The PS3 exclusive and Move selling title Sorcery from The Workshop (this is their first game) and Santa Monica Studios (of God of War fame), finally came out last month after being shown off ages ago at E3 2010. I personally was really looking forward to it. I already had a Playstation camera, and a set of Move controllers. I’d had both of these for a while and only gotten limited use out of them. I’ve played Dead Space: Extraction (oh god, that game), Just Dance 3, as well as trying a play through of Heavy Rain with the Move (though I had bought and played it separate to its Move-ness) – out of those two in a lot of ways I found Heavy Rain to be the better of the two. But anyway…
So, after waiting in anticipation for two years (by which I mean not literally waiting in a room for two years, but mostly checking news of it every few months or so) I finally got ahold of a copy last week. Was it worth the wait? Well, no – but then no game is worth waiting for really. ‘Is it any good?’ is probably more useful to know, or ‘Is it worth buying, full price or not?’ Sadly, again the answer to both questions is no.
It’s quite frustrating, I’ll be honest, having expected so much from Sorcery and being let down so much. And it seems such a…a shame really. Because it could have been better quite easily.
But I should really talk about the game some more first. In Sorcery you play Finn, a young cheeky apprentice of three weeks to Sorcerer Dash. Finn is cocky and confident in his burgeoning abilities, but despite this he is generally likeable and fun. Dash is more of a stereotypical Sorcerer/Wizard – old, forgetful and strange (and barely in the game). And there’s also a cat – a white wise cracking talking lady cat, called Erline. Finn and Erline travel through magical locations fighting evil monsters in a bid to save the world from Erline’s evil possessed mother – the Queen of all faeries. And that’s pretty much the whole plot. Quite simple stuff really.
I do want to start off with a few points in Sorcery’s favour, and a big one of these is the characters. While there are only a few, they’re all actually pretty likeable. The banter between them is enjoyable and keeps the game going. The game has a nice enough setting – it’s colourful and pretty. It isn’t as technically amazing as could really be expected from a first party title which is a shame, but it certainly isn’t ugly.
Sorcery also has a neat little Alchemy system for levelling up. Over the course of the game you find ingredients to use and treasures to sell (to buy more ingredients) to make potions that give Finn permanent boosts – like extra health, or a certain spell doing bonus damage. All potions involve three combined ingredients either poured, sprinkled or ground into a pot and then drunk. It’s a pretty small component in terms of gameplay, with only around eight ingredients in total and only so many potions being achievable in a single play through (you’re encouraged to be selective in upgrading) but it is a nice break from the ‘flick flick flick’ action that makes up the rest of Sorcery’s game play.
Because ‘flick flick flick’ is what you’ll be doing if you play Sorcery. It has game play sadly no more impressive than the Wii. Which is a shame (like everything else) – the Move controller is supposed to be better than a Wii-mote, so why can’t it be used any better? For the majority of my eight-ish hour play through of Sorcery I was flicking my right arm to kill enemy after enemy. It was tiring – and actually pretty dull.
Another combat ‘feature’ I was sadly disappointed in was the Spell combining – an advertised feature is combining many of the simple spells, like fire and wind, into bigger spells, like a flaming tornado. It’s an ‘endless’ (rolls eyes in painful sarcasm seizure) range of possibility for combat. Except it isn’t really, because a whole bunch of enemies have specific spells that only work on them, and when you unlock lightening powers nearer the end you discover it’s the best spell anyway, the only one worth using and thus pour all your potions into it (which is what I did).
Sorcery has a very nice but sporadically played soundtrack – while there were some great pieces of music playing during combat, a lot of the long corridor walking sections are silent. As an irritating aside – another small feature the game has is a ‘Polymorph’ potion, but what this really translates into in terms of game play is occasionally you’ll be a rat and travel along very short, very, very linear paths until you turn back into Finn. You get to watch (and only watch) Finn being a bird, but you don’t actually control it at all – which seems so…trivial a thing, to skip, he does it all of twice – would it have been that hard to make a small flying game mechanic in all the two plus years the game was in development? I don’t think so.
More negativity to heap on, Sorcery has ‘Art’ style cut scenes. What are ‘Art’ style cut scenes? You’ll (probably) have seen it before, Mirror’s Edge had them, Dragon Age’s introductions had it too. Its using art stills/graphics instead of fully rendered cutscenes. This one, technically, you could see as a ‘preference’ – but honestly, most people I know would prefer cut scenes. They look nicer, and work better, tending to be fully articulated and emotionally rendered – rather than just pictures. And to be perfectly honest, the ‘Art’ style cut scenes just seem lazy.
Added to this, is the end game ‘Art’ cut scene. Throughout the game, at least, the cutscenes have narration and characters voice acting at each other. The end cut scene (your mini reward for finishing the damn game) has no such treatment. Finn and Erline meet some dude who waves his hand and makes all the badness just…vanish. I assume we’re supposed to guess that this is Erline’s father – the one we’re told to find right at the beginning of the game but never actually find, at all. The game just forgets that you were trying to find him as far as I can tell. And for that matter, if that is Erline’s dad that just waved his hand and fixed everything, why didn’t he do that at the beginning? It seems like a rather poor part of the story – the evil-ness of the world was pretty evident, did Finn and Erline really need to find him just to…to what, tell him it was bad outside and could he fix it please?
The biggest sin, in a lot of ways is Sorcery’s sheer linearity. The game is, sadly, mostly a long series of corridors. Every so often there is a small dead end branch path to pick up some extra gold from. But it has no exploration other than that. You run from one end of a level to another mostly flicking your ‘wand’ at enemies, and listening to character dialogue. The game has ‘puzzles’, but these are simple and mostly involve hitting what are essentially buttons, sometimes needing to hit them in a specific order. These too, along with the occasional ‘polymorphy’ sections, are few and far between. So alongside this stark linearity you have the majority gameplay, the already mentioned ‘flick flick flick’. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Sorcery a corridor shooter – you just use a wand instead of a gun.
So, after eight hours of running down corridors, flicking your ‘wand’ endlessly at enemies and probably getting a sore arm/wrist in the process, watching ‘Art’ cut scenes and wishing you could fly – no, Sorcery isn’t worth buying. It really, really isn’t worth buying a Move for (despite being a Move owner – there really isn’t anything that justifies its existence yet) either. Sure, if you already have a Move system, buy it second hand or rent it. Then at least you can get use out of your Move at relatively low cost – which is all Sorcery really has going for it.
I did make mention of the fact that I thought Sorcery could have been better at the beginning of this piece. The smaller poor qualities of Sorcery would have been relatively simple to fix – proper cut scenes from either the in-game graphics or rendered using the existing assets, a flying sequence etc. The bigger issue, the linearity of the game, is a more serious one. Levels could have been more complex (even if only in a minor way), with a few more paths. You could even cheat and (also fixing the Erline’s dad problem) have had Finn and Erline travel through the world first finding Erline’s dad. Then travelling back through those same locations to kill the end boss so Erline’s dad can fix things, and the locations are different and evil and you have to traverse them differently. That would have also made Sorcery less short.
So, to wrap up (though I’ve pretty much said everything) Sorcery is a flawed game that could have been the justification for the PS3’s Move. But it isn’t – it’s lacking and tiring and just, sadly, not worth it.