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Back during Sony’s E3 conference of 2010, they introduced the Playstation Move controller. Quite a few ideas were displayed, but nothing was more impressive than an early demo for Sorcery. It alone sold countless people on the peripheral. Time passed and not a word was spoken about the game. Finally in December 2011, concerns were quelled when the game reappeared with some new details. Since then, I’ve been semi-patiently awaiting its release. That anticipation built all the way up until the midnight release I attended, as the awkward guy who wasn’t there to pick up the new Ghost Recon (a role I seem to reprise at almost all midnights). The Move has had its fair share of solid titles, but nothing has really blown my dress up (figuratively speaking of course). Does Sorcery change that?
In the game, you play as Finn, a young, misfit, sorcerer’s apprentice. With only three weeks of training, events occur that force you to quickly mature. On your quest you’ll be aided, and often chastised, by your feline companion, Erline. The two of you will make your way though a vibrant fantasy world, attempting to master the powers of the elements in an effort to save the kingdom from the Nightmare Queen.
In the beginning, you’ll learn two spells. Arcane bolts are the bread and butter of Sorcery, allowing you to fling bolts forward or curve them by throwing sideways. The earth can also be controlled by sending forth a ground-crumbling line of destruction. A bit into your journey, a shield will be acquired, allowing you to block or bash enemies. This skill set is used for quite some time as everything is introduced. Once you happen upon the first merchant, you’ll learn the Heroic Strike ability. This allows you to pound the ground with a devastating attack that damages anyone around. Use of this power is governed by a meter that fills as you land the other various attacks.
Eventually you gain more of the elemental powers, each of which has two main attacks. Ice bolts, which can slow down enemies, or completely freeze them after three shots, are thrown just like the arcane bolts. A sideways swipe creates a cold trail that will slow any nearby enemies. Wind follows, with a forward gust or a sideswipe that forms tornadoes. The fire spell sends out a short ranged conflagration, but more importantly allows you to create a wall of flames. Later in the game, you’ll gain the powerful lightning spell. Like many of the other powers, primary fire sends out a bolt. These bolts are overpowered, but consume a large portion of your mana. Large traps, which immobilize enemies, are conjured with the sideswipe.
All these powers function separately, but many of them can be combined to wreak more havoc. For instance, laying down a wall of flames then throwing arcane bolts through it ignites the bolts. To create a ‘firenado’ you can pass a tornado through that same line of flames, or create the tornado then throw some fire into it. Throwing bolts at a tornado of any kind will cause a ricocheting madhouse. These are just a couple possibilities.
With all of these tools, it is important that the Move is responsive and accurate. My experiences with motion controls thus far has been pretty hit-or-miss, with an emphasis on the ‘miss.’ Luckily, Sorcery is a hit. There’s an auto lock that aids in making sure what you are trying to do happens. It’s not perfect, but the vast majority of the time you’ll hit your mark. Switching between powers is a lot simpler than I thought. Holding the Move button and performing a simple gesture switches you to an elemental power. Hitting the move button again returns you to the standard arcane bolts. For instance, for earth you just swipe downward. If you want fire, just perform a small clockwise circle. Ice, being the yin to fire’s yang, is counterclockwise. For wind you rotate around a different axis. While holding the Move button down, time is also slowed so you won’t have to worry about getting pummeled while switching. Keeping things this simple allows for the seamless combination of powers, although sometimes in the heat of battle I found myself trying to change too quickly, which produced undesired results. Other actions are simple too. Opening chests just takes a small swirl. Obstacles are moved with directional swipes. Mending broken bridges or staircases just takes a few seconds of circles. The Move works well, and the use of the Navigation controller is much appreciated after so many on-rails experiences with less forgiving controls.
If you remember the initial trailer, you may recall the game had a Harry Potter look to it. Part of the reason this took so long to release is because that look was abandoned in favor of a darker, Celtic theme. These Celtic influences are present throughout the world, in the music, and in the lovely illustrated cutscenes. I wasn’t turned off by the original look, but this is definitely a welcome change. For a $40 Move game with a smaller budget, the game looks nice. Visuals don’t rival the $60 blockbuster titles, but shouldn’t really be expected to. Charm and art direction can do a lot for a game. There are interesting environments and some minimalistic, M.C. Escher-like corridors, which serve as transitions between portals, that exemplify this perfectly. The unconventional sounds of the game meld well too. Bagpipes and various other woodwinds intermingle with more traditional stringed instruments and percussion.
The game is linear, but there are numerous points where small paths will lead to treasure chests or health potions. There are also a lot of breakables in the game. These, along with the chests, yield gold. Chests also often contain valuable relics, empty potion bottles, or alchemy ingredients. Relics can be sold to merchants to buy more materials for alchemy, the mechanic of the game that allows you to level up and customize Finn.
Alchemy is fairly simple. Potions can be concocted to enhance Finns abilities. These potions can give Finn more health and mana, provide resistances, or boost the damage and duration for specific spells. Potions require an empty bottle and three ingredients. Recipes are unlocked by experimenting, which simply means combining all possible ingredients. These ingredients are then sprinkled, poured, or ground up, then stirred, shaken and consumed. (By the way, if you ever use one of my Move controllers, wash it first. Drinking potions is an immersive mechanic. I was actually touching the glowing orb to my mouth.) Overall alchemy is simple. It serves its purpose with warranted upgrades, but can grow a bit tiresome.
Puzzle mechanics sadly follow this same simple approach. Mending broken pathways, moving obstructions, and opening doors with keys or gems are all done with simple movements. There are a couple switches that require bolt flinging finesse or proper sequencing, but they never progress into brain benders. The polymorph potion, which allows you to turn into a rat, was interesting on a couple occasions, but normally just served as a way to get from one place to another. The game is meant to be for all ages, and this is clear from some of these elements. While kids won’t care, I was hoping for a bit more. Instead of just socketing a single gem into a door, I would have preferred situations where multiple gems had to be piece together to form a whole. More hazards during the rat sections could have made that concept much more fun too. The lack of progression in these components is really the only thing holding this game back from being amazing.
The game has a few technical problems, but none are that bad. There can be a bit of frame rate chug during auto save and some minimal screen tearing may accompany it. There were also a few instances where the camera freaked a little bit, but it happened far less frequently than many of the other action/adventure games I’ve played over the years. None of these really affected my enjoyment and should be pretty easy to overlook.
Overall, the experience was positive. It may not have completely blown my (still figurative) dress up, but I’m feeling a steady, cooling breeze on my thighs. It’s easily the best game out for the Move. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s a huge step in the right direction to bridging the gap between Move games and traditional PS3 experiences. Casual users who just want to experience the game can play though it on one of the four difficulty settings. I, on the other hand, will be replaying it on Nightmare difficulty and look forward to getting the ‘Dehydrated’ trophy which requires you never drink a health potion (probably not on the same playthrough). The progression of spell casting keeps the game fun; I just wish some of the other mechanics would have evolved with it. If you are able to overlook these few gripes, kids from one to ninety-two should be able to find a charming game.
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- Celtic influences provide a rich fantasy world and nicely illustrated cutscenes.
- Powers are fun to use and combine.
- Voice acting and writing are better than most Move games.
- Puzzles and alchemy lack depth, but do give your forearm muscles a break.
- Minor technical issues may irk some.
- Six to eight hour campaign may not justify purchase.