Hands-on Preview: Sorcery
WE FOUND IT. Last heard from at E3 2010 and given a spring 2011 release date (currently updated to spring 2012), Sorcery is a third person shooter-styled fantasy game solely developed for the PS3, for use with the PlayStation Move. I actually got my hands on a demo of the game at Sony’s holiday party in New York City last Wednesday. Let me tell you, it looks fantastic.
Sorcery will bring out the inner (or outer) fantasy geek in you. Everyone who ever wished to be Harry Potter, or got lost in a book about other worlds, magic, mysteries and mayhem (a la Kansas) or even those who just ONCE wanted to be able to make that annoying younger brother or sister disappear, you will love Sorcery. The game follows the story of the protagonist, a teenage apprentice to a wizard with a cocky attitude and a big ego, who opens up a veritable Pandora’s Box when egged on by his master’s magical talking cat and must then travel through the realm of faerie to put everything to rights again.
The talking cat, who is currently nameless as far as I know, is your companion throughout the game. While the two characters (boy and cat) start off with a rocky relationship, the two end up forming the type of bond only made possible through screwing up the world and having to fix it again.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, I found the game simplistic, but very fun. The game uses the Move controller as well as the Navigation controller. From the beginning, you start out with one spell: arcane power. Your basic “magic bolt”, arcane power is essentially a ball of raw power with no elemental affinity, which is also useless against some enemies and bosses later in the game. The power is cast using the Move controller in your right hand. With a flick of the wrist (as fancy as you’d like, just don’t pull an Alexa Ray and flourish so much you loose track of your health bar) you can send that ball of power winging at the nearest enemy.
Unlike the 3rd-person shooters it is styled after, in Sorcery you lock onto targets automatically once they get in range, so no need to worry about aiming overmuch (besides making sure to shoot over your head or straight in front of you). As long as you can reach them and you send your firepower in the right general direction, you’re fine. Also, for close combat, you have a magical shield on your left arm which you can use for some pretty powerful shield bashes when someone gets a little too close for comfort.
As you progress later in the game and gain the elemental powers (wind, ice, and fire in the demo I was playing) you have to be a little more careful. Each of the elemental spells has two casting modes: a forward flick, and a downward slash. Sending a forward spell in ice and wind results in much the same way that using arcane power does: a ball of elementally-charged energy. Fire sends out a short-range swath that burns anything in its path. The downward spells are much more fun. While I forgot to see what ice does, using wind you can create a whirlwind which will set out after the nearest enemy. Fire set down will create a fairly large fire wall in front of you, which injures anyone who tries to get through it. Quickly switch to arcane power (hit the move button on the top of the right-hand controller) and shoot through it to send out fireballs while it still burns.
Which brings me onto another great aspect of the game: spell combos. They’re very important in the context of the game, and some parts of Sorcery are impassible without them. The order of spells you use can get you some great results. For example, forward ice projectiles, when sent in quick succession, will freeze an enemy in a block of ice. Switch to arcane power and send a bolt at the ice block and it will explode, killing the monster inside and injuring anyone in the vicinity. Send a whirlwind through a firewall and unleash a spinning column of flame upon the masses.
There are many more combos to uncover throughout the course of the game, though you many not get the same ones every time. Part of that will make the replay value of the relatively short game high (it’s fairly linear, and can be beaten in five or six hours, according to the developer) is that the potions you create using alchemy ingredients found through your journey change they way your powers progress and the spells you can use. You have to make choices, so gaining everything and being all powerful is impossible. The story may stay the same, but the potions you drink mean that you can get a new experience each and every time you play.
Speaking of potions, that was another little quirk I really enjoyed from the game. When you’re running low on health, hit the X button, shake the move controller a few times to activate the potion, the tip it up to your mouth just like it was an actual bottle. A little gimmicky? Perhaps. Still fun? Absolutely.
When we asked about the delay, as well as the lack on information about the game until now, we got an interesting answer. The target audience for the game is teens and adults, however the previous gameplay, as well as the world was much more “kiddish” in style. Much of the silence was that being changed. The world is now an intricate, beautiful land with Celtic styling, and the gameplay, while relatively easy to learn, is not so easy as to get boring until probably your fourth or fifth play-through.
All in all, I think Sorcery looks like a fantastic game. It might have to borrow a PS3 so I can get my hands on the full version.