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Sorcery Review

By Jeff Buckland, 5/29/2012

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Played on:


PS Move

The Playstation Move has been available for a year and a half now, and one of the earlier titles we got to see demonstrated on Sony's motion control platform for the PS3 was Sorcery. Unfortunately, some delays have put this game's launch date well past the initial estimation, but it seems like developers The Workshop and Sony's Santa Monica Studio have made excellent use of that extra time, because what originally looked like a tech-demo gimmick has grown into a full-fledged AAA action game.

Sorcery is all about this teenager named Finn and his adventures as a sorceror's apprentice inside of a well-made fantasy world. After getting into a bit of mischief and an attempt to fix what he broke, Finn unlocks a big mystery centering around his master's talking cat, Erline. Finn finds out that Erline is actually the daughter of an evil queen in disguise, and when Finn inadvertently discovers her identity, the Queen finds her as well and launches an assault on the human realm in order to get her daughter back.

Since Sorcery is a PS Move-exclusive title, you're going to need the Move controller and Eyetoy camera along with a PS3 controller in your left hand (or the separately-sold Navigation Controller, which admittedly is more comfortable to hold onto with one hand than a SIXAXIS or DualShock 3). Finn's got a wand in his right hand, and you'll be waving around your Move controller with something vaguely close to a 1:1 movement on-screen, although that's mostly just for show. You'll be aiming and throwing arcane bolts and whipping up big, powerful spells like tornadoes, and the need for precise aim with the controller (along with flicks of the wrist to curve your shots) make Sorcery a bit of a challenge. Sometimes the challenge comes naturally, as you juggle multiple opponents while holding a magical shield, peeking out from behind it to deliver a precise shot, but other times the slightly fiddly controls create an arbitrary difficulty that feels frustrating. Adding to this is the lack of any manual camera adjustment, since your right hand will be using the Move controller rather than a right analog stick. Usually the camera's fine and the ability to center the camera fixes most issues, but once in a while the camera can freak out or point your perspective at a wall instead of the enemies shooting at your back.

From a presentation perspective, I found myself quite impressed with Sorcery, especially since the last time I saw it was at an E3 press conference two years ago where it was just a game about holding a wand and throwing spells around. The Workshop and Sony Santa Monica have piled on plenty of production values into this game, making the fantasy world look organic and unique nearly everywhere you look. The voice acting and writing starts out a bit iffy, what with this white cat following you around and constantly talking trash about your abilities, but after a half hour, things improve dramatically. Suddenly, Finn has to get serious, Erline becomes less sarcastic and more fragile, and the game then starts adding challenge as well as new spells and tools for you to manage that challenge. Of course, it's tough to talk about a game with a teenage wizard holding a wand without mentioning Harry Potter, but simply put, the full-on fantasy setting makes a big difference, and I find that Sorcery forges its own path pretty well without feeling like a ripoff.

Not only do you get to mix your own potions and unleash them in battle, but you'll also be quickly switching spell types, each with multiple uses, to create your own combos. Experimentation is a lot of the fun here, where you must whip up spell effects that work together well, all on the fly and in real-time. As I'm not a huge fan of motion control games, one of the things I'm always critical about is whether motion controls are just an added gimmick; can the game be played the same way with a regular controller, and if so, why am I having to stand in my living room and wave my arms around? Luckily, Sorcery does a good job of delivering an experience that's not only doable only on a motion controller, but more specifically, only really doable on the Move itself. It's that combination of analog stick, button placement, and mostly-accurate waggling you get on the Move controller that Sorcery takes advantage of, and the other platforms just wouldn't deliver it quite the same way. It might seem silly to try and theorize how a game made by Sony exclusively for the PS3 would even work on another platform, but I like the exercise as a way to think about whether the developers are using their platform's unique strengths well. When looking at it that way, Sorcery delivers.

At the same time, we're not really talking about a revolutionary action-RPG experience here, either. A few RPG systems do eventually open up in Sorcery, but you're not exactly laden with many tough choices to make, and the linear nature of the adventure makes for something that's got significantly less replay value, too. Sorcery is a relatively short game (at least compared to most fantasy fare) that might last you a couple of evenings' worth of excitement, but once you're done, you probably won't want to pick it back up immediately.

I went into Sorcery quite skeptical about this game that seemingly went into development limbo for a while, but now I'm glad it made it back out and onto store shelves. It's got decent motion controls that give you a unique handle on the action, and while the cartoonish nature and linear structure won't put this game anywhere near the likes of Skyrim (or even Fable) on the RPG halls of fame, PS Move owners have plenty of reasons to go ahead and give Sorcery a go.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail PS3 copy provided by Sony.

Overall: 7 out of 10



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