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Sorcery! Parts One and Two review: Choose your own adventure in this glorious Steve Jackson adaptation

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 3, 2016
1980s sword-and-board meets 2016

Is it unfair to rewind? Cheating? Yeah, maybe. But it also made me weirdly nostalgic for the worn-out choose-your-own-adventures I had as a kid, pages all dog-eared where I’d marked “BIG MOMENTS” to revisit. It’s an amazing confluence of source material and adaptation.

And the Rewind feature is necessary at times, given that death waits behind quite a few of Sorcery’s blue flags.

Combat can usually be tackled one of two ways—with sword or with spells. The sword is self-explanatory: Hack hack hack away at enemies until they’re dead or unconscious or whatever the story calls for. Swordplay in Sorcery is governed by a meter. You commit a certain amount of energy to each attack, and you want your number to be higher than your opponent’s. Both you and your opponent then regenerate a bit of energy each turn. It’s not too hard, but you’ll want to master mitigating damage if you plan to get in a lot of fights, as healing items or opportunities are few and far between.

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!

Much more interesting (and more broadly applicable) is the game’s spell system. The original Sorcery books had a spell list you were supposed to memorize. Each spell was a three-letter “word” like ZAP (an electrical attack) or DIM (make enemies stupid).

Inkle adapts this into a cloud of letters, accessible whenever the “CAST A SPELL!” choice is available—which is actually quite often. You then can tinker, putting three-letter words together to find something viable. (Or you could actually memorize all 48 spells, if you’re a wunderkind.) My favorite and the one I’ve gotten the most use from is BIG, which predictably turns your character into a temporary giant and has led to all sorts of hilarious situations.

Like 80 Days, Sorcery isn’t particularly long—maybe two or three hours per episode—but it’s also similarly replayable, and I’m planning to head back through at least once to see what I missed. (Plus, it’s pretty damn cheap.)

Bottom line

Inkle is fast becoming one of my favorite studios. 80 Days was excellent. Sorcery is much the same, forsaking the off-kilter Victorian Age for a more cliched land of swords and spells and knavery—and yet, by some combination of Inkle’s own talents and Steve Jackson’s original source, managing to wring some truly compelling ideas from the game’s thin sword-and-board pretenses.

And I’ve still got two more adventures ahead before Sorcery wraps up. Fantastic.

NOTE: At the moment, only the first two parts (based off the first two books) of Sorcery are on PC. Part three is already on mobile and is headed for PC shortly. Part four is slated to hit every platform simultaneously later this year. We do not assign review scores to episodic games until they're released in full.

 

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