Sorcery: review

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  • Format: PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: The Workshop
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.sorcery.com/

At a glance Sorcery, with its cartoony yet carefully designed fantasy world, may appear to be Sony’s answer to the Fable series. It is – if Fable was asking ‘do you fancy doing what I do without the humour, charm, freedom and fun?’. This is clearly a game designed to validate Move’s existence, and therein lies the bulk of this game’s problems. As a ‘proper’ third person action game, it utilises a control system that proves to be both its greatest attraction and its most consistent stumbling block.

Basically, in one hand you hold a navigation controller (or DualShock) with which you control character movement and, once unlocked, activate your magical shield. In the other hand you hold Move, which you use just as your avatar uses his magical wand. Said wand is your one and only weapon in the game with several uses, initially limited to shooting destructive bolts of magic. Flick Move to the left, your avatar shoots to the left; flick up, he shoots up; and so on. It’s a fun and novel system when you first get the chance to use it and, when you emerge from the tower where you get hold of the wand, there are sheep wandering around. It’s impossible to resist. Rather than killing them however you transform the poor creatures to rats, pigs and back to sheep again – a nice touch, and great fun (for ten seconds or so).

This is not an RPG, nor does it pretend to be. Nonetheless it can still seem almost unfairly linear at times, given the environments. You might be making your way through an ancient network of crypts, a mystical forest or a huge palace; but wherever you are there’s just one narrow path through, with the occasional optional cul de sac hiding a treasure chest. The bulk of the gameplay therefore relies on combat and, unfortunately, this is not a game which does combat well.

Your arch enemy is an evil queen dabbling in the dark arts (sigh).

There are only a handful of enemy types spread throughout the entire game, but the very process of fighting them can often be frustrating enough to distract you from noticing or caring. This is partly down to technical issues beyond the game’s control; as Move relies on a camera rather than a dedicated IR sensor, its accuracy can more easily be thrown out of whack by too much light in the room (or not enough), or too much distance between you and the screen (or too little). Even in optimal conditions however your movements are not accurately replicated 100% of the time, particularly when aiming for enemies in the upper reaches of the screen. This is an issue the developers clearly recognised and sought to minimise; though unfortunately, they only made matters worse.

This game features an autolock system which, combined with the lack of a manual camera (and an inability to switch the autolock target) causes major headaches. At times the game seems to decide which enemy to lock on to almost at random, as your bolts whizz harmlessly past the nearest threat to seek out an enemy hiding behind a tree. Worse still the system seems determined to actively work against you during boss fights, usually completely ignoring the boss you’ve just worn down to a vulnerable state to home in on the minor enemy you’re trying to keep out of view. For extra frustration, bolts of more powerful magic can only be thrown so many times before it needs to be recharged.

The issue of accuracy in your aiming is often irrelevant as, the further you progress, the more often the game will shove huge clumps of powerful enemies at you. The best tactic in these situations sadly proves to be flicking your hand about at random, as though using a tiny hammer to play a Tom Cruise sized game of whack-a-mole.

There are a few power combos to be used, such as the classic freeze/smash one-two.

The non-combat magical elements are wasted. You can transform yourself into a rat – at strictly determined places and times – for brief periods, but don’t get excited the first time you change into a bird; disappointingly, this simply triggers a cutscene. Again, levitating huge blocks only happens when you have no other option on your tightly controlled path, and mending stone structures (achieved by rapidly whisking your hand in mid-air like an excessively camp man searching for the right word in conversation) may as well happen automatically. Combining ingredients in your inventory to research potions is simple fun, but acting out the ‘cooking’ to create them quickly becomes dull; as does shaking Move before tipping it up in order to drink them. More examples of desperation to justify this being a Move game.

It’s not a title without merit. The art direction (a special mention for the Endless Stair here) and sound design are both superb, making it surprisingly easy to forgive the cliché-soaked story and lifeless jokes. Using the controller in your hand as a wand really is fun (when it works), especially when you finally get the ability to zap enemies with lightning. There’s also a childish but undeniable sense of power summoning whirlwinds and creating walls of fire; but you don’t complete your range of powers and techniques till late in the day, and the Move gestures for switching between spells easily lead to choosing the wrong power in the heat of battle. The final nail in the coffin is that most people will finish the game in about five hours – with no incentive to go back and play again.

Sorcery is an odd mix of some of the best of modern gaming (inventive motion control, wonderful aesthetics) and some of the worst of retro gaming (troublesome game camera, unreliable lock-on system, shoddy script). Costing at least twice as much as it should, this is a very short game where the lows are in a constant battle with the highs for domination of the experience. If you’re looking for a good reason to dust off your Move controller then this, sadly, isn’t it.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

One comment

  1. M1ke21 /

    First.

    Not a bad game, just not that great. A little better than a 5.

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