Sorcery (Review)

The magic the PS Move has been waiting for

Delayed for years and almost forgotten, Sorcery makes a late bid for attention on the criminally under-supported PlayStation Move. Considering most Move titles are based on sports, minigames and dancing, there’s no denying the potential excitement offered by a full-on adventure title that takes advantage of the motion controller and the often forgotten navigation controller. 

Unlike the on-rails action of Medieval Moves, Sorcery allows complete control over your character’s movement. This can be done by holding a PS3 pad with just your left hand for the analogue stick. Or better yet, use the navigation controller (like a Wii nunchuk without the annoying cable) for the first time since Killzone 3.

The spell casting is all dedicated to the motion controller in your right hand, which even as a lefty, works fine. Spells are bestowed upon you at a steady rate, giving you enough time to master them all. At first you’re given an Arcane Bolt or a basic zapper to you and me. Simply flick the controller at the screen to fire out the spell. Shots can be aimed accurately side-to-side and even towards the middle or upper sides of the screen for reaching higher targets. You can even bend shots by adding a little curl to the motion.

Various elemental attacks are unlocked over time. Spell types are changed by holding the Move button and performing a specific motion, be it sideways, downwards or circular. Initially, when only a small number were available, this worked really well, but by the time I unlocked the tornado spell, I found it too similar to one of the other motions, meaning I often selected the wrong spell. To counter this though, the game slows down time when selecting a spell, giving you a chance to get it right and ease the pressure when enemies are bearing down on you.

Enemies are typical fantasy fare: ghouls, ghosts and goblins attacking your face with swords or from afar with arrows, bombs and spectral globs of green. Most of them can be attacked with basic bolts, but some require specific elemental attacks. There’s a lot of fun to be had from experimenting with spells too. For example, unleash a tornado to scoop up enemies, fire a lightning bolt at it to turn it into a thundery maelstrom before flinging some fire in there to make it spit out multi-directional fireballs. There’s so much more creativity on display than the usual either/or attacks typically found in games with elemental attacks. And from a title aimed at arguably a younger audience that makes this even more encouraging.

More experimentation is offered by mixing ingredients found throughout your adventures to create potions. These elixirs will grant you permanent health boosts, stronger spells and the like. Items to create potions are rare, so you won’t be able to make everything, but you can at least see what every combination of ingredients will make as the menus shade out combinations you’ve already tried. It’s just the way you’d want it rather than potentially wasting any materials like you may have done in Skyrim or Final Fantasy XIII

This is the sort of game that if played with a traditional controller you’d be playing it for hours at a time, something often difficult when standing up in front of your TV, so you’ll be glad to know that the game handles well being played seated. There were a few instances of some spell motions working better from standing, such as bringing the controller upwards from waist height towards your head to summon a tornado, or drawing a line across the ground, but all of these motions can be done from your armchair with a little practice. Unlike many Move titles, I never had to stop the game to recalibrate the controller which really allowed me to get stuck into things. Technically impressive throughout really.

The game uses a light auto-targeting system and will automatically lock your foot movement into a strafing or circular pattern when in combat. This covers the absence of a lock-on button. In fairness, the system works very well without feeling like hand-holding. It strikes a good balance for regular gamers and casuals alike.

The game mainly follows linear paths, but there are side paths usually worth exploring for hidden items. Unfortunately, if you choose the main path instead when offered two, you usually can’t backtrack as the way is blocked by the sudden appearance of rocks behind you. This makes it very annoying if you’re after the Trophy for bagging all the chests and treasure in the game. Blocking off backwards paths like this is often used to allow quicker loading in games as it only needs to have smaller sections active at a time, and that appears to be the case here as the game has few loading screens and the frame-rate is consistently smooth throughout.

After undergoing a late art-style change I’m glad to say the game looks great. Ditching the bright shades typical of many children’s games, we now have something a bit more mature. The fantasy settings are crisp and well detailed, bringing the comparisons more in line with games like Darksiders or Folklore rather than Ratchet & Clank.

A special mention needs to go towards the story and the cast. While the story is basic apprentice boy wizard and his talking cat companion must stop the wicked wish from destroying the world type of thing, it’s written well enough to keep you interested. The cutscenes are told with semi-animated tapestry-esque paintings which get away with the cheapness by at least looking good. The voice over actress playing Erline the cat (Ashley Bell) puts in a particularly strong performance that goes through a wide emotional range that I wasn’t expecting from a game like this.

The whole package turns out to be better than you’d expect. The fanfare for the game may have faded as its development time swallowed the initial hype, but it was certainly worth the wait for any gamer keen to justify their purchase of Move controllers beyond Sports Champions.

___________________

Presentation: 79% The mature art-style redesign has done wonders for the game and the animated tapestry cutscenes add a classic storybook feel to things.

Gameplay: 90% The motion controls combined with being able to move your character freely are a big success and stays fun to play for hours on end.

Single Player: 81% The story will last two or three days of casual afternoon play. Packed with hidden items, tough but fair boss fights, enjoyable combat and a likable cast this is the way Move games should have been years ago.

Multiplayer: NR

Performance: 84% The best motion controlled spell casting yet. Not having to recalibrate the device once made for a great change too. Being able to play sat down bags the game some points too.

Overall: 83%

Typical, the Harry Potter series comes to a close THEN someone makes a great game about casting spells. Hopefully, this will encourage other developers to make more Move titles in traditional game genres rather than minigame collections.

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