Sorcery review for PS3

Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: The Workshop
Medium: Blu-ray Disc / Digital Download
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

The PlayStation Move library started off with a decent sized bang when the motion controller peripheral first hit the PS3 on 2010. Slowly but surely, games created solely for the Move have dwindled, with only a very few being released in 2012 thus far. Because of the relative lack of new content, Sorcery is a fairly important title for both Sony and the PS Move, and it obviously couldn’t have come at a better time.

Thinking back to late last year, I had high hopes for Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest, and although it was a solid Move game, there were some issues with it that I just couldn’t get past. Sorcery, having a somewhat similar premise (3rd person fantasy/action), had me a bit worried as a result, especially when coverage of the title essentially dried up. Would it follow in the footsteps of Deadmund’s Quest or would it be a magical motion controlled showcase for the PS Move? Thankfully, it is the latter.

Sorcery, obviously, is about a sorcerer, or rather a sorcerer’s apprentice named Finn. Seemingly out of nowhere the Nightmare Queen has decided to harass the peaceful denizens of the Faerie Kingdom by covering the land in eternal darkness and letting loose her evil creatures. When your master Dash loses his life trying to protect the town, it is up to you and your magical talking cat Erline to fight back and save the Kingdom.

The story in Sorcery seems a little too family friendly and clich? at the very beginning, but it actually takes some darker twists and turns after a short while. Thanks to the pacing, attractive hand-drawn cut scenes and above average voice acting, the story surprisingly kept me interested pretty much all the way to the end. It won’t win any awards, but I admit I enjoyed it.

Sorcery, as a PlayStation Move game, makes just an incredible amount of sense if you think about it. Being a game about a sorcerer with a magic wand, and using the Move controller as your virtual magic wand, opens up a lot of interesting possibilities that The Workshop and Sony did actually take advantage of. Sorcery requires a Move and either a Dual Shock 3, or better yet, a Navigation Controller to play. Using the Nav Con is definitely preferred and is what I used primarily for this review.

The control scheme in Sorcery is as intuitive as you would expect from this type of PS Move action game. The analog stick in your left hand (the DS3 or Nav Con) is used to move Finn about, and the Move in your right hand is utilized to cast spells by performing gestures and flicking the controller forward or sideways, depending on the context. Other than being able to re-center the camera behind Finn, there are no camera controls, and the game does an adequate job of doing what it should.

Besides a simple magic shield bash, there are no physical attacks in the game at all. Finn starts out with a simple arcane bolt attack, and throughout the game he comes across new attack spells as well as potion bottles and new ingredients to mix up new enhancements and secondary spells. The primary elemental spells include fire, wind, lightning and ice, with each having their advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. Nearly every spell can hit at long distances and from a number of angles and heights depending on how you flick the controller. It is also possible to unleash a usually incredibly useful alt-fire version of each spell by swiping the controller from side-to-side. Changing from one spell to another simply involves holding the Move button and performing a brief gesture such as a quarter circle to the left, a swipe downwards, or a swirl in the air.

The rest of the gesture-based gameplay in Sorcery is also well thought out and used in ways that are actually intuitive. Besides the spell-casting, items in the environment can be manipulated with certain gestures, and the game makes both the objects and the motions required to perform an action on them, very clear with the use of little on-screen symbols. If you need to move aside a fallen pillar, just swipe to the side when the object glows whereas reassembling a bridge might require the press of a button and the twirling of the controller. Chests can be opened by simply making a quick little circle, and keys can be pushed into locks and turned. This also extends to brewing new potions with the ingredients you collect. You need to physically sprinkle, grind and pour the elements into a cauldron, then “mix” it, shake it up and tilt it towards your mouth to drink it. It all can be done very quickly and it never feels like a chore. The Move controller also glows, changes color and provides appropriate feedback with everything you do which is a really nice touch.

In terms of action, no matter which spell you are using, prepare to be flicking the controller pretty regularly as you’ll either be breaking objects in the world to earn coins, attacking enemies, or solving puzzles. As mentioned earlier, the game is well paced, so you never feel like you’re either overdoing it or bored. You might not think it would be the case, but Sorcery is first and foremost an action game. It’s not as chaotic as say God of War (it’s not close really), but there are times when you’ll be running, dodging and casting spells like a maniac. Many of the enemies are elemental as well meaning that it’ll require a specific type of spell to really damage them. With the right upgrades, by the end up the game, you’ll be dealing out some crazy damage, especially once you learn the art of mixing spells.

Mixing spells is probably one the more unique gameplay features in Sorcery, and while not a requirement, greatly enhances your ability to dispatch of the Nightmare Queen’s minions. Basically, you can unleash a spell, say a fire wall, switch to wind magic and then cast a tornado through it, and lastly change back to arcane magic and shoot bolts into the now roaring fire tornado with impressive results. You can mix and match many of the primary spells and their alt-fire modes just like that, and experimenting is half the fun.

Visually, Sorcery isn’t exactly mind-blowingly great looking, but it works for the most part. Running on the Unreal Engine 3, there are some small performance issues with the framerate dipping here and there for essentially no reason. It’s seems to occur more so in the first half of the adventure, and is slightly distracting at first. On the positive side, the game appears to be natively running at 720p and it does show off some nice texture work and decent animation and effects. The style, which kind of falls between Fable and Folklore, is attractive, and I really like the hand painted style story scenes.

The music is rather beautiful at times, invoking a bit of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fantasy type soundtracks. The voice work and script is also quite good, and the banter between Finn, Erline and the magic vendor made me chuckle a few times.

At times Sorcery appears like it could have gone in a more Zelda-ish open world action RPG direction, but the game is fairly linear with little to no backtracking or anything of the sort. The game is not a pushover, which is nice, and there are a number of tricky boss encounters and scenarios which may require a couple of tries to get through. Overall, expect it to last 6 – 8 hours, depending on the difficulty level. After completing the game there is no way to go back to a level or area of the game, so if you wanted to upgrade to each and every spell or find all the treasures, you have to do it in one solid run. As a result, there isn’t much replay value unless you just want a challenge and try to play through on the more difficult levels (and want a nice workout for one of your arms).

So, in the end, I had a good time with Sorcery and was glad that The Workshop was able to put together a quality PlayStation Move fantasy action title. It has some really nice ideas, along with solid Move controls, and is worth looking into if you’re in the market for some PS Move magic.

Grade: B+