From Steve Jackson and inkle comes Sorcery, the first in a four-part series of fantasy games. Sorcery is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure book rolled into an iOS game. It begins with you leaving a small settlement in search of the powerful Crown of Kings. Reputedly a crown of legendary power, it can restore balance to the kingdom.
An Epic Journey
This is not an action game by any means. There is a lot of reading to be done, and significantly less fighting than the average game. But what it lacks in hack-and-slash, it makes up for in creativity and ability to make you think about your actions. You encounter all manner of different situations and people. From creatures and rickety bridges to rustling bushes and settlements full of interesting people, you have to decide what choices to make, and this shapes your path through the game.
Managing your stamina is especially important as you are trekking through remote corners of the kingdom, unsure of where and when the next town will be to replenish your foodstuffs and find a bed to sleep in. You must rest and eat when you can, as you do not want to have low stamina if you have to engage in battle with someone or something. There are dozens of spells to learn, and plenty of items to buy throughout the game, in addition to work to be done in order to earn more gold.
The style of Sorcery is unique. The entire map is hand-drawn and has a table-game feel to it. Even your character looks like a little game piece as you make your way through the kingdom. Occasionally there will be beautiful pencil illustrations of the people or objects that are being described. Littered throughout the other areas are things like colorful prayer flags that display stamina levels or how much gold you currently have, or realistic renderings of your rations, weapons, or spellbook. Not to mention the pictures that are painted with words at every turn.
While I would have liked to have heard a little more music, the sound was phenomenal. The songs were fantastic, and the sound effects were even better. Crows cawing, bees buzzing, a rushing river, the murmur of townsfolk, each and every sound was of the utmost quality and added to the atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve heard sound effects to that level of quality in an iOS game before.
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As most of the game takes place by making decisions based on the story, the controls weren’t too difficult. The spell casting and battle controls need to be mentioned though. Whenever you want to cast a spell, it is done by making a three-letter combination one letter at a time, which usually forms a word (or something that would sound like a word) that gives a hint as to what the spell does. The thing is, if you haven’t learned the spell, you can’t make the letter combination, so it almost seems like an arbitrary system to use.
It looks cool, but it seems like it was designed this way just to be flashy for the sake of being flashy. It could have just as easily been a list of available spells. The combat controls are interesting, because you simply decide how strong of an attack to make – or if you want to defend – based on the description of your opponent. This takes a little bit of intuition and getting used to, but it works fairly well in the end.
Story Driven Fun
For people who like the fantasy genre, and especially those who like a detailed story line and like to be thorough, Sorcery is good fun. It may not be huge on action, but it’s well-written and makes you actually think about what is going on in the game, rather than tuning out as you, say, blast thousands upon thousands of zombies. You could get through the game pretty quickly, but there are so many choices, options and places to explore that you don’t have to. I don’t know that I’d play through the whole thing again, but the number of decisions, spells and items make for a bit of replay value.
If you can’t stomach a good amount of reading, this game is not for you. But if you can appreciate a superbly-crafted tale in which you are the one who decides the path to take, you’ll love it. And it still has a bit of action sprinkled in to keep the battle-hungry among us satisfied.