This game was reviewed on PlayStation 3
I’m not a fan of very many motion control games. Most of these types of games feel gimmicky, and don’t add to the gaming experience, especially for a core gamer. However, there are those rare gems that come along; the ones where the developer takes the mold of cookie-cutter mechanics for making virtual sports, fitness, or dance games and throws it out of the window to create something unique. Sony’s Santa Monica Studio and The Workshop are such developers. And their new game, Sorcery, is exactly what the core gamer is looking for!
Young apprentice sorcerer Finn is bold, cocky, and a bit clumsy when it comes to learning the art of sorcery. One day, after incinerating yet another magic wand he borrowed from his mentor Dash, the young pupil is sentenced to cleaning all of the chamber pots in Dash’s tower while the instructor of the arcane goes to town to run some errands. But Finn has other plans, and against the advice of his friend, the mystical talking feline Erline, he breaks into his teacher’s cabinet to find a vial marked “Potion of Arcane Mastery”, and a wand that feels powerful to the touch. He quickly downs the potion and instantly his skills of sorcery become that of an adept. However, now he must go to the tombs on the island of Lochbarrow and retrieve some graveyard dust to replace the potion that he drank.
While on their way back from their adventure, Finn stumbles upon an artifact that momentarily breaks the spell that hid Erline’s true appearance. For she is actually a faerie princess, daughter to the Midnight Queen, a faerie monarch who seeks to blanket the world in an eternal darkness. With Erline’s identity briefly revealed, the Midnight Queen immediately mobilizes her vast army of minions to seek for her daughter, and destroy anything or anyone that crosses her path. Finn might be more powerful than your average apprentice, but is his will strong enough to fight this ancient evil?
Sorcery is a third person action adventure game that utilizes Sony’s PlayStation Move motion controls instead of a traditional controller to play. While you can use a controller for movement and other functions in conjunction with the Move Wand, I highly recommend that you use the Navigation controller, as it greatly adds to the experience of Sorcery.
In Sorcery, your primary offensive weapon is your wand. With it, you’ll be able to perform a number of attacks such as your basic Arcane Bolt attack, to elemental spells that can freeze, burn, and otherwise harm your enemies. You can also use the wand to perform functions such as kinetically removing obstructions from your path, mend things such as bridges and stairways, and unlock chests and more. The navigation controller allows you to move around, center your camera, or block incoming attacks with a magical shield spell that you’ll learn early on in the game.
Being my first experience with the PlayStation Move controllers, I found the game’s control scheme to be quite intuitive even as I had to relearn my muscle memory to use the controls. The in-game camera can be manipulated by holding down the L1 button on the Navigation controller, and using the wand to rotate the view in the direction I wanted, or by just simply tapping L1 to re-center the camera behind Finn. Targeting enemies is relatively easy as you simply flick the wand in the direction of the baddies to take them out. If they’re hiding around a corner, you can apply a little English on the wrist to get your bolts to move around the obstruction to get your quarry.
L2 on the Navigation controller is used for your shield. This magical field will protect you from incoming attacks; but be warned, as its power is limited, and you can find yourself in a pickle very quickly if you try to block too strong of an offensive. You can also use the shield to knock back your opponents if they’re getting too close for comfort.
The wand is also used for interacting with the world around Finn. Potions must be shaken before drinking and is done by shaking your wand; then, in order to drink it, you need to tip the controller upside down to guzzle the elixir. You’ll also use the wand for using keys in doors, stirring up your own potions, and other various functions. But rather than feeling like a gimmick, you’ll soon find yourself becoming so absorbed into performing these acts in the reality of your playspace; tipping up your wand over your head as though you’re really drinking that potion, or raising your shield arm as you activate the magical barrier. A press of the Move button and a particular flick activates an elemental spell, all becoming natural movements as you learn them. It is this level of immersion that you really don’t see in very many motion control games, and none have come close to doing it as well as Santa Monica and The Workshop.
As you journey through the world of Sorcery, you’ll also come across various items that can be used in creating potions. You’ll select and combine various ingredients to make tonics that can give you additional powers, such as a boost in damage done by your shield bash, or the ability to create a magical explosion capable of damaging enemies and knocking them to the ground. You won’t have to worry about duplicating formulas either, as items that you used in previous combinations become grayed out to prevent that. For example, say you created a potion using Bloodberry, Brimstone, and Grave Dust. The next time you create a combination with Bloodberry and Brimstone, the Grave Dust becomes grayed out, noting that you’ve created that combination before. Another nice thing about creating potions is that when you’ve done it once, you won’t have to do it again. Just select the potion from the inventory and you’re good to go!
Adding to the immersion is the storytelling. Cutscenes are in a hand-drawn storybook format that really brings out the fairytale feel of the game. Combined with the superb writing and voice acting from notable actors such as Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop), Troy Baker (Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto), Ashley Bell (Alice in Wonderland – 2010 Game, The Last Exorcism), and Charlie Schlatter (MGS 3), the game presents a wonderful story of the young man Finn who comes into his own as a wielder of magic. It’s obvious that the actors had a good chemistry working together and portray their characters in a very natural way. The constant banter between Erline and Finn is both entertaining and intriguing to watch as their relationship starts as a pair of newfound friends to the adventurers they become.
All of this is set in a mystical yet believable world. Filled with diverse environments from rural villages to ancient temples, Santa Monica and The Workshop did a remarkable job of creating a world rich and alive – both plant and animal. Dragonesque creatures fly across stone facades with carved reliefs and statues of old, overgrown by hundreds of years of plant life. Even the most dire of locations such as the aforementioned tombs have a sense of fantastical tranquility about them, making the game truly feel like something out of a fantasy novel like Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, where ancient civilizations long forgotten clash with the modern world to create this beauty.
The creativity doesn’t just end with the tapestry, however; the sounds of Sorcery, from the babbling brooks to the soft flute playing on the winds, and the rise of the orchestral score during battle make the game whole. The developers really know the importance of sound in combat as well. Using my 5.1 headset I was able to easily pinpoint upcoming threats behind me as far as direction and even distance. This is another thing that most studios tend to take for granted, and something that you can really appreciate when playing Sorcery.
Of course, Sorcery isn’t without its shortcomings; the camera can get quite dodgy and difficult to control in situations such as combat where things are moving quickly, and it can be difficult to get it centered or rotated where you need it to be in short order. Other strange things such as the inability to bypass a set of stairs and jump off of a three-foot ledge are a bit of a head scratcher as well. But aside from those two gripes, Sorcery is a fantastic game. If you love a good fantasy story, or are looking for an excuse to pick up the PlayStation Move, then by all means, grab this game. It is by far the best motion controlled game that anyone has to offer, and one that even the more hardcore gamers can enjoy.
Sorcery receives a 4.5/5.0.
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