Skip to main content

Sorcery Hands-On [GDC 2012]

The PlayStation Move is in desperate need of a champion piece of software that will help elevate the peripheral past its current state of near gaming purgatory.  Every couple of months a game may appear which has potential to be the much sought after PlayStation Move champion but all have mostly failed or been outright mediocre.  For a long amount of time many thought Sorcery would become the killer app for the PlayStation Move but after the game was finally revealed last December the overall excitement level dwindled due to gameplay that was akin to a magic based shooting game.  After playing Sorcery at GDC last week I must confess that the shift in hype levels may have been justified as the game doesn’t seem to have the makings to be a true champion for the PlayStation Move.

Demos are always a strange thing to wrap your head around since they only offer a small taste of gameplay and at times represent a mere .5% aspect of what a game has to offer. But through playing a brief stage it’s sometimes clear what the overall quality or direction of a game will be and based on my time with Sorcery I already know where it’s destined to go. Now before you all get excited and ask me to predict the local Lotto numbers I sadly am not a seer or a genie, even though it would be cool to be like Jambi for a bit, so my prediction as to the ultimate quality of Sorcery is far from definitive fact.  But with that said, Sorcery is one of those games in which the arching experience is pretty much summed up in five minutes of gameplay – you go from one magical section to the other and blast some baddies with nifty abilities that sadly don’t feel all that magical.

Sorcery is a game that feels like it could be something special and in fact ultimately could provide a grand experience akin to an old-school fantasy novel but is simply held back for one reason or another.  Of course the obvious comparisons will be between Sorcery and Harry Potter seeing as how both feature a young wizard but the game seems more like a kid friendly LOTR or something akin to a junior adventure novel like Percy Jackson.  I’ll be honest in saying that Sorcery doesn’t give gamers a 1:1 wand experience or even something that requires exact movements for spells to be cast via the PS Move.  Instead of flicking the controller different ways to do specific spells I found myself doing one thing while playing Sorcery: pointing the PS Move at the screen and pressing the T button like crazy to shoot spells at monsters. Additional depth or skill is non-existent in Sorcery beyond doing pointing and shooting or in a few cases tackling enemies in a specific way such as freezing them with one magic type and then using another to shatter said frozen enemy into a dozen pieces.  

Beyond pointing at the screen, doing different Move gestures to switch between magic types, and occasionally doing environmental actions, Sorcery honestly doesn’t use the Move in any ways to warrant it a “special” game or a wholly “unique” experience. One could make the argument that how the game uses the Move now as it stands is fine, but pushing the Move tech a bit farther given the magic nature of the game would’ve been something that I would expect be welcome by gamers since such a thing would’ve been different compared to the dozen or so games that already use the Move as a basic targeting tool.

What I found equally, if not more, disheartening about Sorcery other than its lack of unique Move functionality is how easy the combat is and how the Move controls as a whole as a bit touchy.  Dealing with ground based enemies aren’t a problem as doing some simple arm flailing will make easy work of any enemy you come across. Sure, such a thing may not make you feel like a wizard but there aren’t any style points in Sorcery so unless you’re doing some video game larping or want to impress some friends with your intense magic skills then there’s no need to hold the Move as if you’re Lord Voldermort about to engage in a duel.  But the experience in Sorcery does require exact movement for one thing: dealing with enemies that are elevated by 10ft. Shooting a baddie that’s slightly elevated may not sound like a big deal but it actually is in Sorcery as it required the Move to be held a specific way – or at least that’s what the Sony rep did as my attempts at killing those enemies were less than fruitful despite pointing the Move in that general direction.  

I really don’t know what to make of Sorcery’s combat as one part of it allows complete madness to ensue with me having next to no worry as to how accurate my immediate attacks were while another component of the game required a specific movement to be used otherwise I would be screwed. It may sound like such a thing is a game design attempt to present a challenge but trust me when I say there isn’t much of any in the game as everything is presented in a rather linear and obvious fashion.

I may not sound like I was impressed at all by Sorcery, which must sound shocking since it’s a PS3 game, but I did find a thing or two to like about the game.  Compared to other PS3 games and those in the 1st party camp Sorcery isn’t a technical marvel but it does feature a rich feel in the art design which I found to be impressive and rather fresh to see. Seeing yet another ice stage in a video game is likely something that won’t shock most gamers since hundreds of fantasy games have had elemental stages, but the art design just seemed like it was thought of from a perspective that wasn’t trying to imitate Lord of the Rings or the dozen or so other iconic fantasy properties that are out there.  

Some of the finer aspects of Sorcery’s presentation didn’t leave me impressed in the demo I played such as the merely passable enemy animations, but despite the flaws the game had as of now there still seemed to be something drawing me into the game. I know up until now my impressions on the game haven’t exactly been glowing, but there was something about Sorcery that made me feel like it could still be worth playing, at least in a lazy afternoon sort of way, as opposed to being a game that is barely passable like Medieval Moves.  With a May 22nd release date Sorcery will soon be upon us but as of now I still don’t know if it’ll be a purely magical title filled with enjoyable elements, which includes a talking cat companion, or if it’ll be yet another game that misses the point on what the PlayStation Move is capable of as a device.