to Fire and shooting directly into it, you’ll unleash a fiery vortex on the battlefield causing chaos among your enemies. Experimenting pays off here and for some enemies, you’ll find that you can only damage them with a certain combination of spells.
The interface becomes crucial when switching between spells because done wrong, it can get in the way and hamper gameplay. Holding down the Move button slows the action on the screen and pops up icons representing your spells along with the motion required to switch to them. They’re all very simple movements and with a little practice, you’ll be rapidly swapping spells without even looking at the popup anymore. This is where the game succeeds brilliantly. The controls are so well designed that they don’t get in the way and they don’t feel unnecessary or out of place. Everything feels natural and you’ll be doing things without thinking about them. I played the entire game while sitting on the couch and I felt connected to the game and the world the entire way through.
Sorcery also contains a light RPG element to it with an Alchemy system. As you open chests you’ll find gold, ingredients and odd items you can sell to a traveling alchemist who pops up every now and then. Potions are created by combining three items and drinking the resulting concoction. The interesting part is that you actually make each of them. After selecting the three ingredients, you’re taken to a screen with a bubbling cauldron where you’ll pour, sprinkle and grind each of the items using the Move Controller and then you’ll stir them all together. This is all capped off by shaking the potion and tilting the Move Controller to your mouth to drink it. The potions range from health and manna increases to better spell casting and immunity to certain attacks. It’s actually kind of fun and the novelty never wore off for me during the game.
There are hidden items and paths to find that you’ll probably miss a lot of the first time through along with more potions available than you’ll be able to make in a single game. You’ll have to choose what suits your gameplay style and plan accordingly. This is one way to ensure multiple playthroughs as you may want to try different things that you couldn’t get to the first time around.
I did run into a number of minor, yet annoying, issues throughout the game. At times, Finn would get hung up on Erline or some other small piece of the environment along with the dreaded invisible walls here and there. There’s also the sections of the game where you take a Polymorph potion that end up being, for the most part, on rails experiences. All in all though, the game is a wonderful experience and worth playing multiple times at higher difficulty levels.
Running on the Unreal engine, Sorcery builds a unique and compelling world suited for its story. The developers at The Workshop have taken the trappings of the standard medieval fantasy world and made it their own. The areas have enough similarities that they all feel like they’re part of the same world yet enough differences that they don’t feel repetitive and boring. In keeping with the theme, major plots points are explained through a series of beautifully drawn motion comics with a storybook background.
As you travel through the world, items you can use magic on have a purple shimmer about them. That’s not to say that it’s always obvious. In fact, due to the darkness of many areas, you may miss quite a few of these objects the first time through. Since it’s such a big part of the game, a lot of care was obviously put into the look and feel of spell casting. Freezing enemies in a block of ice, lighting them on fire or pulling them (and their projectiles) into a spinning tornado can be all kinds of fun.
The characters are all brought to life in convincing animations with the Nightmare Queen and her assassins in particular really showing off the power of the technology. While there’s not a huge variety of enemies, the ones that are there each have their own unique look and distinct battle tactics keeping you on your toes throughout the game.
With all the work done perfecting the Move controls, you’d figure other areas of the game may suffer a bit, but that’s not the case here. From the first glimpse of the menu, the main theme (with its heavy Celtic inspiration) is a fresh take on the typical fantasy genre. Light and charming, with an old world sort of feel, it’s the type of music we rarely hear in a video game.
The music sets the tone throughout the game as it should and it never sounds forced or out of place. The sound effects are another treat as casting spells would fall flat without the right sounds. As you switch from spell to spell a brief audio cue lets you know that you have the one you’re looking for without having to glance down at the popup menu. It’s a nice touch that helps in the heat of battle once you’ve become comfortable with the gestures needed to switch between spells. Casting them sounds just the way you would expect it to with fire crackling, ice crunching, wind howling and so on. It greatly enhances the experience keeping you in the moment.
The voice acting is also excellent. Each character conveys a real sense of emotion and pulls the player into the game. Finn and Erline banter back and forth in a very natural, and at times, playful way. Dash, the Alchemist, the Nightmare Queen and even the enemies have voices that suit the characters very well and they’re all acted beautifully.
This game is single player only.
Since Sony jumped onto the Motion Control bandwagon, the Move Controller has been an impressive piece of tech looking for a showpiece, and now it’s here. Sorcery does a fantastic job immersing you in a world of magic and more importantly, it makes the interface so simple and intuitive that you forget it’s there.
There are a good eight hours or so of gameplay here even with minimal exploration and I’ve already started a second play through because it’s that much fun. If you haven’t bought a Move Controller yet, this may well be your best excuse to join in on the fun.
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