Sorcery is a third person action game in which you control Finn, a sorcerer’s apprentice. Players use the Move Navigation controller in addition to the remote to explore the faerie lands, cast spells, and solve puzzles. I had high expectations for Sorcery after first seeing it at E3 a couple of years ago, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t let me down.
Finn looks on in one of the darker environments of the game.
The only game mode available is the Story, which has four difficulty settings (Apprentice, Casual, Gamer, Sorcerer). The default is Casual, which is what I went with. Casual turned out to be way too easy though, as I never died and still had like twenty full health potions at the end of the game, but, it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Including roughly thirty or more minutes in the potion menu, my total playtime was between seven and eight hours, from opening scene to credit roll.
During those seven-plus hours, I had a great time. Sorcery is a ton of fun because it works and plays really well. Using the Navigation controller to move Finn, center the camera, and use your shield (L2) makes plenty of sense and any third person gamer will pick up on that immediately. The Move controller is your wand — flick it forward to cast the standard version of a spell, or sweep it side to side for the secondary mode. Other actions include shaking up potions, drinking them (turn controller upside down), and creating new concoctions in the alchemy menu. Sprinkle, pour, stir, crank-turn, and basic 90 degree hand movements are all part of getting Finn to perform a variety of actions from opening treasure chests to using telekinesis. Some additional very quick circular motions are used often to change between spells, too. The game does a good job of explaining these controls and other key mechanics like aiming as you go, but they have the sought after one-two punch of being both intuitive and responsive.
One of several Ice Trolls you encounter along the way.
As for the story, it’s pretty typical fair, but the characters make it strong. Finn is a young sorcerer’s apprentice who must protect Erline from the evil Queen after she struck down Finn’s mentor, Dash. A lot of spoken dialogue is exchanged between Finn and Erline as the two traverse five different regions. Their conversations are overlaid seamlessly at scripted points during the game. At major junctures, cutscenes based from a storybook are shown. Between the cutscenes and conversations, you learn a lot about the world of Sorcery and you can see the relationship between Finn and Erline change as they face more trials together. They begin at The Tower, but soon find themselves lurking around Lochbarrow, fighting ghostly enemies and searching for Grave Dust. Later, they travel to the Faerie Forest, through the Infinite Stair, and on to the Slumbering Palace. Level design and gameplay are linear in that once you pass through an area, you never turn back. There are plenty of brief tangents to take from the main path, and players are rewarded with miscellaneous items for doing so.
Items come in three main forms: gold, treasure, alchemy ingredients, and health potions. Random amounts of gold are given at treasure chests and from zapping the destructible vases and headstones and things that are scattered constantly throughout the game. You use gold to purchase alchemy ingredients from the Alchemist, a funny character who is never really explained, but whose presence made things more humorous and just a bit better. The Alchemist is happy to purchase the numerous unique treasures you find (ranging from an Immortal Frog to a huge Ruby to melee weaponry). Each treasure has a short description, similar to what Uncharted does, but a little bit more interesting. It’s a minor point, but I thought whoever came up with the descriptions for the items and the potions did a great job balancing humor with fantasy.
The tornado or whirlwind spell is a potent base for a mix-spell assault.
There are ten alchemy ingredients including cool/funny names like troll sweat, grave dust, and starlight essence. Players can combine any three of these to create something new. I forgot to note exactly how many potions there are, but I believe over sixty different potions are available, although lots of these are just upgrades. For example, the Wolf’s Blood potion gives you an extra 20% to your HP, however later when you find more ingredients, you can create Bear, Lion, and Dragon’s Blood to earn additional HP boosts. Other potions just increase Fire damage or resistance, and so on. All potions that you create are used just one time to create a permanent effect. I think it would have been cool to see Finn’s appearance change based on what potions you have consumed, but as is his appearance remains practically the same throughout.
Sorcery is a combat heavy game; there are a handful of basic puzzles utilizing sound memorization and time-slowing mechanics, but for the most part you are running forward and encountering a variety of enemies including undead, “bogeys,” sylphs (oh so many of these in the last third of the game), shamans, and some trolls. Fortunately, Sorcery’s combat goes hand in hand with the controls, which are great, so it all works out. I really like how Sorcery throws multiple enemies at you, upwards a dozen at times, and they attack in several ways. Some enemies have ranged attacks, others are fast and use direct physical strikes. When those two main types and their subsidiaries are combined, it keeps you engaged and Moving (har har). There are also enemies with shields and resistances to some spell types that you have to contend with. Overall, the assortment and allotment of the enemies, including the bosses, was nicely done.
In my best Schwarzenegger impersonation… “Cool Off.”
Even though Finn is heavily outnumbered, the spells at your disposal make you a formidable force. The default spell is simple arcane magic, which uses practically no mana and is weak, although you can upgrade it three times over which I did. Other spells that you discover at predefined points in the story are derived from ice, fire, wind, lightning, and quake. Acquiring these spells is actually pretty exciting because you can see the artifact ahead of you just before you get to it and the in-game cutscene that plays when you get a new spell is well done. All of these additional spells remain useful from their introduction until the end of the game due the variety of puzzles and enemies. However, some spells are slightly more useful than others, depending on what you decide upgrade.
The secondary mode for these spells is pretty sweet, and include things like a wall of fire, lightning trap, and tornado. The tornado alone is neat, as you can guide it around and seeing enemies sucked into it is fun. But, if you cast fire into it (which is a very short range attack), and then repeatedly blast it with arcane magic, you’ll bear witness to a fiery exposition that almost no enemy can stand up to for long.
Fast-switching between spells to perform these combos works great the vast majority of the time, but you might encounter some random trouble here and there with the game recognizing your spell-change commands. At least as far as the default difficulty is concerned, any snags in changing spells or mis-aiming doesn’t create any critical problems, as it’s easy to recover to re-cast or aim again. Plus, your shield does a great job of blocking most attacks, but it can’t block them all. The dodge roll (left stick + X) is another familar and effective maneuver at Finn’s disposal. You can also recalibrate the Move at anytime from the Pause menu in about five seconds, but there’s no need to do so unless you think something has gone awry.
Environments are pretty if not richly detailed.
Graphically, Sorcery runs in 720p and I believe is based off of Autodesk Scaleform and Unreal3 tech. It’s a pretty game, not especially detailed in terms of texture resolution, but it’s definitely colorful and has some nice smooth animations. Framerates are silky for the most part, but I had just a few very short instances where stuff was going crazy on screen (a dozen enemies, projectiles and spells flying) that caused a framerate hit. Voice-acting is great; I thought Erline’s character was going to be really annoying, but her dialogue improves, as does its frequency, and she turns out to be a memorable character. Sound effects are good, but I would have liked to have heard the soundtrack more often, although it pops in graciously at key moments.
Sorcery only has the story mode, and there isn’t a great deal of reason to go back unless you’re Trophy hunting or are otherwise on a completionist quest. By the looks of it, there won’t be any DLC, and if the ending is any indicator (it usually isn’t) a sequel isn’t likely. But for as fun as it is, and given how it compares to the rest of the Move library, Sorcery impresses. To the summary…